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Dutch eel boats in the Thames, 1931

This fascinating old silent movie footage from the Pathe archive is subtitled “A glance at the old Dutch Schuyts”. The intertitle explains that for nearly three centuries the Dutch “Schuyts”, or eel boats have been moored in the Thames. They remain there until relieved by other boats because if they were to vacate the moorings, their privileges would be lost. There are high angle shots of a man on board the boat looking at an open topped box full of eels. He tips more wriggling eels into the box. They transfer eels from box to bucket.

The eels – “so beloved of Londoners” – are gathered from the North Sea. We see buckets of eels being poured into boxes. “Although moored in the heart of London, they never forget their Dutch methods and habits. Towards the end we spot a man climbing out of a trapdoor and putting on his traditional wooden clogs. Tower Bridge is in the background.

Created at the beginning of the 20th Century by the Pathé brothers, the newsreel was the world’s first televised news platform. Pioneering the technology and methods of cinema, British Pathé stayed at the forefront of filmed news for decades. Releasing three newsreels a week during that period, British Pathé was the way the people of Britain experienced world events until the advent of television.