Title ID 8595Collection ID1176
Title[Children on Roof at Saltdean]
Date[ca. 1941]
CollectionFrancis Jefferis Williams
Genre/TypeAmateurIndependent AmateurNon-fictionAlbum/Journal
ThemeFamily life Wartime And Military
KeywordsArmed Forces Buildings Children Family Houses Second World War (1939-1945) Urban Areas Play
LocalRottingdean Saltdean
RegionalEast Sussex Brighton and Hove
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionFrancis Jefferis Williams
CameraFrancis Jefferis Williams
ParticipantsFrancis Williams (film-maker)
FormatBlack & White Silent
Duration9 min. 20 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


Made during the Second World War, this amateur film shows members of the Williams family using a ladder to climb onto the roof of their house in Saltdean. The children are seen playing on the roof with their dog. Shots also show soldiers parading on the A259 followed by several army tanks and military vehicles in Rottingdean.


The opening shot of the film looks down on the A259 at Rottingdean. Soldiers are seen standing on the street outside a pub(?), whilst army trucks and tanks move along the road. The soldiers march down the street, a young boy marching behind them as everyday life continues around them.

The next scene show the Williams children and their dog, Punch, climbing a ladder onto the roof of their house in Longridge Avenue, Saltdean. The children help the dog up the ladder, and play on the roof. A series of panoramic views from the roof across Saltdean follow. The film cuts to the bottom of the ladder with the children's grandfather, Alfred Williams, climbing up to the roof followed by the children and the dog (damaged). Once on top, the children link arms with Mr Williams Snr and they skip in a line towards the camera. Further shots filmed from the roof show one by one the group descending the steps of the ladder again.

A long shot shows a pair of chimneys and the wall below the roof of the house, filmed looking across from another rooftop, with the children and the dog peeping out from behind the chimneys.

The next scene shows the film-maker, Francis Williams, walking in the grounds of St Aubyn's school in Rottingdean. Mr Williams walks with Frances Pittman (the children's nanny) and another woman through a formal garden, They stop for Francis to hand a woman a small item (?).

The final scene, back on the roof, shows further shots of the children sitting on a ledge. In the background the modernist style 1930s Ocean Hotel at Saltdean is visible.


A still from [Children on Roof at Saltdean] (1941)

Contextual information

Francis J. Williams was born in Scarborough 1898 and died in Saltdean in 1965. Williams moved to the South Coast after the First World War, later marrying Nancy Wethered in Peacehaven in 1924. Their daughters Nancy and Betty were born 1926 and 1928; and son Haydn in 1934.

Francis J. Williams was a Flight Lieutenant and Fighter Pilot with the Royal Flying Corp. (now RAF) during the First World War. Williams was also an amateur racing enthusiast building and racing motorcycles at Brooklands before the Second World War, regularly competing in the Brighton Speed Trials right up to 1963. Following the Second World War his particular favourite was a 1000cc J.A.P engine in a Norton frame. At least three of his original vehicles survive, one in a private museum and two ridden for vintage motorcycle events. The items where sold by Bonhams Auctioneers in 2009/10 - a 1930 'The Village Fire Engine' (seen in TID 8600), a 1930 Cotton-Blackburne 'Black Beauty' and a 1952 MK1 'Saltdean Special'.

Williams had several businesses in Rottingdean & Saltdean, that included a Photographic studio and manufacturing wirelesses named "Puretone Manfg Co.". Later in 1938 he opened a second photography shop in Saltdean offering customers an overnight developing and printing service. During the Second World War he was the official photographer for the National Fire Service [a large training college was created in The Ocean Hotel, Saldean] naturally leading to him nurturing his interests in cinematography. [Taken form details provided by HC Williams - son of film-maker]