East End Film Footage In The Early 1900’s

For today’s blog, we’re going on another journey back in time, this time to the East End of London in the early 1900’s.

This film comes from the Huntley Film Archives,  one of the largest independent film libraries in the UK, with an impressive collection that numbers some 80,000 titles.


In this film the viewer can, quite literally be transported back to a bygone East End to view its residents going about their everyday lives.

We can watch women and children wandering around the East End of London. We can see men and women interacting on the streets, jostling one another, interacting with each other and sharing jokes that we can only guess at, although, judging by the reactions, they must have been absolutely hilarious!



The footage opens with a group of ladies, each one wearing the long white petticoats that were fashionable at the time, enjoying a good old cockney knees up.

This was evidently filmed on either a Sunday or a Bank Holiday and the crowds are no doubt enjoying the outdoors.

The women are evidently belting out some joyous song, as they twirl and swirl for the camera, whilst several boys and men in flat caps look on and enjoy the spectacle.

The ladies, who may be sisters, appear to be holding some half eaten piece of food. One things is certain though, they are well and truly enjoying themselves, and their vivacity transcends the 100 and more years since the film was shot.

You find yourself fighting the urge to leap up and join in their dance.

The film then cuts to a market scene, where we encounter an elderly lady, wearing a well-worn head scarf who appears to be selling fresh produce in an un-named market, which might well be Petticoat Lane.


And then. at 017:03, Jack the Ripper appears to turn up!

Just kidding, but an anonymous man in a black top hat appears on screen and appears to be treating customers and passersby alike to an energetic sales pitch as people become eager to buy the wares he is selling.

Evidently the crowd – who are almost all  male- are enjoying his energised performance and his, no doubt, witty patter. You can see the smirks on many of their faces, as your eyes scan the sea of homburgs, flat caps, and bowler hats.


We then get a brief glimpse of a moustached man who proceeds to proudly hold up for the camera the items he has just purchased.

Sadly, we are merely spectators to his reaction to the witty banter that appears to be emanating from somebody to his right, and which is causing him great merriment. Indeed, judging by his reaction, it must have been one heck of a funny joke!


But, our living tapestry of bygone London moves speedily on through several scenes, as another woman dances cheerily in front of the camera, waving whatever it is she has purchased for the delectation of the viewer; she is followed by a group purchasing what appears to be cloth of some kind from a stall; and then a policeman wades through and behind a group of enthusiastic shoppers, who are also waving their purchases in front of the camera, whilst a group of boys hold aloft large wooden planks, one of which comes dangerously close to the head of a seated old lady!


We then enjoy a glimpse of a lady who appears to be flirting with the cameraman whilst, behind her, there appears to be some sort of street robbery going on as a bowler hatted man wrestles something out of the hand of a scruffily dressed bearded man.

As the footage enters its final moments, a scruffily dressed bearded man, who appears to be deep in thought, walks past the camera and, as he shuffles away, the film cuts out, and our journey back to the East End of the early 1900’s judders to a halt.

We return to the comforts of our modern 21st-century existences, they return to the bustling vibrant market to share more jokes and to admire more of the items being offered up for sale.

I wonder how the rest of the day went for all the people we met on our little journey? One thing is certain, though, if the short amount of time that we have spent in their company is anything to go by, they, most certainly, enjoyed the rest of that day.