The Stanley Youngs Film Collection

This is a little outside my usual remit for Broadland Memories, although still relating to Norfolk, but I wanted to highlight the stunning collection of cine films taken by my grandfather during the 1940s and 1950s which have now been uploaded to YouTube.

Stanley Youngs pictured on the right c1950

Stanley Arthur Youngs was born at Denton, near Harleston in South Norfolk in 1900. His father was a baker and the family soon moved to the town of Harleston where they established a bakery and shop on London Road. As with many families of the time, Stanley followed in the family business and became a baker and confectioner himself. On marrying in 1930, he and his new bride bought an existing bakery business in the bustling market town of Diss on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. Stanley was a keen sportsman, playing football, bowls, golf and tennis, but he also developed a passion for cine-photography during the 1940s. Along with capturing the usual scenes of family life, he seems to have had a real interest in documenting rural life in Norfolk over the years. He delighted in showing the films he made to others, initially setting up a makeshift cinema in the bakehouse. When work was done to modernise their house in the early 1950s, a large bay window was installed at the end of the hall specifically made to fit his projection screen.

Stanley died in 1970, sadly I never really knew him as I was just four at the time, but those who did tell of a very gentle and kindly man. His cine film collection passed to my father and whilst growing up I remember that these would get regular airings at family get togethers. About ten years ago I rescued the films from my mother’s loft where they had been languishing, gathering dust for a number of years. I also pinched her old projector and went through all of the family films, cataloging what was on each reel. It was then that I discovered the section of footage of the Norfolk Broads c1950 which I paid to have digitized and subsequently released as a DVD for Broadland Memories. At the same time that film was transferred, I also had some of the more interesting films from my grandfathers collection digitized with a view to eventually making those available for others to view too.  That was as far as it got however, as a certain website then took over my life!

The importance of the role old home movies like this play in documenting social history has been more widely recognised in recent years. Films which once had little interest outside of the family who produced them are now viewed as an valuable record of how people lived, worked and played during the 20th century. In this region, the work of the East Anglian Film Archive to gather and preserve films which portray life and leisure in the area over the last 100 years or so was highlighted by the launch of their new website in 2011 which saw over 200 hours of historic footage made available to view for free online, amongst which are a number of home movies.  Further films from the EAFA collection are also now available to view on the website, and initiative by the Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART) in partnership with the Rouen based Pôle Image Haute-Normandie (PIHN).

All of which made me start thinking about my grandfathers films again. I’d always found them fascinating but also realised that these were an incredible piece of local history which should be out there for others to share, so I made the decision to finally get make a start on editing the digitized files. Having not viewed them for a few years, I was once again captivated by the footage he shot of Norfolk in the 1940s and 1950s. I’ve ended up with seven short films which, for want of a better place to put them, I decided to upload to the Broadland Memories YouTube Channel – they can be found within the Stanley Youngs Collection playlist. Highlights include footage from two or three Royal Norfolk Shows from the late 1940s/early 1950s, farming at Waxham in the early 1950s and what must possibly be the earliest known footage of a Norwich City vs Ipswich Town football match at Carrow Road which I believe may have been a WW2 friendly.

It’s the footage of his home town of Diss which holds the greatest poignancy for me, however, and it clearly demonstrates his love of what was then a rural market town. Diss in the 1940s was shot on colour 8mm cine film and beautifully portrays life in the town during an era when Britain was recovering from war. Life was returning to normal and, along with picturesque views of Diss, he filmed the bustling market day and the carnival of 1949. In some ways, I think he might be rather shocked to see how the town has expanded and developed over the last 40 years, but a visit to Diss now will reveal that the town centre still retains much of it’s charm and that some of the scenes he captured remain unchanged. A note about that colour film – when going through my grandmothers papers after her death, I discovered several letters from American servicemen whom they had entertained at their home during the Second World War. I wonder whether this may have been the source of that film stock.

Of equal historic importance was his footage of Diss and the Waveney Valley during the notoriously harsh winter of 1947. Whilst not as cold as the Big Freeze of 1963, there was certainly a lot more snow, and the East of England was particularly hard hit as the nation remained frozen for seven weeks. I covered the severity of winter 1947 in the region in a previous blog post, but the first part of Stanley ‘s film shows a somewhat lighter side as the townsfolk of Diss gathered to skate on the frozen Mere (a small lake in the centre of town). What’s quite amazing is the fact that everybody was seemingly rather adept at  ice-skating back then! When the thaw finally came it was very sudden, and the resulting flooding was captured by my grandfather in the second half of his film. Stanley obviously decided to travel between Diss and Bungay to record the mass flooding of the Waveney Valley and in doing so produced some quite astonishing footage.

I intend to revisit his collection of cine films as I know there is more within it which would be of historic interest. Stanley made his films to be shown and it’s an honour for me to be able to present them to a new audience – I like to think that he would be rather pleased to know that they are still being viewed and enjoyed by others. Hopefully there will be future additions to his online archive, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with Diss and The Waveney Valley – Winter 1947.

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