The Story of the Seaside
by Lisa Jayne Smith
Thursday 31st October 2013
An evening at the seaside with a bathing wear fashion parade and a good old singsong were enjoyed by a large gathering, when Lisa Jayne Smith entertained the Historical Society at their October meeting at the Friends’ Meeting House, Cowl Street, Evesham.
In a fast moving entertainment, she traced the growing popularity of the seaside starting from the 1750s when George III and Dr. Richard Russell popularised the alleged therapeutic qualities of dipping in sea water, coupled with the modesty of the “bathing Machine”, many of which were horse drawn. Drinking up a pint of seawater was suggested as a cure for may things, including asthma.
Lisa’s presentation was interspersed with songs and monologues all in appropriate costume, with the audience joining in so many well know ditties. I have a Luverly Bunch of Coconuts, Beside the Seaside, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, When You’re Smiling, the Day We Went to Bangor and Blue Skies among many others.
In the mid 1800s the coming of the railways made a visit to the seaside possible for all classes, and 1906 started the vogue of Sun Shine Clinics. Piers became popular, with the first being built at Ryde in the Isle of Wight in 1814. More and more seaside resorts had piers built with the longest being at Southend complete with a railway to take you to the pier head over a mile away. Piers offered the chance to get over the water, to do a bit of fishing or the savour all the food, drink, ice creams, toffee apples, candy floss and many other delights. At this time Ramsgate, Brighton, Skegness and Blackpool, where George Formby sang his “Little Stick of Blackpool Rock”, were among the most popular destinations.
By the 1920s suntans, health and beauty, bathing beauty competitions, were becoming the rage with spa hotels offering a range of “treatments” with class and satisfaction. Boarding House were holiday homes for the less affluent, and the “bright young things” “flapped” their way through the dancehalls.
1936 saw the opening of the first Billy Butlins Holiday camp at Skegness with Filey in 1938 and several others followed. These provided everything at one location from food, accommodation, and entertainment for all the family in a safe and pleasant setting. These continued after World War 2 but eventually declined in popularity in the 1950s with the arrival of cheap holidays abroad. Bucking that trend, there is still a Butlins Holiday Resort at Minehead in Devon.
A “fashion” parade of beachwear through the decades, with “volunteers” from the audience, who included Stan Brotherton, Chris Kelly, Colin Pritchard, and Brian Haines gently, if not reluctantly, brought things to a rousing climax, to the music from the “Stripper”. Lisa was given great applause for what was a very happy occasion, both informative and entertaining.