Forest Gate - Pathe News clips

Monday 25 August 2014

Pathe News was THE film newsreel medium in the days before the widespread television ownership in Britain.  Filmgoers would usually get 8 - 10 minutes of news clips, as part of the bill on most cinema programmes, each week, until the 1960s.

Fortunately, much of the back catalogue survives and is available to view (or purchase) via the internet.

Seven clips, focussing on Forest Gate, or locality-related incidents, remain and viewing them today can be a real eye-opener for a modern audience.

Below, we consider each of the clips and provide hyperlinks to provide easy viewing

Godwin school (1969)

By Pathe News standards, this is lengthy (14 minutes and 34 seconds), but it provides a fascinating picture of the school and our locality, just 45 years ago. It is grim viewing, but a reminder of how far we have progressed in educational provison over the last half century.

The film shows squalor and over-crowding in the school (which housed both Godwin primary and Woodgrange infants at the time). Both heads talk about the difficulties the overcrowding presents.  There are many shots of youngsters  (most of whom will be in their mid 50s now), at study, in assemblies and the canteen, and at play.

Godwin school, 1969- eye opener, today
The multi-racial nature of the school population is obvious, and commented upon by the narrator.  Interestingly, the predominant non-white grouping would appear to be Afro-Caribbean; the film being shot before the mass expulsion of people of Asian heritage from East Africa in the early 1970s.
View here

Soccer on skates (1934)

This was shot at the old skating rink on Woodgrange Road, on the site of what was the Public Hall and cinemas, later became the Upper Cut club, and is now a railway ventilation shaft.

The film shows various clips of two teams of girls playing football on skates, a "craze that was about to sweep the nation", apparently! The commentator displays the jaunty and sexist tone of many newsreels of the day. 

Although the film is relatively short (1 minute 47 seconds), it shows some action from a women's football on skates match, watched by a lively crowd.

Soccer on skates: "craze, sweeping the nation"

The Forest Gate skating rink was a prominent one in the UK from the 1930s until the 1950s and we hope to feature it more prominently in a future blog on this site.

 View here

Train crash at Forest Gate (1953)

There were minor casualties in a train crash in Forest Gate in 1953, and this short (1 minute 43 seconds ) clip shows the rescue effort, with various shots of the wrecked train (with a Gidea Park destination notice at the front) and goods wagons involved in the smash.  An interesting view for railway and E7 enthusiasts, alike!

Forest Gate train crash, 1953

View here

Jean Deforges gets married (1954)

Jean was a local games mistress and international athlete who married Ron Pickering (later to be TV athletics commentator) at Emmanuel church in 1954.

This very short clip (49 seconds) shows the couple emerging from the church to an adoring crowd of well-wishers.

Emmanuel church wedding

 View here

Busy Bobby (1968)

This would have constituted one of Pathe News' quirky, human interest items.  It is the only one in this article shot in colour, and is about the Pathe's standard length (1 minute 57 seconds).

Forest Gate and quirky, 1968
Various scenes show Forest Gate Police Constable Bert Slight on his police moped, going about his work as an accident inquiry officer; he asks an old lady some questions on her doorstep. We then see several shots of Bert at his multifarious hobbies.  A pleasant, light hearted look at some of the district.
View here

John Cornwell

There are two silent films about this local VC hero, buried in Manor Park cemetery, to whom we have referred on a number of previous blogs.  The first concerns his funeral, in 1916 and the second the unveiling of his memorial in Manor Park cemetery in 1920.

Honour the brave (1916)

This shows the navy funeral procession for John Travers Cornwall, VC on 29 July 1916. It is silent and 1minute 23 seconds in length.

It features pallbearers carrying his coffin draped with Union Jack; there are wreaths on the top. They set it on a 3-wheeled wagon.  The procession proceeds  down a street lined with large crowds,  led by a naval officer and two men in civilian dress and family. There is a navy band, which many more mourners follow.
View here

Dr MacNamara unveils memorial cross to Jack Cornwell, V.C. (1920)(n.b. typo on screen)

Unveling of Cornwell memorial, 1920
The film is of Dr. MacNamara (local MP) standing next to the memorial draped in a Union Jack flag. A crowd of people in mourning dress listens as he addresses them, including a woman holding a baby. The flag is removed, revealing the memorial to John Travers Cornwell, the men in the crowd remove their hats.  The film is silent and lasts 1minute 38 seconds.
View here

These films, individually and collectively, feature precious clips of local social history.  We would be delighted to hear from anyone appearing in any of them, and would love to highlight any similar films that may be in existence.


  1. Like Godwin most schools in the area housed infants and juniors in one school and although there seems a lot of kids its very noticable how well behaved they were .I think the schools in the area at that time were much better than they are today , I went to school here as did my two daughters , my school Whitehall was a very large Victorian school and on the whole the kids were well behaved and well educated .. TODAY!!

  2. Davina Dupey ne Slight8 July 2016 at 18:52

    Have the full length tape of Busy Bobby as he is our dad went to see it when shown before main film at I believe Leicester Square dad died in 1985 and mum phoned Pathe and they kindly sent her the tape

  3. I am one of the children featured at the beginning of the video and I don't ever recall thinking it was squalid or grim. The teachers were wonderful and lessons were great fun. Our expectations were no doubt low by modern standards but we didn't know any better and I cant fault the education I received or where it has led me to.


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