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Smacks leaving Great Yarmouth, 1896

In this tiny fragment of late 19th century film footage, we see smacks leaving Great Yarmouth. Shot with one of the earliest cine cameras, first developed by Birt Acres and Robert Paul, this evocative clip was part of a presentation to the royal family in July 1896. Many restored smacks continue to sail on the East Coast of England today as captured here by Sandy Miller in Mersea Week, 2018.

Birt Acres developed one of the earliest cine cameras, and pioneered the idea of ‘actuality’ and ‘documentary’ films. This rare footage gives us a glimpse of the fishing fleet leaving Yarmouth harbour c.1895. We clearly see the fishing number on smack YH723.

A similar length to online clips of today, imagine the thrill of seeing this extract as part of a series at a showing of this amazing new medium, the moving image. This clip was one of the 21 subjects presented by Birt Acres to members of the British Royal Family on 21 July 1896. It was the day before Princess Maud, daughter of the Prince of Wales married Prince Charles of Denmark and was so popular that Acres was invited to film the wedding itself.

BFI Screenonline: Birt Acres