Category Archives: History Of The Seaside

Articles and information about the history of the seaside for teachers working on a seaside topic.

Seaside Day for North Yorkshire Schools

Seaside “Wow” Day

Punch and Judy

Children watching a Punch and Judy Show during Seaside Day.

Primary Teachers in North Yorkshire can book an exciting seaside day experience to take place in their own school.

North Yorkshire has many wonderful seaside towns. Redcar, Saltburn, Whitby, Scarborough and Bridlington all immediately spring to mind. For schools close by having a day out at the seaside is relatively straight forward. York, Thirsk and Northallerton are all within an hours travel time from the coast. For schools in Harrogate, Ripon, Catterick, Richmond or those up in Swaledale or Wensleydale the practicalities and cost of going to the seaside may mean that a trip is not viable. Instead many opt to have their own seaside day in school.

I have participated in a number of excellent school seaside days which have been planned and organized by the teachers. In addition to in house activities such as flag making, dressing up, craft activities involving cutting, sticking, drawing and painting, seaside shops etc outside providers are also used. There are sometimes an ice cream van, donkey rides, Punch an Judy,  imported sand for a beach area and even paddling pools too.

Putting together a special day like this requires time and energy. As Primary school teachers are very busy people they do not always have time available to plan an exciting event like this. Hiring in a “Seaside Day” is therefore an appealing alternative.

My “Seaside Day” includes learning about the history of the seaside and seaside holidays in the past. Watching an authentic Punch and Judy Show and participating in a carousel of seaside activities. The day which combines learning and fun is ideal for all KS1 children.

If you are looking for a “Wow Day” for your seaside topic please go to my web site for more information. Alternatively check availability and get a free quotation by visiting the enquiry page.

If you are interested, don’t delay, please get in touch now to secure the date you want.




Bathing Machines | History of the Seaside

English: "Mermaids at Brighton" by W...

English: “Mermaids at Brighton” by William Heath (1795 – 1840), c. 1829. Depicts women sea-bathing with bathing machines at Brighton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seaside Bathing Machines

What was a Bathing Machine?

A Bathing Machine was a wooden hut on wheels which was used to help people participate  in the activity of sea bathing. It had a door at each end and was pulled into the sea by a horse until the water was level with the floor. The steps at the seaward end allowed the bather to carefully enter the water.

As the machines were operated by an attendant they provided safety to the bathers and also preserved the modesty of the fairer sex who could get changed inside away from prying eyes. Some machines were fitted with canopies to provide a private enclosed space so that the bather was completely hidden from view whilst undertaking the act of immersion.

Who invented Bathing Machines?

The Bathing Machine was invented in 1753 by Benjamin Beale. His design was soon widely copied  and Bathing Machines remained in use for the next 150 years.

Were all Bathing Machines the same?

AWKWARD. Modest Old Gentleman (who has swum ou...

AWKWARD. Modest Old Gentleman (who has swum out to sea and whose bathing-machine has, in the meanwhile, been walked off by mistake). “Ahem! Pray Excuse me, Madam My Bathing-Machine I think.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The design of Bathing Machines varied according to local requirements. The type of beach could affect the operation of the machine and had to be taken into account. The beach could be  flat or sloping. It might have sand or pebbles.  It could be firm or soft and the distance to the sea could also vary.

Some Bathing Machines had large wheels, others had small wheels. Some were pulled by horses others were winched in and out of the sea. Some machines were painted in bright colours, others were plain white.

The size and height of the Bathing Machines varied as did the type of roof.

Some had a small window in the side wall.

The type of canopies, if fitted, were also likely to be different depending on who the manufacturer was.

The name of the owner was usually displayed on the side and each  machine had a number by which it could be identified. This was important as at busy resorts there were likely to be many Bathing Machines in operation.

The Bathing Machines were owned either by individuals or companies who made a healthy living providing this service.

Why did people use Bathing Machines?

When people first started going to the Seaside it was for the health benefits of seawater and the bracing sea air. Most people could not swim and bathing of any kind was not practiced. On their first visit they had never seen the ocean before and therefore going into the sea was a daunting experience for the uninitiated.

Bathing Machines enabled people to be taken into the sea and “dipped” by experienced guides who were usually stout, mature ladies who stood in the water as the Bathing Machines came and went.  They would help the occupants down the steps and then hold them whilst they immersed themselves in the sea.

How were the  Bathing Machines operated?

