Film ID:
NEFA 12303



Visitor Tabs


Early local topical newsreel of the formal presentation and launch ceremony of a new lifeboat for Whitley Bay on 25 May 1912, with a focus on the crowds. A final street scene outside the Empire Theatre in Whitley Bay is included at the end of the film. This film was made by cinema pioneer and showman George Henderson and the North of England Film Bureau (Hendersons) based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Title: Presentation & Launching Ceremony of the New Whitley Lifeboat Presented by Coun. & Mrs Nichols May 25th 1912. Taken by Hendersons, Irving House N/Cle

A stately horse-drawn open carriage with driver waits outside the arched entrance to the Council Chambers on Whitley Road. One woman, dressed in a feather boa and huge decorated hat, is seated in the carriage. Several brief shots record members and officials of the Whitely and Monkseaton Urban District Council and their wives as they leave the building and get into their awaiting carriages. People line the street outside the Council Chambers and a newspaper stand is located next to the entrance. One of the carriages, which carries three well dressed women in feathered hats and a gentleman in a formal suit, drives off along Whitely Road. As a horse appears in shot drawing another carriage, the camera tracks to the right of the Chambers entrance where crowds of women, men and small children stand watching the VIP guests depart in their carriages. They are heading to the southern boundary of the district where the patrol lifeboat had been delivered by  builder W. H. Fry of Tynemouth.

The Percy Main North Eastern Railway (NER) Workmen brass band leads a procession of carriages down Park Avenue towards the Promenade. Tubas glint in the sunlight. A large crowd of people line the road, move amongst the carriages, and watch the parade pass by. Bowler hats, flat caps and straw boaters are worn by many men in the crowd. An elderly man in uniform wearing service medals rides beside the driver of the first horse-drawn carriage in the procession. A woman in the carriage is dressed in a broad brimmed hat decorated with artificial flowers and feathers. Her male companion wears a top hat and frock coat. A man crosses the road behind the carriage with a placard advertising the “Pavilion,” probably the Pavilion Electric Theatre on the Promenade. Six carriages pass by in the procession with local dignitaries as passengers.

The Whitley Bay troop of boy scouts, in the charge of Scoutmaster Addiscott, march behind the carriages to the rear of the procession. Some of the scouts use ropes to pull the 12 foot lifeboat along the street on its large spoke launching wheels. The lifeboat flies a Union Jack on a flagpole.

The scene cuts to a sloping path leading down to the beach from the Promenade, probably Gregg’s Slope. The officials and important guests have left their carriages and walk down the path to the sands for the launch ceremony. The women stroll down the path in fashionable Edwardian ankle length skirts and eye catching hats, whilst the men are mostly formally dressed in dark frock coats and top or bowler hats. The group includes a local vicar, either Reverend James Payne of the United Methodist Church, or Reverend Edward Smith, the vicar of Whitley. A great many spectators are assembled all along the route. In the foreground of several shots, a group of working class men in baker boy hats occasionally look towards camera.

In the next shot the heavy lifeboat is guided down the sloping path by a group of men and scouts. A dog pauses in the centre of the path to watch the group struggling with the weight of the lifeboat. One boy spectator beside the path aims a kick at the dog. A smaller boy holds his hand out to entice the dog to one side. The men struggle to hold back the lifeboat as they move down the path. A line of young boy scouts holding onto the lifeboat rope follow behind, a policeman walking beside them.

The guests gather on the beach for the lifeboat launching ceremony and service of dedication, in front of the beach patrol hut (not seen). The Chairman of the Whitley and Monkseaton Urban District Council, Mr Alfred Nicholls, addresses the crowd from a raised platform, and introduces the deputy Lord Mayor, Mr Herbert Shaw, who stands beside him. A group of male guests, without their hats, accompany them on the platform. A crowd are gathered to watch the speech, around the platform and at the top of the seafront cliff seen in the background.

In the next high angle shot the crowd of official guests, boy scouts and other spectators sing from hymn books as the Percy Main North Eastern Railway (NER) Workmen brass band play their instruments.

A general view of the beach at low tide documents the official launching ceremony. Huge crowds of spectators are gathered in a wide arc across the sands to watch. A great number of people also congregate along the sea’s edge.

Two oarsmen in life vests are seated in the lifeboat, now named the Rockcliffe. The group of official guests and their children are gathered beside the boat. The deputy Lord Mayor in ceremonial chain is amongst the group. They prepare to run the boat into the sea.

At the water’s edge, the coxswain (Mr W Hatchley, a beach patrol man), pushes off the lifeboat from the beach. In the foreground, several young boys are paddling in the waves and watching the launch, clutching their boots in their hands. The two oarsmen begin to row away, and the coxswain hoists himself onto the boat and positions himself in the stern. As they row out to sea, the Whitstable salvage steamer ship, Triton, decorated with bunting, is anchored on the horizon about half a mile from the shore. Two of the boys watch as the lifeboat heads out to sea in the direction of the Triton steamer.

The group of boys paddle in the waves, watching as a large crowd of local bathing clubs members suddenly dash into the sea in their knitted bathing suits, to celebrate the launch of the new lifeboat.

The lifeboat returns from its launch trip, the coxswain standing up in the boat, the oarsmen rowing, and the boat pushed by one of the swimming club members. A young boy paddles at the sea edge, his trousers rolled up.

The scene cuts to the exterior of The Empire Theatre on the corner of Esplanade and Promenade in Whitley Bay, which advertises performances “twice nightly” for 3d. and live acts such as “The Dominoes High Class Concert Party.” Smartly dressed men, women and children are strolling past and socialising outside the theatre. A man spots the camera across the street and raises his bowler hat.