Yorkshire nostalgia: National online film archive features Yorkshire rural life

  • Films show coal carrying and pancake day in Yorkshire
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An archive of old films, some featuring Yorkshire, has been released by the British Film Institute, charting rural life - some of the footage includes the Gawthorpe annual coal rare and the famous M62 farmhouse, which sits between the two carriageways on the Pennines.

The online archive contains over 750 films, fating from 1900 to 1999 - many of them have not been viewed since they were first made.

The films form part of the BFI’s Britain on Film project, that reveals hidden histories and forgotten stories of people and places from every corner of Great Britain from the UK’s key film and TV archives – including the Yorkshire Film Archive – available for free on BFI Player via an interactive map.

The archive films will also be visiting over 125 locations around the country for special screenings and events.

Graham Relton, Archive Manager, Yorkshire Film Archive said: “We don’t want our films to sit on the shelves in the vaults gathering dust, preserved, but still hidden from view. We are delighted that hundreds of our films have been digitised through Britain on Film, we have some truly beautiful footage of the Yorkshire countryside – the landscapes, the people, the crafts and traditions – all captured on film for us to see and enjoy. We are especially pleased to be able to announce a new touring programme of ‘Britain on Film: Rural’, with film shows, screenings and events coming to venues from festivals to local village halls in the coming months.”

The archive charts the changing countryside and rural life, highlighting activities, pursuits and traditions still surviving today, as well as customs, trades and skills that have since dwindled or disappeared. The interactive map reveals films shot in almost every county.

These films offer an unrivalled record of our rural heritage in all its richness across the 20th century.

Robin Baker, head curator, BFI National Archive

There are now over 5,000 films to see online – 97 per cent of which are free. By 2017, thanks to National Lottery funding and the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to the present day will be newly digitised and available to view.

Some of the unique customs of the inhabitants of God’s Own County are revealed in films like: The Pancake Day Scramble (Swinton, 1960) and Bringing In The Coal (Gawthorpe, 1980), which recorded the 17th world coal carrying contest, not to mention a YTV documentary Blowing Up The Dales (1987), which reveals how impassioned campaigners fought to protect the quarries, an interesting comparison to the current fracking debate.

Viewers can plot their own scenic journey through the much loved National Parks of the Yorkshire Dales & Peak District in films like Clarion Ramblers.

Robin Baker, head curator, BFI National Archive said: “These films offer an unrivalled record of our rural heritage in all its richness across the 20th century. It’s an immersive experience to watch them, and often deeply moving. People who live and work in the countryside will be fascinated to see how their forbears used to live. Like many other city dwellers, I was born and bred in the countryside, and this collection of films offers all of us an extraordinary and very real social history of the British countryside. It’s a very potent portrait of an often neglected cornerstone of our national life.”

The YEP regularly features clips from the YFI in our Monday Retro page.