open road

Britain on Film: Coast and Sea

Dir: Various|UK|1901-1978|93 mins

Let’s go to the seaside! Travel round our gorgeous, varied coast, filmed throughout the 20th century from 1901 to 1978, in our fourth programme from Britain on Film on Tour.

Take a nostalgic promenade to classic British holiday resorts including Weston-super-Mare, Morecambe and Skegness, a visit to Butlin’s in Brighton and 1930s surfing in Newquay, while a 1947 information film cleverly undercuts travel clichés by showing how Dover, a traditional tourist town, is remaking itself after heavy bombings during WWII.

Enjoy a lush travelogue around the coast via Claude Friese-Greene’s wonderfully re-coloured footage, as eloquent as a painting. Learn about lifeboats via the RNLI’s brisk, engaging promotional film; the private life of seabirds in Julian Huxley’s pioneering, Oscar-winning short film, a triumph of early environmentalism and explore the world of shipbuilding with the construction of the SS Olympic. All the while, in the background: the shimmering sea.

There are a limited number of opportunities to have an archive film specialist introduce your screening of Britain on Film: Coast and Sea, please ask when booking about their availability.

Supported by

Britain on Film

BFI Unlocking

Esmee Fairbairn


open roadMermaidsmablethorpeCliff Climbingnative shoreprivate lifewe chose skegnessWinter Holiday

Booking information

Available formats
DCP, Blu-ray and DVD
Released on 17 May 2017. Available for booking now
Booking email
[email protected]
Booking phone
0207 636 7120
Independent Cinema Office
Cinemas and theatres - 35% / £100 MG (plus DCP transport costs)
Community cinemas, film clubs, film societies – 35% / £50 MG
Community groups and membership organisations - £20

Films in this programme

Coast and Sea - Playing on a BeachPlaying on Beach (1903)

This Edwardian home movie is a simple snapshot of a family day out at the seaside: bucket-and-spading on Bognor beach. One of the earliest surviving home movies in the world, this film is among the rarest treasures of British Cinema. 

Cliff ClimbingCliff Climbing - The Egg Harvest of Flamborough Head (1908)

Gathering seabirds' eggs on the coast was a traditional practice for farmers whose land adjoined the cliff edge, which gave them a legal right to supplement their income by selling eggs.

MermaidsMiss Margaret Morris’ Merry Mermaids (1923)

A wonderful Topical Budget newsreel capturing fun and frolics on the beach at Harlech.

open roadThe Open Road (1926)

This extract from filmmaker Claude Friese-Greene’s 1920s travelogue captures several highlights of the South West, using modern digital technology to bring the full beauty of Friese-Greene’s photography to light.

private lifeThe Private Life of the Gannets (1934)
The lonely seclusion of an island in the Irish Sea is intruded upon for this pioneering, Oscar-winning account of the lives of northern gannets.

newquayHere is Newquay (1935)

Everybody’s going surfing in the heart of the Cornish Riviera. This 1930s promotional short may have been made before the town crowned itself Britain’s surf capital but that doesn’t stop these holidaymakers hitting the waves.

mablethorpeMablethorpe 1940s (1948)

From the typical east coast beach hut to the simple joy of splashing in the sea, the unidentified filmmaker behind this extract has a knack for capturing the spontaneous and the candid.

our native shoreOur Native Shore (1956)

The UK coastline was a busy workplace for this film’s sponsor, Esso. This extract explores the lives of some of these workers, including fishermen, ship-builders, lighthouse keepers and the brave lifeboat crews.

ShipshapeShipshape (1947)

Shoreham-by-Sea is the setting for this brisk, engaging Royal National Lifeboat Institution promo that explains the need for continuous maintenance of lifeboats.

ss olympicS.S. Olympic (1910)

SS Olympic was the sister ship of Titanic, and at the time of her launch on 20 October 1910 she was the largest vessel ever built. This film captures the sheer scale of endeavour involved in her building.

Ddoverover, Spring 1947 (1947)

Dover made over: this quirky and pointed public information film reveals how the heavily-bombed and shelled Kent town was being replanned after the war.

winter holidayWinter Holiday (1959)

Why not go on a winter holiday to Butlin’s in Brighton? This handsome Technicolor ad makes a good case for a trip, despite the blustery rooftop activities.

we chose skegnessWe Chose Skegness (1961)

This cheery Skegness promo tries to shoehorn in every possible attraction on offer: from Britain's fourth longest pier to pubs and beauty contests.

WestonWeston-super-Mare Holiday Report (1978)

Reporter Bob Warman visits Weston-super-Mare to talk to holidaymakers from across the Midlands. While most are happy with this traditional holiday destination, there are some reservations about the weather.

MorecambePanoramic View of Morecambe Sea Front (1901)

With their summer afternoon clarity, Mitchell and Kenyon’s images of Morecambe remain gorgeously fresh, from static shots of holidaymakers on the promenade to those filmed from a horse-drawn tram.

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