London SE1 website team

See rush hour on Blackfriars Bridge 1896-style

A 37-second silent film of traffic on Blackfriars Bridge 112 years ago is one of the gems now available on YouTube thanks to the British Film Institute.

The BFI has last month launched its official channel on YouTube where people can watch a collection of more than 180 archive films that date back as far as 1896.

All of the films on YouTube are from a larger collection that has been digitised for the drop-in Mediatheque at BFI Southbank with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

More than 40,000 people have visited the Mediatheque since it opened in March 2007 to watch archive and classic films for free.

"This wonderful collection of archive film dates back to the earliest days of the moving picture," says culture minister Margaret Hodge, who visited the BFI Archive at Berkhampsted last month.

"It's a fascinating visual insight into Britain's history and undoubtedly one of the world's greatest collections of film and TV.

"Making the archive available through YouTube takes them out of the vaults and directly into people's homes, and means that millions more people can enjoy these carefully preserved treasures."

As well as the Blackfriars Bridge film, the YouTube channel features several local extracts from Claude Friese-Greene's colour film 'The Open Road' which dates from the mid-1920s.

You can see a policeman stroll along the riverside walkway in front of St Thomas's Hospital, glimpse the view of the Tower of London from Pickle Herring Street (now Potters Fields Park) and watch the traffic on London Bridge with a glimpse of the wharves which lined the Pool of London where London Bridge City and the More London estate stand today.

There's also an extract from John Schlesinger's award-winning 1961 Terminus film about Waterloo Station.

All the BFI material on the YouTube channel can also be viewed in higher quality at the Mediatheque at BFI Southbank (formerly the National Film Theatre).

A special collection of films about the South Bank area was added to the Mediatheque in June to coinicide with the London Festival of Architecture.

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