Review published on May 11, 2017.
I loved this book, although it’s not one to be read digitally.
The author has brought together a great collection of photos and postcard images from the early 20th century charting the history of the British seaside.
I was brought up near the windswept Norfolk coast, lived for 30 years only 40 minutes from Brighton (a place that appears a little too often, which may be my only criticism) and spent many a day and night in down heel B&Bs in Blackpool and Bournemouth (the usual venues for politicos during annual conference season!).
I still send postcards on my travels (to the embarrassment of my sons and friends no doubt), but the evocative pictures from the classic resorts alongside photos of families enjoying their annual sea and sand hols are not just nostalgic. Social history is revealed in the seaside. Where the beginnings of the Bank Holiday in 1871 and the arrival of railways brought workers from the grime of city work to often their first holiday break in the fresh air.
Seaside resorts also still show the disparities in our classes with northern resorts like Blackpool and Bridlington having poor economic input and deprivation alongside cultural Margate with its art and second home resorts in Cornwall and Devon such as Padstow (or should be call it Rick Stein World?).
Piers feature as a section and having lived in Bexhill-On-Sea (which also features) I was keen to see images of neighbouring Hastings and Eastbourne, which having nearly been destroyed by recent fires, have risen like sea phoenix with their new promenades stretching out into the sea.
Fish and chips, amusements, stunning sea vistas and magnificent coastlines shelter so many differing resorts around our little island. Despite the gap when cheap holidays abroad and now even cheaper flights are flagging the traveller’s spirit with all their distinct hassle and chaos, maybe it is time to revisit our own seaside. I now live in landlocked Nottingham and reading this book has made me very keen to head off to the coast. Recent research has once again proved that living beside the seaside boosts mental health, makes people happier and more relaxed so I may have to head to Skegness very soon!
Do read this book, then armed with bucket and spade go forth and rediscover the little gems on the edges of our country. Just don’t forget the umbrella!
A great personal read; not really a ‘read’ for book clubs, but it might generate some discussion after the summer holidays!
Philipa Coughlan 5/3
Images of the Past: The British Seaside by Luci Gosling
Pen & Sword History 9781473862159 pbk May 2017
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