Clacton-on-Sea in the Old Days

Clacton-on-Sea Essex old photos & film history

Take a step back in time with these twentieth century film clips from Clacton-on-Sea in Essex.

Masonic Ceremony (1910-1919)

Freemasons in their full regalia lead a procession of clergy and choirboys. Then the foundation stone of St James’s Church is laid with Masonic rights.

Masonic Ceremony (1910-1919): British Pathé (YouTube)

Clacton Beach (1920-1929)

Although this 1920s footage is silent and black and white, it’s clear enough to see some lovely details.

It’s a cold day. Everyone’s wearing good thick coats and hats, smart suits, and many wrapping up further with scarves. Yet the beach is very busy with both adults and children sitting on the sand, playing ball games, digging, or just strolling along.

Clacton Beach (1920-1929): British Pathé (YouTube)

The paddling boats at the end are very popular too.

Fancy Dress Boat Battle in 1922

There’s hardly an inch to move in the crowds watching this curious event. 

Brightening Our Regattas (1922): British Pathé (YouTube)

Clacton in 1926

The silent footage is in black and white. As revellers act out ‘The Pirates of the Southern Seas’ in bootpolish and grass skirts in the water, crowds of people watch. After a minute or so, the film goes off to Lowestoft, to find “the prettiest ankles”.

Happy Holiday-Time By The Sea (1926): British Pathé (YouTube)

Come to Essex (1931)

Sir Percy John Pybus, 1st Baronet, CBE (25 January 1880 – 23 October 1935) was Mr P J Bybus, the MP for Clacton, in 1931.

He led the publicity campaign to encourage holidaymakers from the Continent to visit Essex holiday resorts. 

Of course this involves fancy dress, though for some reason the float is a car pulled by teenage girls in swimsuits.

The umbrellas show it was raining during the speeches.

Come To Britain (1931): British Pathé (YouTube)

Carnival 1935

This 1935 footage is rather curious, because everything seems quite muted. The people on the floats look cold, and the spectators seem to stand quietly. But it’s amusing to see how the early floats looked. 

Clacton Carnival News In A Nutshell (1935): British Pathé (YouTube)

Litter Signs (1937)

A film showing three unusual anti-litter signs in the Clacton area in 1937.

Warning Sign Posts Aka Warning Signposts (1937): British Pathé (YouTube)

Three well made signs warning against litter are shown:

‘Who throws his rubbish on the sand and letter shed on every hand may his back axle let him down a good ten miles from any town.’  

‘Who breaks off boughs and lets them lie beside the trees to fade and die may earwigs creep into his ear and caterpillars spoil his beer.’ 

‘Who picnics by the sad sea waves and all the front with litter paves may indigestion rack his chest and ants invade his pants and vest.’

Baby Show (1937)

“Ideal fathers discovered at Clacton” announces the title card.

It’s described as a “monster Baby Show” because of the large number of women turning out with their babies for the competition.

But the audience split their sides with laughter as several dads show their baby bathing skills. Not with real babies, mind you, because that would clearly be ridiculous!

Baby show at Clacton (1937): British Pathé (YouTube)

Nazi bomber crashes at Clacton (1940)

Just two years after the silliness of the baby show, Britain was at war.

And in 1940, Clacton-on-Sea  became the first place in the country to suffer extensive damage at the hands of an enemy plane.

One of the Lufftwaffe’s Heinkel planes was damaged by British air defences off the Essex coast during its attempt to plant mines in the sea.

The pilot flew to the nearest land looking for a place to land. 

But after half an hour it crashed into a housing estate, with the explosives and fires causing serious damage to two residential streets.

Two residents died, as did four of the aircraft crew. In addition, 160 people were injured, some of them seriously.

Nazi bomber crashes at Clacton (1940): British Pathé (YouTube)

1952 Funny Cat Video

Tim the cat lived in a Clacton boarding house. It’s not clear why the newsreel thought he was news, but just goes to show funny cat videos aren’t a new thing.

Cat And Bottle (1952): British Pathé (YouTube)

Beautiful Eyes at Butlins (1958)

If you think this starts off badly, watch what happens halfway through. 

Beautiful Eyes (1958): British Pathé (YouTube)

A Busy Beach in 1964

1964 saw the hottest Whitsun weekend for several years. Crowds turned out in force to enjoy the seaside.

But the threat of violence between mods & rockers meant the police were there too. 

Whitsun Playtime Aka Mods & Rockers Clash At Margate (1964): British Pathé (YouTube)

“It really has come to something when people can’t take a short holiday without the threat of long haired youngsters with knives indulging in an orgy of hooliganism!”

Clacton Carnival (1967)

At the Butlin’s holiday camp, everyone’s getting ready for the annual carnival. Stepping onto the floats are beauty queens in swimwear, along with adults and children wearing a wide array of fancy dress costumes. Lovely clear images of hundreds of people, including many spectators.

Clacton Carnival (1967): British Pathé (YouTube)

Clacton in 1976

First broadcast on 13th January 1977, this footage includes aerial shots of the seaside town. There are dozens of close ups of children, and we get to see inside the 70s rooms.

Essex – Clacton on Sea – 1976: ThamesTv (YouTube)

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Thanks to Nick Page on Unsplash for the helter skelter image used in the title card above