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Bank Holidays | Celebrating the traditional British day off

About this collection

Bank and public holidays are essential breathing spaces within the working year and welcome breaks from the treadmill of routine. Non-religious days off were introduced in 1871, and were later widened to include Easter and Christmas.

This collection looks back at how people have spent these days off, and reveals how some features remain constant (traffic and ice cream) while others have fallen out of favour (May Queens and Easter bonnets). However, one thing remains consistent throughout - the determination to have a good time.

Bank Holidays Collection

St.Paul's Cathedral in 1949

Flashback

London August Bank Holiday

BROADCAST 1949
19 MINUTES

A BBC news crew spend the day with holidaymakers around London.

Brighton Pier sign

News

A March Easter

BROADCAST 1951
7 MINUTES

A rainy Easter weekend appears not to have dampened the spirits of the nation.

A fair-ground attraction at night time © Getty Images.

News

Holiday Weekend: The Lighter Side

BROADCAST 1951
2 MINUTES

Festivals of light welcome bank holiday makers.

A cameraman filming fairground rides.

News

August Bank Holiday

BROADCAST 1951
8 MINUTES

Fun, frolics and some wacky ways to spend the August bank holiday.

Trafalgar Square with Christmas tree in background.

News

Christmas Comes But Once a Year

BROADCAST 1951
5 MINUTES

The last bank holiday of the year is greeted with gusto.

High angle view of the Chelsea Arts Ball in 1953 © Corbis.

News

1952 Gets a Noisy Welcome

BROADCAST 1952
3 MINUTES

Wild celebrations for a weekend New Year's Eve.

A woman bouncing on a trampoline.

News

Bank Holiday Round-up

BROADCAST 1954
5 MINUTES

From deckchairs to funfairs, a round up of bank holiday activities across the country.

Old London Transport paraphernalia.

News

No-Passport Trip to Boulogne

BROADCAST 1957
8 MINUTES

Adventurous travellers venture out on an exotic, passport-free day trip to France.

A group of excited children.

Children's Newsreel

Easter Monday Walk

BROADCAST 1958
4 MINUTES

Girls and boys parade and race at Easter.

A road crossing at Oxford Circus.

News

Easter Traffic

BROADCAST 1961
4 MINUTES

The great Easter getaway begins and traffic problems commence.

A May queen and her attendants.

Children's Newsreel

May Day in Devon

BROADCAST 1961
3 MINUTES

A May Queen is crowned in Devon.

Motorway traffic reflected in wing mirror.

Panorama

Bank Holidays

BROADCAST 1964
11 MINUTES

Just how bad will the bank holiday traffic be 20 years from now - in 1984?

Fyfe Robertson.

24 Hours

Welsh New Year

BROADCAST 1966
5 MINUTES

A unique welcome in the valleys for the New Year.

Crisp 10 shilling bank notes.

News

Holiday Crowds Ignore Recession

BROADCAST 1966
3 MINUTES

Holidaymakers defy the credit squeeze.

Deckchairs in a park.

Nationwide

Southend Holiday

BROADCAST 1973
10 MINUTES

A pun-filled report on a bank holiday weekend in 'the Cockney Costa del Sol'.

Brightly coloured ice-cream cones.

Scarborough Bank Holiday

BROADCAST 1976
30 MINUTES

How the day went on a warm May bank holiday by the sea.

A group of people sitting outside caravans in a field.

A Fair Fortnight

BROADCAST 1977
29 MINUTES

Pack your tank top, we're off to Whitley Bay!

A view of London Bridge.

News

Britain's first Official May Day Bank Holiday

BROADCAST 1978
1 MINUTE

The new holiday is met with disgruntlement and half-heartedness.

Man in costume from 1690 on horseback © Getty Images.

Nationwide

Scarva

BROADCAST 1981
8 MINUTES

The annual 'Sham Battle' celebrations take place in Northern Ireland.

A merry-go-round at a funfair.

Bank Holiday Fair

RECORDED 1983
28 MINUTES

Remembering the magic and excitement of the Hampton Court fairground.

A colourful costume at Notting Hill Carnival.

South East at Six

Carnival Preparations

BROADCAST 1983
6 MINUTES

Notting Hill Carnival: 'it's a get-together thing'.

Costumed dancers at Notting Hill Carnival.

News

Notting Hill Carnival

BROADCAST 1984
1 MINUTE

A colourful children's procession takes place at the carnival.

St. Patrick's Day parade in Belfast.

Regional News

St Patrick's Day

BROADCAST 1987
1 MINUTE

Shamrocks and Mass feature on this regional bank holiday.

A group of Morris dancers.

Newsnight

May Day

BROADCAST 1993
9 MINUTES

The government plans to abolish the May Day bank holiday.

Gridlock on a motorway.

Gridlock: Bank Holiday Hell

BROADCAST 2000
49 MINUTES

Nick Ross presents a jam-busters' guide to beating the holiday traffic.

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