Royal Mail special stamp issues have celebrated the great British seaside before but the September 2014 issue focused on distinctive examples of architecture by the sea with a quartet of extra stamps in honour of the first pleasure pier built at Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, in 1814. As well as acting as consultant for the stamp subjects I also provided the text for the presentation pack. Find out more at http://blog.postofficeshop.co.uk/oh-seaside
BBC History Magazine, I visited the East Sussex resorts of Hastings and St Leonards to reveal some of their underappreciated inter-war architecture. The double-decker promenade and pioneering underground car parks were the work of Sidney Little, the Borough Engineer, otherwise known as ‘the concrete king’. Another star attraction is Marine Court (pictured), the tallest residential building in the country when it opened in 1937, its design based upon the ocean liner Queen Mary.
Until the era of foreign package deals and cheap flights, British people holidayed at the seaside in their millions. In fact, it’s fair to say that the British invented the ‘seaside’ as a leisure destination, the distinction of world’s first seaside resort going to Scarborough in Yorkshire. The beach, which had previously been the domain of fishermen and smugglers, began to attract wealthy tourists and sea bathing became the 18th century wonder drug said to cure everything from hypochondria to deafness! In Queen Victoria’s railway age existing resorts grew and others were created offering a distinctively playful architecture and a huge array of entertainment options to a growing number of visitors.
My book on The British Seaside Holiday looks at the heyday from 1870 to 1970 exploring themes such as transport to the coast, accommodation, holiday camps, beach activities, entertainers and amusement parks.
‘…an authoritative history of our love affair with the seaside – sandcastles on the beach, fish and chips, sticks of rock, deckchairs, kiss me quick hats et al. Her new book will strike a chord in us all…’ Western Morning News
‘If this book featured only the images, it would be worth picking up. Photos, illustrations and retro adverts depicting Britain’s seaside history take you on a nostalgic trip to your classic coastline…Good fun without being heavy going.’ Go do… magazine
‘This book is a comprehensive presentation of the British Seaside Holiday. It is historically accurate and well illustrated. It is also a very good read. It will bring nostalgia for some, but is also an important historical record.’ Read the full review at http://www.seasidehistory.co.uk/british_seaside_holiday_review.html
I often lecture on aspects of seaside history and past talks include the history of seaside architecture at the Brighton Fringe, ‘Orientalism on Sea’ for the Eastbourne Society, ‘Stanley Spencer at the Seaside’ for the Cookham Festival and ‘Heydays and Holidays’ at Turner Contemporary.
Some feedback from Lili Sanchez, audience member at Turner Contemporary, Margate.
‘I found your talk so uplifting and joyous and felt your passion for the subject... I learnt much and felt great afterwards as too many folk are so horrid about Margate. Thank you again and I very much hope you will return and give us more seaside social history as we need to know it to enable us to go forward and moreover appreciate what we have.’
Packed with illustrations, my book on Holiday Camps celebrates the glory days of Redcoats and Glamorous Grannies! You can also check out my article on luxury camps of the 1930s in the August 2010 issue of BBC History Magazine.
In the run up to its 80th birthday in 2016 Butlin's has discovered a new appreciation of its fantasic brand heritage and in May 2015 relaunched its iconic chalets at Minehead, with new designs equipped for today's families. I was thrilled to contribute to the launch publicity and look forward to introducing a new generation to Billy Butlin's amazing influence on the British holiday industry.
The British seaside went through a very rough patch in the 1970s and 80s but in recent years there’s been a rediscovery of our shores evident in the popularity of TV programmes like the BBC’s Coast and the (unrelated) lifestyle magazine Coast to which I have contributed several articles. Hopefully this return to the seaside will help safeguard some of the historic buildings that give it its essential character.
Great Yarmouth is among my favourite resorts for its fantastic late Victorian/Edwardian seafront.
My article on “The maker of modern Yarmouth’: J.W. Cockrill’ was published in Powerhouses of provincial architecture 1837-1914, a volume of essays which I edited for The Victorian Society. Cockrill worked as the town’s Borough Surveyor from 1882-1922 and designed local landmarks including Wellington Pier Pavilion (left) and Gorleston Pavilion.