Berwick-upon-Tweed was caught on camera many times over the past century, preserving a record of the historic Northumberland town and its inhabitants.
Berwick’s Time Machine
The Time Travel Artist James Fox uses illustrations and old photos of Berwick to take us back in time. Watch as the high street of 2018 changes and morphs into the scenes of decades, and even centuries, ago.
Berwick-Upon-Tweed: A Journey Through Time (2018 to 1799): The Time Travel Artist on YouTube
Lifeboat Centenary Celebration (1925)
In 1825 saw the start of the Berwick lifeboat service. It was such a valued resource that the town turned out in force to celebrate its centenary in 1925.
In these lovely clear images from the Lifeboat Centenary event, we see large numbers of local men, women and children happily looking at the camera. A group of more serious children stand in fancy dress, many of them looking like they’d rather be elsewhere.
The procession includes a model of the Cenotaph mounted on the back of a lorry. A sudden reminder that this is just 7 years after the end of the horrors of World War I.
We then see the lifeboat crew, before more crowds.
Lifeboat Centenary (1925): British Pathé
Opening the Royal Tweed Bridge (1928)
In 1928, the Royal Tweed bridge was officially opened by the Prince of Wales. A few years later, he was to briefly serve as King Edward VIII before his abdication.
There’s a special platform with seating for local residents who had watched the old bridge be opened by Queen Victoria in 1850! It’s a shame the camera doesn’t stay on them longer, but several faces are nice and clear.
ROYAL: Prince of Wales opens Royal Tweed bridge in 1928 (1928): British Pathé
Berwick Bowling Club (1928)
The Bowls Tournament was strictly a male-only affair in 1928.
There are nice exterior images of the Bowling Club.
The camera also gently sweeps across all the attendees as they gather together at the end.
The final shot is the outside of the cafe, upstairs from the cinema where Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr is playing.
Bowls Tournament At Berwick Bowling Club (1928): British Pathé
40,000 Pigeons in Berwick-upon-Tweed (1939)
World War II was about to begin, but 40,000 pigeons were brought by rail to the station at Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Alongside the tracks, a group of men opened the long line of baskets. Behind them, steam rises from a train.
By 1960, the number of birds taking part had dropped to 15,000 – which was still so large the cameras came to record the day’s events.
Pigeon Race At Berwick-Upon-Tweed (1939): British Pathé
Train Crash 1947
A nearby chapel was turned into a makeshift morgue and first aid station following the railway disaster at Goswick near Berwick in 1947.
The express from Edinburgh to Kings Cross jumped the points while changing to another line. The result was catastrophic. 11 of the 14 coaches left the rails. 28 people died, and many more were injured.
It was the second major rail disaster in three days.
Train crash wreckage examined near Berwick (1947): British Pathé
Flooding in Berwick-upon-Tweed (1948)
In August 1948, torrential downpours hit Northern England and Southern Scotland. As the rivers filled up, they burst their banks. Five railway bridges on the London to Edinburgh route were washed away, leaving the tracks suspended in mid air!
The Cumledge Blanket Mills collapsed. This means the cameras recorded the machinery inside, when Britain still had a significant textile industry.
In Eyemouth, boats washed up by the water now sit in the street.
At Cumledge village, the attractive buildings looks like they’re in the middle of the building site. Everyone evacuated with what they could carry, while the waters destroyed their homes. Now personal possessions lay covered in mud and water, or strewn in the street. The villagers have little choice but to try cleaning up using riverwater.
Berwick – Floods Sweep North, Wrecked Homes (1948): British Pathé
Berwick in 1953
Berwick appears about 4 and a half minutes in to this film about the historic and beautiful towns and villages of Northumberland.
Bygone Northumberland – Any Man’s Kingdom 1953: Northernheritage (YouTube)
Queen Elizabeth Visits Berwick-upon-Tweed (1956)
About 50 seconds into this short newsreel, we see Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip walking up the steps into Berwick Town Hall. Hundreds of people are there to cheer the Royal couple.
At the old bridge the Queen is presented with a freshly caught 12lb salmon in a wooden box, by James Reed, Berwick Salmon Fisheries.
The Queen’s Tour – Scotland (1956): British Pathé
Steam Trains of Berwick
These images of steam trains also contain some nice shots of the town many decades ago.
Glory Days of Steam at Berwick: 52D Video’s
Racing Pigeons at Berwick-upon-Tweed (1960)
In 1960, transporting pigeons for pigeon races was apparently a big earner for British Rail.
Here we see 15,000 birds, some of them travelling from as far as Cornwall, arriving at Berwick for a pigeon race.
The top prize is £700, and there are private pools offering even more attractive sums.
Although you don’t get to see much of Berwick beyond the railway station, it’s interesting to see the scale of activity.
Pigeon Derby (1960): British Pathé
Weir’s Way (1980s)
Writer, broadcaster and an environmentalist Tom Weir wrote and presented popular Scottish TV series Weir’s Way. It ran from 1976 to 1987.
Here he takes a walk along the walls and through the town on a market day in the 1980s.
Includes archive film, an interview with the Chargehand Mason Alex Dempster, a group of salmon fishermen making their catch, an interview in the gaol with Jack Weatherburn
There’s a lot of people in the market scene, and many lovely glimpses of the streets and buildings.
Weir’s Way: Berwick upon Tweed: Gasmeter’s Way