Step back in time with fascinating old images of Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.
Scotland’s impressive and ancient capital city, Edinburgh, has long captured the eye of filmmakers and photographers. With regular official visits from members of the royal family, fascinated tourists flocking to Edinburgh’s many local attractions, and the city’s Corporation all providing reasons to pick up a camera, this city enjoys a marvellous visual record of the 1930s.
A Century Ago
Spot the many different vehicles battling with the people and traffic in this Edinburgh scene recorded a century ago.
Scott Memorial At Edinburgh (1910-1920) – British Pathé (YouTube)
This one minute clip shows the devastation caused by fire to the N.B. Railway’s Works at St Margaret’s. A curious crowd watches as the sturdy walls are demolished.
Edinburgh: Disastrous Fire Aka Disastrous Fire (1922) – British Pathé (YouTube)
1923 Royal Infirmary Pageant
Before the NHS, people relied on personal wealth, insurance, employers with high welfare standards, and charitable donations to pay for their health treatment.
In Edinburgh, the Royal Infirmary Pageant raised money while entertaining locals with a procession of floats.
Messages of peace were commonplace in the early years after the Great War, which had caused such misery across Europe and beyond.
Edinburgh Royal Infirmary Pageant (1923) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Armistice Day 1927
In November 1927, the Princess Royal attended Edinburgh’s solemn Armistice Day event, laying the first wreath. It was just nine years after the end of the Great War, later known as World War I.
Armistice Day – Princess Royal In Edinburgh (1927) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Edinburgh in 1931
The Lord Provost the Rt. Hon. Thomas L.L.D. provided the commentary on this British Pathé film from 1931, which lasts three minutes.
Cities Of Britain – Edinburgh No. 5 (1931) – British Pathé (YouTube)
First Royal Freewoman 1930
In this film from 1930, the 33 year old HRH Princess Mary received Freedom of the city. Then she officially opened a new housing estate. It all happened in front of a sizable and seated outside audience.
Edinburgh’s First Royal “Freewoman” (1930) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood was the daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. She was also the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She had a career of charity work and royal duties. Family life revolved around her husband Viscount Lascelles and their two children. At the age of 67, she died of a heart attack in the grounds of her home, Harewood House near Leeds in Yorkshire.
Fire Brigade 1930
In 1930, Edinburgh Fire Service had the longest escape ladder in Great Britain. Here they show it in action, transported by fire engine and then raised to dizying heights against a building.
FIRE SERVICE: Edinburgh Fire Brigade (1930) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Military Parade 1931
Crowds lined the streets in May 1931 to watch the Edinburgh Troop Parade pass the Scott Memorial.
SCOTLAND: Military Parade in Edinburgh (1931) – British Pathé (YouTube)
George Watson’s College 1932
On 22 September 1932, two years before he became Duke of Kent, HRH Prince George came to open the new site for George Watson’s College at Colinton Road.
The school’s long standing premises, which were increasingly cramped for educational requirements, had been sold so that the Infirmary next door could expand.
The new building was constructed in a neo-classical style, sandstone-faced, and built in a two-storey H shape around a large central Assembly Hall.
Prince George Aka Prince George In Edinburgh (1930-1939) – British Pathé (YouTube)
HRH Prince George was the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary. His eldest brother briefly became King Edward VIII in 1936 before abdicating for marriage to Mrs Simpson. Then the next eldest son was crowned King George VI (although his real first name was Albert).
Prince George’s life was brief, dying in a military air crash on 25 August 1942, at the age of 39. By that time he had served in the Royal Navy, worked briefly as a civil servcant, and then joined the Royal Navy.
He was survived by his widow, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, and their three young children Prince Edward, Duke of Kent; Princess Alexandra, The Hon. Lady Ogilvy; and Prince Michael of Kent.
1930s Royal Visit
King George V and Queen Mary visited the city a number of times. Therefore, it’s not clear what year this film was made. There are nice clean shots of the royal couple, the many attending dignitaries, and a glimpse of the 1930s press scrum.
