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For anyone who reads and loves Virginia Woolf, St. Ives is a magical place. Take a trip back in time by viewing old footage of that Cornish town.
  • From the BBC iPlayer comes “Cornwall: This Fishing Life,” with series 2, episode 4, focusing on St. Ives. It includes old black and white film footage of the place where Woolf and the Stephen family spent their summers until she was 12.
  • Nineteen seconds of color film footage of St. Ives from Claude Friese-Greene’s The Open Road (1926) a fascinating social record of inter-war Britain. The St. Ives snippet below is available on the British Film Industry‘s YouTube Channel.
  • And just for fun, check out the video below of a model railroad version of St. Ives, circa the 1950s, created by a former St. Ives resident. In this eight-minute video, he adds his own memories, along with details about constructing the layout. Stuart Clarke of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain shared this video and notes that we “may” be able to see Talland House at the 4-minute, 32-second mark.

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I’m not sure though that the beauty of the country isn’t its granite hills, and walls, and houses, and not its sea. – Letters II, 462

Imagine this: color film footage of the harbor and streets of St. Ives, Cornwall, and of the streets of London from 1924 to 1926, during Woolf’s time. Imagine something even better: actually viewing this footage online.

The film footage is from Claude Friese-Greene’s The Open Road (1926) a fascinating social record of inter-war Britain.

The St. Ives snippet below is available on the British Film Industry‘s YouTube Channel. Don’t blink though. The video is just 19 seconds long.

First, the back story

In 1924, Friese-Greene borrowed a flash convertible and took a road trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats and back to London, filming along the way using a unique experimental color process developed by him and his father.

The result was three hours of unedited footage — and some of Britain’s first color film footage — that Friese-Green expected to edit into 26 short travelogues that would be shown weekly at the cinema. His film was first shown at trade fairs in 1925.

What happened next

Here’s what happened to Friese-Green’s film:

  • Luckily, the film was preserved. The original negatives were given to the BFI in the late 1950s.
  • The BBC used the footage to produce a three-part documentary co-produced with the BFI and titled The Lost World of Friese-Greene.
  • The BFI National Archive restored a special 65-minute compilation of highlights from the journey, using digital intermediate technology to remove the defects of the original film.

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