Sea Bathing generally took place in the early morning. Those wishing to use the Bathing Machines would go to a waiting room where they would pay a fee before putting their name on a slate to indicate their place in the queue. Whilst waiting they could take tea, read newspapers and magazines and make small talk with other customers. Going to the Bathing Machines was a kind of social outing. From the waiting room customers would proceed down the beech to the designated Bathing Machine and take their turn. Families would go together or single people could share with members of the same sex.

Sometimes there were arguments over queue jumping and in rowdier places  jostling and pushing in occurred.

Why did Bathing Machines go out of fashion?

Eventually people began going into the sea for pleasure. The coastal resorts became ever busier and people did not want to wait in long queues for the Bathing Machines.  Bathing costumes were invented and swimming became a popular recreation. The Bathing Machines were no longer required.

Bring your Seaside Topic to Life!

Book a Seaside Workshop Day for your school.

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The Origins Of Sea Bathing | Seaside Holidays

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

History of The Seaside Holiday

Seaside Holidays are a popular topic in schools but how did seaside holidays come about. This article explains why people first went to the seaside and where their desire to go into the sea came from.

The origins of sea bathing 

The English are an island race and have from the earliest times depended on the sea for both trade and defence. It was naval supremacy which enabled us to build a massive empire. Our mastery of the sea enabled us to become wealthy and powerful. The English have always been a sea faring nation.

Given the significance of the sea it would be reasonable to imagine that the English would worship the oceans and that going into the water would be as natural to them as it is for duck or an otter perhaps. Not so. In fact most of the coastline surrounding our island was virtually uninhabited for a very long time. There were the main ports and harbours which were busy thriving places. There were also many little settlements occupied by fisher folk dotted here and there. Most of the shoreline however was devoid of people.

It seems that the English had an aversion to water for although they were surrounded by it and depended on it for  their security and their economy. Yet they never went in it!  In fact they hardly ever washed themselves never mind actually immersing themselves in water to get clean. Even swimming in lakes and rivers was frowned upon and swimming for pleasure was thought to be immoral. There can be no doubt that people living in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries positively ponged. Any gathering, especially if indoors must have given rise to the most awful concoction of smells which would be quite unbearable to us today.

The exception to this apparent phobia of water was the inland Spas. These were places where pure water enriched with minerals came up from the ground. Spa water was believed to have health giving properties which could cure all manner of ailments. Rich people flocked to the Spa towns in order to take advantage of benefits of the spa water. They would go into the spa bath fully clothed in many cases. One can only imagine how filthy and unhygienic the water must have been. Attendants had to be employed to regularly scrape the scum from the surface.

The spa towns were popular places with hotels, theatres, shops and entertainment of all kinds. All the best people in society visited them. They were the playground of the rich and famous.

In 1626 a lady called Mrs Farrow was walking along the sands at Scarborough when she noticed a spring of water issuing out of a cliff. The stones over which the water passed had changed colour. When she tasted the water she found it had an acidic taste. Mrs Farrow took the water and gave it to friends who were ill. The drank and felt much better. Soon all of Scarborough was drinking the water and feeling better. Word spread rapidly and soon persons of quality were travelling from all over England to partake of the famous health giving liquid. Scarborough had become a spa town.

The virtues of the Scarborough Spaw ardently promoted by a certain Dr Wittie who claimed that Mrs farrows spring could cure just about anything

” It cleanses the stomach, opens the lungs, cures asthma and scurvy, purifies the blood, cures jaunders, both yellow and black, the leprossie and moreover a most sovereign remedy against hypocondriack, melancholy and windiness “

Needless to say there were storms of protest from the other established inland spa towns. However Dr Wittie had another trump card up his sleeve – the sea! The sea cured gout, ” kills all manner of worms ” and could was also ideal for ” drying up superfluous humours and preserving from putrefaction ” He claimed that only Scarborough could provide for both internal and external purification.

It was from the discovery of a spa at Scarborough and the claims of Dr Wittie which would seem to have caused the mania for drinking sea water which followed during the eighteenth century. Physicians became obsessed with prescribing courses of sea water drinking, sometimes as much as 25 gallons to be taken at the rate of a pint a day. It didn’t seem to matter that the patient suffered from sickness and diarrhoea, thirst and nausea as a result. Drunk it must be. Sometimes it was mixed with milk to make it a little more palatable. For those who could not get to the seaside it was sold in bottles.

Although the mania gradually died some Victorian children were forced to begin their seaside holidays by gulping down a tumbler full of sea water.

