Selling the Seaside

Sun, sea, sand and ... salesmanship. Nigel Yates describes the mixture served up by English coastal resorts to lure the visitor to a cornucopia of attractions before the days of the package holiday abroad.

A Trip to Scarborough, 3 March 1783. James Bretherton. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The medical practitioners who first advocated the health-giving properties of sea bathing in the middle of the eighteenth century, and the entrepreneurs who created the first seaside resorts, never envisaged the eventual outcome of their innovations. Yet within a century of its 'creation' the English seaside had been transformed. The fashionable and select watering places had become popular playgrounds, and the traditional elements that constituted the essence of an English seaside holiday were firmly established. Perhaps the single most important cause of this development was the rapid growth of the railway system after 1830; a major factor in the decline of many English seaside resorts in the present century has been the contraction of that same railway system since 1950.

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