Arbroath, Angus, Scotland: Old Photos & Films

Arbroath Angus Scotland local history old photos vintage film

Arbroath was once a vibrant fishing harbour. Its popularity as both a destination for visitors, and source of the locally produced Arbroath Smokies, show no signs of abating. Boasting historic charm from the magnificent harbour to the town’s rural backdrop, the largest settlement in the county of Angus has long attracted the attention of photographers and filmmakers alike.

The Town Through The Decades

“Arbroath – Vintage Views – High Street”

YouTube channel Vintage Angus compiled a lovely montage of old postcards showing the town at various points over the past century.

“Old Photographs Of Arbroath Scotland”

Almost five minutes of high quality old black and white photos showing a wide variety of locations, people and activities.

The 1940s

“Arbroath, Angus, Scotland – Historical Aerial Views”

Clive Pattle uploaded an interesting series of aerial photos taken of the town between 1941 and 1947.

“Arbroath Pageant (1947)”

In 1947, Arbroath residents staged an historical pageant in the grounds of the Abbey. It was to commemorate the Declaration of Arbroath, signed by King Robert I on 6 April 1320.

It’s good clear footage of the Abbey and the event participants, although there is no sound. We also see a few spectators closer up.

The Declaration of Arbroath

  • 1305 Pope John XXII officially recognises Edward I of England’s claim to overlordship of Scotland
  • 1306 Robert the Bruce murdered John Comyn II (a rival to the throne of Scotland) before the altar at Greyfriars Church in Dumfries; he is crowned King at Scone but is also excommunicated by the Pope
  • 1307 Edward I of England dies, his son Edward II does not renew campaigns in Scotland
  • 1308 the excommunication of King Robert I is lifted
  • 1309  a parliament held at St Andrews and French emissaries acknowledged Robert’s right to rule Scotland
  • 1317 Pope John XXII demands a truce in the First War of Scottish Independence
  • 1320 Pope John XXII excommunicates King Robert I for continuing the warfare
  • 1320 Robert and the Scottish barons sign and seal three documents written in Latin and addressed to the Pope, setting out the Scottish rights in independent rule. One document, and the only to have a surviving copy in the modern day,  is the Declaration of Arbroath, written in Arbroath Abbey by its Abbott, Bernard of Kilwinning, who was also Chancellor of Scotland.


The 1960s and 1970s

“Arbroath Town 1964”

Vintage cine films from family holidays taken many decades ago often focus on the individuals at the expense of the setting. In contrast, this short film has wide appeal, showing the family on holiday but with great attention to the location.

“Scottish Fishing Boats (1971)”

This British Pathé film captures lovely views of the harbour, fishing boats out to see, some of the fishermen as they work, and the fresh catch coming back to shore.

The 1980s and 1990s


“Arbroath High Street 1982”

Although Bob Petrie filmed from a slowly moving vehicle, all the sights and sounds of the 1982 streets are captured very nicely. Lots of pedestrians see what he is doing, and turn to look, giving a clear shot of their faces. Some even laugh or call out to the camera.

At one point the 1982 footage is juxtaposed with the same angle in 2013, for a nice comparison.

What wonderful foresight to have just captured everyday people going about their daily lives.

“Arbroath Smokies – Bygones, part 1”

In the 1980s, Anglia TV made a programme about the Arbroath Smokies for Anglia TV. It’s a fascinating look at the history and practices of this famous delicacy. Furthermore, a number of local people and locations appear.

“Arbroath – 1992”

Bruce Middleton drove around the town’s streets in 1992, visiting a number of different locations. Later, as dusk settles in and lights turn on, the camera captures the change in atmosphere.

The 21st Century

“helicopter ride Arbroath Scotland”

In the summer of 2011, Ewart Corrigan filmed a helicopter ride above the town.

More Scotland Pages


Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Arbroath?

Arbroath is a seaside town on the North Sea coast of Scotland. It is 16 miles northeast of Dundee, and 45 miles south west of Aberdeen.

What county is Arbroath in?

Arbroath is in the county of Angus, in Scotland, which is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK).

What is Arbroath famous for?

Arbroath is famous for Arbroath Abbey where the historic Declaration of Arbroath was signed and sealed in the year 1320. Today the picturesque area around the harbour is a destination for visitors seeking out Arbroath Smokie, haddock locally caught and smoked over a wood fire enriching the depth of flavour.

What are people from Arbroath called?

People from Arbroath are called ‘Red Lichties’, due to the red light that used to guide fishing boats back from the North Sea to the Burgh’s harbour. ‘Lichties’ is Scottish north east coast dialect for ‘red light’.

When was Arbroath founded?

Arbroath Abbey was founded in 1178 by a group of Tironensian Benedictine monks from Kelso Abbey, with patronage from King William the Lion (King of Scots 1165-1214). The consecration in 1197 included a dedication to the famously murdered Archbishop of Canterbury made a Saint, Thomas Becket. The nearby town grew and expanded over the centuries.