Royal Visit Edinburgh, 1930s – Film 61091 – HuntleyFilmArchives (YouTube)
1930 Edinburgh Locations
Just over two minutes looking at the traffic and pedestrians in the familiar streets and locations of Scotland’s capital city in the 1930s.
- Princes Street
- Princes Street Gardens
- Robert Burns monument
- St Giles Church
- Calton Hill
- Holyrood House
- Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh Scotland, 1930s – Film 33647 – HuntleyFilmArchives (YouTube)
Edinburgh Corporation Transport 1936
The first part of a 30 minute silent film showing the good works of the city’s Transport Departments. Here we look at the factory making the buses.
Edinburgh Corporation Transport 1936 part 1 – MikeyA (YouTube)
The second part of a silent film about the city’s transport system focusses on the tramway extension from Braids to Fairmilehead.
The orderly queues of people waiting to get on public transport are breathtaking. Everywhere the air seems full of smog.
The parcels department appears to employ young boys. At a large house, a uniformed maid deals with the parcel delivery.
Edinburgh Corporation Transport 1936 part 2 – MikeyA (YouTube)
A short clip demonstrating that busy traffic is not a new invention – though these 1930s streets seem packed with passenger services for the public.
Edinburgh, 1930’s – Film 93919 – HuntleyFilmArchives
Edinburgh 1930s Scenes
1936 saw the founding of the Edinburgh Cine and Video Society. 50 years later they invited Newcastle film makers to visit for their Golden Jubilee.
Their guests arrived with a gift – this film. It was made in Edinburgh by Mr. George Cumin of Newcastle, in the years 1934, 1935, 1936, and 1937.
Hundreds of people go about their daily lives, in a variety of locations which are identified on screen. One shot shows the Picture House on Princes Street. It’s headlining the film ‘A Star is Born’, released to cinemas in April 1937.
Edinburgh 1936 – ecvsuk (YouTube)
Scotland in Colour 1936
Rosie Newman’s film from 1936 is in crisp colour. Delightful small details include the new traffic lights signage, explaining what the colours mean!
1936 – Scotland in Colour – BabelCalends (YouTube)
Scotland Tour in the 1930s
This silent footage of a 1930s tour of Scotland includes a look at several city locations.
1930’s tour in Scotland. Film 3116 – HuntleyFilmArchives (YouTube)
Edinburgh Zoo in the 1930s
Perhaps not the most entertaining film of either the King Penguins or Edinburgh Zoo. But this was filmed at the city’s zoo in the 1930s. Furthermore, we get to see a traditional zookeeper in action at the end!
King Penguins in the Zoo, 1930’s – Film 261 – HuntleyFilmArchives (YouTube)
Ensign Ewart Memorial 1938
Ensign Ewart led the Scots Greys historic charge at the Battle of Waterloo, and captured single handed one of Napleon’s Standards and Eagles. He died in 1846, and all trace of his grave was lost.
So in 1938 spectators watched as Field Marshall Sir Philip Chetwode unveilied a memorial to him at Edinburgh Castle, with the Scots Greys on parade, and a crowd turning out to watch.
Ensign Ewart Memorial In Edinburgh Lner (1938) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Fire! (Again) 1939
In 1939, a fire broke out at the Edinburgh Caledonian Goods Station and uickly spread through the sheds and offices. Within an hour and a half, only the sturdy walls of the huge structure remained.
Fire at Edinburgh Caledonian goods station (1939) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Rover Scouts 1939
In 1939, Edinburgh saw Rover Scouts arriving from 42 different countries to take part in the Final Rally of the 3rd World Rover Moot.
They parade past Lord Provost Henry Steele through Princess Street, and perform exercises for the Duke of Gloucester at Murrayfield.
Given the ages of the young men on screen, many of them would see service over the next six years of World War II.
