Title ID 8429Collection ID1194
TitleSouthern Seaside
CollectionEarly Films
ThemeSeaside Transport
KeywordsBeaches Boats Children Holidays Harbours Family Fairgrounds Landscape Leisure Time Activities Houses Entertainment Piers [Palace Pier, Brighton] Piers [West Pier, Brighton] Play Beachwear Tourism Seaside Resorts Recreational Facilities
LocalBournemouth Portsmouth Bognor Regis Brighton Hove Folkstone Dover Broadstairs Margate
RegionalEast Sussex Kent West Sussex Brighton and Hove
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionMarion Grierson
DirectorMarion Grierson
FormatBlack & White Silent
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


Scenes from all along the South Coast from Bournemouth to Margate, broken up by intertitles and produced by Marion Grierson in the 1930s.


"Southern Seaside"

The film states: "All year round a city's work goes on." Streets are seen from an elevated position as traffic passes underneath. "Every day... But once a year there is a release for everyone... HOLIDAY TIME."

Groups of people are seen checking train times and standing outside the station entrance. Inside, a train pulls away from the platform. "Within a hundred miles... salt sea air sun and wind and freedom." The train passes the camera and moves along the coast. From an elevated position, a beach and pier is seen, stretching into the water. In a closer, but still elevated, shot, crowds of visitors people the beach. Behind, vehicles drive in front of sea front buildings. Closer still, a single family is shown, playing and sunbathing. A woman buys an ice cream and a dog noses around in a picnic basket. In the sea, a toddler paddles and young women play in the breakers. Further young visitors are seen sun bathing in fashionable swim-wear.

"Along the coast..."

A group walks over Beachy Head [?]. "There are facilitates for every sport." A cricket match is in play. Footage of a tennis match, golf, and scenes of a boating lake follow. "For the less energetic, there are restful gardens." Scenes from Preston park Rotunda and garden follow. Men sit in deck chairs, women knit, a nursemaid walks children in the park. A couple sit on a bench, the woman's head in the man's lap.

"Each holiday maker is free to choose his own especial paradise"

A map of Great Britain is shown, before a more detailed map of South East England.

"At Bournemouth... the youngest of the South Coast resorts"

A 360 pan follows, taking in the beach, rocky cliffs and domestic housing above. "Fir-clad chines and winding paths that lead to the sea." Women walk along the path in summer dresses and hats. Sunbathers are shot from this elevated position.

"At Southsea... the manoeuvres of the fleet"

A navy vessel moves through the water. 'The beloved Victory with its memories of Nelson and Trafalger." Visitors to the ship walk up to the deck. A panning shot across canons and deck and up to the complex mast system follows.

"At Bognor Regis... where the late King once holidayed"

Modern domestic housing is seen. "Stretches of even sands - a paradise for children." Children build sand sculptures and play with buckets. A girl rides a horse on the sand.

"At Brighton and Hove... buildings that step from Regency days to an ultra-modern present"

Regency Square [?] is seen, lined with Regency buildings. The buildings behind Hove Lawns is seen. Visitors peer into the windows of Victorian antiques shops in 'The Lanes'. Embassy Court is seen from the promenade. A panning shot from the roof top follows, taking in both Brighton piers, beach huts, beach and bandstand. "The Royal Pavilion which made Brighton the fashionable resort of George IV's day." Multiple views and close ups of the pavilion's architectural features follow.

"Folkstone... the seaport and busy fishing harbour"

The camera follows a small boat moving through the water, panning up to the harbour, fishing boats, and buildings behind. "Luxury Hotels on the Leas above."

"Dover... from Roman times the port for continental traffic"

Passengers alight a steamship after it is seen pulling into the harbour. "Dover Castle was key to England of the Middle Ages and is still a military stronghold." Various views of the castle follow.

"Broadstairs... favourite resort of one Londoner, Charles Dickens"

The golf course, castle, and harbour are seen before "Bleak House" views. Uncle Mack's Minstrels perform on the sea front. The camera pans across the stage and audience. The performance is seen from the crowd.

"Margate... once a little fishing village, now a modern health resort"

Visitors dive and swim in a large pool. "Youth health and energy are its keynote." A young woman lies on the pebble beach with her feet in the breakers, wearing a two-piece swimming costume. Seaside attractions follow, including a merry-go-round and roller coaster. Couples dance together inside to music played by a band. Dreamland Amusement Park is seen after dark, lit up with neon lights.

The film ends with titles: "Here on the South Coast London is forgotten. The Palace Pier is shown at night, also decorated with lights. A sign atop the pier reads "Palace of Fun". "For a time...".

Contextual information

Marion Grierson ran the film unit of the Travel and Industrial Development Association (TIDA) in the 1930s. Her brother John Grierson, the "founding figure" of the British documentary movement, worked at the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit, to which TIDA was attached. Marion's sister Ruby Grierson was also a documentary maker for Strand and the Realist Film Unit in the 1930s. She made home front propaganda films for the Ministry of Food in the war years before she died in 1940 when the liner she was traveling on was torpedoed.

The British documentary movement of the 1930s and 1940s gave many female technicians a chance to direct and produce films, who had previously played only minor roles in British film production. Film careers were nonetheless short lived, as post-war attitudes towards women and work changed. Women who had productive careers in the documentary hay day were unable to break into fiction film with the ease of their male counterparts. Grierson left film altogether to raise a family in the 1940s.

Much of the footage in [Southern Seaside] is included in the longer documentary [Beside the Seaside] with sound and commentary written by W H Auden.

Uncle Mack’s Minstrels were an integral part of the Broadstairs summer entertainment in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1911 Uncle Mack’s Minstrels were voted the most popular troupe of the British Seaside resorts. Now considered unacceptable as a form of entertainment, black-faced entertainers were a popular act in the 1930s and were often seen at seaside resorts where the additional character of ‘Uncle’ befriended children and encouraged them to take part in singing and dancing competitions.

Related titles

Related resources


John Grierson Archive

Location: University of Stirling: Archives and Special Colelctions


BFI Screenonline profile: Marion Grierson