A selection of archive films featuring scenes of life in Berwick-upon-Tweed between 1921 and 1997 is listed below. The films are freely available for viewing online. They are held in the collections of the British Film Institute, the Yorkshire Film Archive & North East Film Archive, and the National Library of Scotland (Moving Image Archive).
The British Film Institute, founded in 1933, includes the National Film Archive which holds one of the largest collections of films in the world. Its “Britain on Film” showcase presents a wide range of archive films documenting 120 years of British life. It is continually updated with new material.
In 1921 the fourth Lawn Tennis Tournament for the Championship of Northumberland was held at the Pier Field. The film shows scenes of the multiple courts and the spectators. Near the end the film it deviates away from the tennis to show early twentieth century shots of the Playhouse in Sandgate, along with some fascinating footage of Berwick High Street before the demolition of the Golden Square area for the construction of the then A1 road to the new Royal Tweed Bridge, which was opened in 1928. The demolition of the Golden Square area ultimately severed the west side of the High Street. (Silent / b&w / 7 minutes). To view the film click here.
Britain’s Bridge of “Size” (1928)
The first part of this very short film shows the opening of The Royal Tweed Bridge by the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII). There is an interesting shot of a group of local senior worthies who witnessed the opening of the Royal Border Bridge in 1850, gathered together for the occasion. (Silent / b&w / 2 minutes). To view the film click here.
Berwick on Tweed (1945)
This film of Berwick-upon-Tweed was taken in 1945, by Tom Brown, a Middlesbrough dentist. It shows a Middlesbrough family leaving behind their wartime memories of ‘holidays at home’ and Anderson shelters and taking a trip to Berwick-upon-Tweed. This delightful Kodachrome home movie captures local fishermen at work on the river, and the magnificent bridges and centuries-old military architecture in this Borders town soon after the end of World War II. Victory Day flags and Home Guard uniforms still linger as a reminder of this recent past.
Tom Brown, who shot and composed this film, was a dentist in Middlesbrough and also chairman of the Teesside Cine Club. He made many home movies, documentaries and travelogues between 1930 and 1960, but his filmmaking activities (and holidays) almost halted during World War II. The War Office issued orders regulating where filming could occur, and restricted the availability of film stock. Petrol was rationed and non-essential travel by public transport was discouraged. Despite the Browns’ relative affluence, Kodachrome colour film was especially hard to come by, and the services still had first call in 1945.
(Silent / colour / 19 minutes). To view the film click here.
From the series “Come with Me”, narrated by Richard Dimbleby, comes a historical tour of Berwick, its defences, industries including salmon fishing. One the most fascinating parts of this film shows the manufacturing process at the spade works in Spittal. (Sound / b&w / 21 minutes). To view the film click here.
Blackhill Campaign (1958)
Released in 1963 this substantial documentary film shows the local struggle to save the Blackhill Pit at Scremerston in 1958. Directed by Jack Parsons, an academic and former NCB researcher, the film manages to capture the sense of foreboding in the area, especially amongst the miners, their families, and the town council. (Sound / b&w / 50 minutes). To view the film click here.
The Yorkshire Film Archive is a registered charity dedicated to sourcing and preserving the moving film heritage of Yorkshire and the North East of England. It cares for collections housed by the North East Film Archive and the Yorkshire Film Archive, based in Middlesbrough and York respectively.
This film features highlights of the Eyemouth versus Belford football match at the Stanks football pitch on June 29th, 1929, in the Berwick Infirmary Cup Final. It also features scenes from the Berwick May Fair in 1928, and a ‘phantom ride’ along a poor-looking Walkergate Lane around the same time. The final scene is a fish auction on the Berwick quayside, which includes a member of the well-known local fish merchants Holmes of Bridge Street. (Silent / b&w / 12 minutes). To view the film click here.
Originally shown on 20th September 1976, for a Tyne Tees Television report for the regional news programme Northern Life, the film covers the annual ‘Running of the Walls’ races in Berwick. The race featured Mike McLeod of Elswick Harriers, who later was to win a silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Also featured are Tony Simmons and Jim Alder of Morpeth Harriers. (Sound / colour / 5 minutes). To view the film click here.
The Moving Image Archive is Scotland’s national collection of moving image and is held at the National Library of Scotland. You can watch over 2,000 clips and full-length films from the collection.
Included in this amateur footage of Mayor’s Sunday in Berwick in 1947, are views of Berwick Parish Church including the civic party leaving the church after the service. A procession of girl guides, brownies, police, and town officials is led by the King’s Own Scottish Borderers’ brass band down Marygate. There is also some very interesting film of the Magdalene Fields army camp and firing range. Large crowds can be seen at the KOSB ‘Freedom of Berwick’ military parade in Marygate with the Mayor taking the podium on the Town Hall steps. Filmed in colour are soldiers from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, at the unveiling of a new plaque on the Berwick War Memorial in Castlegate. (Silent / b&w and colour / 13 minutes). To view the film click here.
Goswick Railway Crash (1947)
This film of the Goswick railway crash of October 1947 shows graphically the horror of that day in which 28 people lost their lives and 90 were injured. The locomotive pulling the Edinburgh to London King’s Cross express was the ‘Merry Hampton’. The footage includes rescue workers and soldiers from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers from the Berwick depot searching the debris, and at one point rescuers can be seen removing one of the casualties. Onlookers including children can be viewed wandering freely amongst the carnage. (Silent / b&w / 6 minutes). To view the film click here.
Contrasting Centuries: Cinematic Study of Berwick’s Architecture (1989) and Berwick Cine Notebook (1997)
The late Rev. John Jackson along with his father created a number of 16mm films covering Scotland and North Northumberland for more than half a century. The Rev. Jackson was a former church minister in Coldstream who became interested in 16mm film through his father who was regarded as somewhat of a pioneer enthusiast of cinematography. The Rev. Jackson used films in his church work and evangelism. He also acquired the skills to maintain, repair and adapt numerous types of projection equipment. A number of their films are currently viewable on the National Library of Scotland (Moving Image Archive) website. The two films which are the most pertinent to Berwick are: Contrasting Centuries: Cinematic Study of Berwick’s Architecture 1989 and Berwick Cine Notebook 1997, both described below.
This film is a cinematic study of Berwick’s architecture, illustrating the many parts of the town’s unique architectural history through the centuries. It was screened at the Berwick-upon-Tweed Film & Media Arts Festival: Crossing Borders, on Tuesday 20th September 2005. (Silent / colour / 14 minutes). To view the film click here.
Berwick Cine Notebook (1997)
This very interesting film shows various views of the town including footage of the ‘Berwick Classic’ motorsport club event and the May Fair. Other interesting shots of note show Berwick’s indoor swimming pool housed in the old Corn Exchange building in Sandgate, before its conversion into flats, and the derelict Old Granary building in Dewar’s Lane off Bridge Street before its conversion into a youth hostel, café and art gallery. (Silent / colour / 16 minutes). To view the film click here.
Banner image: Pixabay
Projector logo: Pixabay
Information on Rev. John Jackson: Berwickshire News, Thursday 13 July 2006.