Old Color Footage Shows What London Looked Like Back in 1926

Want to see what London looked like back in the year 1926? Check out this beautiful color footage shot in various London locations by Claude Friese-Greene, an early British pioneer of film. Frisse-Greene created a series of travelogues nearly 90 years ago using a color process developed by his father William Friese-Greene.

William Friese-Greene was a British portrait photographer and a well known inventor. His experiments in the field of motion pictures led him to be known as one of the fathers of cinematography (some credit him as the main inventor).

William Friese-Greene, the inventor of Biocolour

William Friese-Greene, the inventor of the Biocolour process

One of William’s inventions was an additive color film process known as “Biocolour.” He exposed every other frame of standard black-and-white film through a different-colored filter, and then stained the resulting monochrome prints either red or green. Once projected, these prints provided an illusion of real color.

A major downside to the technique was that there was severe flickering and color fringing when there were fast-moving subjects in the frame. To compensate for the fringing issue, Biocolour films were captured using frame rates that were faster than what was typical.

After his father’s death in 1921, Claude continued developing the system. It was renamed the Friese-Greene Natural Colour process, and was used for tens of films between 1923 and 1943.

In the video above, the British Film Institute used computer enhancement to reduce the noticeable flickering that was seen in the original footage.










Want to see color footage that was created even earlier? Last year we featured some film that was created back in 1902 — it’s possibly the earliest known color moving pictures we have!

Thanks for sending in the tip, Jon!

  • Will

    In the last few seconds of the video, it looks like the policeman was approaching. I wonder how that discussion went.

  • Andrew Goodlad

    Have you got a permit to film here!!! haha

  • tyrohne

    That was superb! Bully!

  • Adam Cross

    can hardly recognise the places that I see every day, amazing stuff – wouldn’t change it though, I love how London looks right now and how it’s continuing to grow

  • Oddny

    Does anyone know the songs that are playing in the background?

  • AdrianFRST

    First track is “Parasol” by Jonquil, second is “Comptine d’un autre été” by Yann Tiersen from the Amélie soundtrack.

  • orla18

    The song is Un autre ete from Yann Tiersen!

  • mrbeard

    beautiful footage of people at the cenotaph war memorial, only 9 years after WW1 had ended, i wonder if they were veterans or family members who had lost loved ones

  • Tim

    It was used in ‘Amelie’ but is actually from ‘Goodbye Lenin’ originally. Another great ‘little’ film.

  • BH

    Amelie was made before Goodbye Lenin :)

  • Larry P. Lundy

    Michael Zhang . . .what is the music behind the footage? It’s great!

  • David Kelly

    Very interesting. It’s a shame the writer of this article got the name of the film-maker wrong- it’s Friese-Greene, not Frisse!

  • Indy

    Absolutely amazing. The women just look so elegant and refined. we get so used to seeing black and white film from this time that we almost feel the world WAS black and white. Utterly enchanting.

  • Jeanette Lamb

    Absolutely fantastic images! The bicolor effect seamlessly bleeds through the photos.

    J. Lamb
    Graffiti Goose Photography

  • Oti Nanai

    The saddest thing about the video is that all those people in the video have probably past away. But that is life right?