Edinburgh Scouts (1939) – British Pathé (YouTube)
International Youth Hostels’ Conference 1947
We don’t see much of the city in this brief glimpse, but there are nice clear images of the people attending an international conference just two years after World War II ended.
Edinburgh (1946) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Holyrood House 1947
After a break of about 400 years, 1947 saw the The Knights of the Order of St John reconvene.
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and the Earl of Lindsay join a procession of men and women in regalia to Holyrood House, watched by a group of quietly amused locals.
Edinburgh Aka Pathe Front Page (1947) – British Pathé (YouTube)
For a clip which lasts less than a minute, there are a lot of young marching participants who look uncomfortable to see a camera or who aren’t paying attention to what they are supposed to be doing.
Anyway, they are marching past the Duke of Edinburgh, watched by a huge crowd.
Duke Of Edinburgh In Edinburgh (1948) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Usher Hall 1949
The Duke of Edinburgh received the Freedom of the City at Usher Hall in 1949. Before going in for the ceremony, he spoke to some of the young people outside.
Duke of Edinburgh speaks at the University of Edinburgh (1949)- British Pathé (YouTube)
Edinburgh Scenes 1950
In this silent black and white footage from 1950, we see some of the well known views of the great Scottish capital.
But there are also more intimate moments. A close up of the ticket collector at work at Waverley Station. Does anyone know who he is?
We also see lots of people on screen busy with their lives, at Waverley Station and Princes Street. Plus, the Scottish troops scene has a few clear faces shown, despite the night time setting.
And the travelling steam train is just a lovely shot.
Views Of Scotland (1950) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Edinburgh Festival 1950
This footage offers both stunning panoramic views of the city in 1950, with smoke coming out of an occasional chimney, and a few intimate closeups of tourists, the gardener, and theatrical types. You can also see a few shop names in Princes Street.
Edinburgh Festival (1950) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Queen Elizabeth II 1952
In 1952, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II visited the city for her first engagement.
Nice images of hundreds of people appear (so it’s a shame that fewer than 350 people have watched this footage in the almost 9 years it has been available on YouTube).
We see former radio padre Reverend Ronald Selby Wright and the choirboys of Cannongate Kirk, where the Queen planted a cherry tree. (Cannongate Kirk opened in 1691, so was not 300 years old as the commentator said).
The Queen In Edinburgh (1952) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Aristocratic Marriage 1953
When the Earl of Dalkeith married Miss Jane McNeil at St Giles’ Cathedral in 1953, the Royal guests included Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Margaret, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and their son, the wedding page Prince Richard.
It was Queen Elizabeth’s first appearance in Scotland during her Coronation year.
The bride wore a gown of white lace from France. Postwar clothes rationing had only ended four years previously.
There are some lovely close ups of local people cheering from the streets and windows.
UK / ROYAL: Edinburgh wedding of the Earl of Dalkeith (1953) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Ediburgh Festival 1959
Hundreds of people appear in this newsreel, with many faces seen clearly. Wide range of events too.
Edinburgh Festival – Special (1959) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Edinburgh Festival 1962
Huge crowds wait to buy tickets at the Festival Office.
The Earl of Harwood, Artistic Director of the Festival, and the Russian composer Shostokovitch sit talking while they smoke, the piano beside them making a handy ashtray holder!
Other famous musicians include Soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, her husband the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianist Yvonne Lefebure, and tenor Peter Pears.
Dylan Thomas’s play ‘The Doctor and The Devils’ played at the Assembly Hall is in the thumbail below.
Then we see the two MacEwan Brothers praticising their folk music on Carlton Hill.
Film star ice skater Sonja Henie and her husbad Niels Onstad is filmed inside the Royal Scottish Academy, which is displaying their very 60s modern art collection.
Edinburgh Festival (1962) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Edinburgh Festival 1965
The tourists are back for the summer of 1965.
Selected Originals – Edinburgh Festival (1965) – British Pathé (YouTube)