Monday, August 4, 2008

Window into the Past - Brighton Beach, 1896

I've been poking round YouTube a bit lately, as I guess some of us do when we're not looking round, shall we say, more 'serious' sites.

And for no particular reason, I searched 'old film' and turned up this glimpse into the life of ordinary people in late C19 England.

The footage shows average people doing a variety of everyday activities as they stroll along Brighton Beach in 1896.

A myriad of separate impressions.

A young woman on the left in a white blouse trying to control the extraordinary floral construction of her late Victorian hat. Is it a windy day?

Office workers, in suits with bowler hats in hand, walking self-consciously towards and past the camera.

Two middle-aged women arm-in-arm slowly ambling along, probably happily gossiping. Long black dresses sweeping the sand.

Small children digging animatedly in the sand, again on the left.

A working-class man bending over to gently and caringly take the hand of a tiny son.

Periodic parasols, unfurled. Is it a sunny day?

A man in a white jacket with a white suitcase who has been chatting to a group of women and then walks away down the beach. Has he been trying to sell them something? Wonder what? Some artificial flowers? A wooden toy for a child? Did he mange a sale?

And, at the end, two smiling pre-teenage girls flitting across the foreground, quite close-up.

I realize part of the interest is trying to work out what's going on!

The film is a bit grainy but I think this adds to the sense of it being taken over a hundred years ago. And gives it a nice resonance with Impressionist paintings of similar scenes:

Eugene Boudin 'La plage de Trouville', 1865

Eugene Boudin 'Woman with a Parasol on the Beach', 1880

Claude Monet 'La plage de Trouville', 1864

Anyway, I was cyber-chatting to a friend who asked if I'd down-loaded the footage. And I had to confess I didn't know you could. So he told me about the free version of RealPlayer (at Once you have it, you simply start a non-copyright video and a box appears above the window asking if you want to download it. I'm burning most of this stuff onto DVD so as not to kill my hard disc.

Armed with this new software, some (all?!) of you guys might well head off to the more 'serious' sites I mentioned - if you do, you'll be bumping into me, a lot!

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