The British Seaside

Most of our current perceptions of the British seaside are all the stronger for having Victorian roots.  Buckets, spades and sandcastles, rock-pools and simple 'old-fashioned' fun, donkeys, fairgrounds, Punch and Judy shows and boat trips.  Not to mention tasty fish and chips (eaten out of the bag), ice cream and candy-floss.  Most of these attributes are Victorian traditions.

The Victorian Seaside

For many, a trip to the seaside was a luxury that only the rich could afford. For them it was a place to promenade along the seafront showing off their finest clothes.

In Victorian times, the coast was increasingly seen as a healthy place to visit. Not only was the breezy sea air seen as refreshing and invigorating but the salty sea water was recommended as a cleansing drink. Drinking two pints of seawater was prescribed as a good cure! Many seaside towns developed a reputation as places to recover from illness and flourished as health spas.

For rich industrialists and their families living in the rapidly growing, dirty, smog filled factory towns, a visit to the coast would have been a welcomed break.

In Victorian times, the working classes worked every day (except Sundays when they were expected to attend church). They were not entitled to take holidays from their jobs and it was only when Bank holidays were introduced by law in 1870 that the working classes were able to enjoy a proper day off.

The growth of railways also meant travelling to the coast was more affordable.

Riding donkeys on the beach at Blackpool around 1920

Young women of the 1920s wore a figure hugging wool jersey sleeveless tank suit - 1928 Swimwear

During the nineteenth century Punch and Judy shows were very popular

Women posing near a bathing machine in 1902 - The bathing machine was a device to allow people to change out of their usual clothes and change into swimwear.

Postcard from Blackpool