Whilst drinking sea water was an internal cure the application of sea water externally was also perceived to be highly beneficial and learned doctors encouraged the taking of the cold bath as part of what became known as the cure.

A keen advocate of the cold bath was Dr Russell who sent wealthy patients to dip themselves in the sea.

” A perfect repose of the body and calmness of the mind is to be observed before the use of the bath and all the exercise of the parts affected must be forborne, that the fibres by these means , when they contract themselves ,may have the greater force to overcome any obstruction. The greatest care is to be taken to know whether the bowels are sound or not before the use of the bath…a little draught of sea water is convenient immediately upon coming up out of the sea because by purging the belly it prevents the blood from flying to the head.”

It would seem that the fashion for dipping ones self into the sea began at Scarborough and rapidly spread elsewhere. The upper crust of society made haste to the coast to experience the health giving properties of sea water.

The doctors advised that the water should be entered when it was very cold, early morning being the best time and the colder the water the better.

As most people could not swim they went for a dip often utilising bathing machines which were towed out into the waves. The sea bathing was then facilitated by a dipping lady who would assist the occupants to enter and exit the water.

This then is the origin of sea bathing.

Bring your Seaside Topic to life!

Book a Seaside Workshop Day for your seaside topic.

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Seaside Holidays in the past : Train journey

Blackpool Tower. Photographed by Rich Daley (O...

Blackpool Tower

To the Seaside by Train

The History of the Seaside and the development and expansion of the Railways are closely linked. Before the invention of the motor car steam trains provided the only way to travel quickly over long distances.

As the Seaside grew in popularity the railways carried ever increasing numbers to the coastal seaside resorts.

This account describes a train journey to the seaside from Bolton to Blackpool in 1938.

Lots of children and cases line the platform, babies, hand bags, toddlers, everyone is loaded down. Nobody moves much and the scene is a parade of all in ‘Sunday Best’ in honour of the occasion. Most of the women are wearing coats and hats, although one observer still notes traces of the mill on two young women ‘with the mill fluff on their tams’. Men wear freshly pressed , often new suits…. A group begins to sing and their mood spreads infectiously across ( the station ) to children and adults alike… Accordion played, ‘Count thy blessings, one by one’ Everyone singing…[ on the train ]…For the first part their is almost always restraint and silence. Girls read Woman’s Own, Passing Show or Silver Star, men smoke and the train moves on to stops at Chorley and Preston…Beyond Preston the traveller reaches the world of the dunes and the Tower comes into view, dominating the flat landscape. No longer is the mill chimney the inescapable symbol; the ‘other world’ has been reached. Inside the train, the mood changes; the travellers are now bound together as ‘fellows’ by this common rallying point. The restraint clearly visible at the outset has dropped from sight. Cotton and factory chimney are finshed with…( sweets and cigarettes are handed around and singing begins )…The skyline has changed; the land has changed. It’s all Blackpool – all magic – now. The ordinary, the common, the usual is all far left behind, left in the mill town.

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History Of The Seaside | Chronology

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Image via Wikipedia

Important Dates In The History Of The Seaside

17th – 18th Century Spas became popular holiday places for the rich.

1730’s People travel to Scarborough where sea bathing has become part of the cure

1785 The Prince Regent decides takes a liking to the seaside town of Brighton and settles there.

1789 King George the Third travels to Weymouth and bathes in the sea.

1815 The Battle of Waterloo signals the end of the Napoleonic Wars and it is once more possible to travel to France.

Plans for a Royal Pavilion at Brighton are accepted.

1824 The French Royal Family go to Dieppe for sea bathing.

1828 Sir James Burton designs St leonards

1840’s The first railway excursions to the coast begin.

1850’s Seaside development begins. Characteristic wrought iron railings, shelters, bandstands and piers start to be built at British seaside resorts.

1867 The famous Grand Hotel is built at Scarborough.

1871 The first ever British Bank Holiday!

1880’s In the USA Coney Island develops amusement parks.

1881 First US pier at Atlanta City.

1883 Brighton gets an electric railway on the seafront.

1890’s Queen Victoria takes a winter holiday to the French Riviera.

1894 Postcards are allowed to be sent by the British Post Office.

1900’s Expansion of the seaside with many large hotels built at resorts both in Britain and the USA.

1914 – 1918 The First World War. Holidays and travel are severely restricted.

1920’s Rise in popularity of the French Riviera. Sunbathing becomes fashionable and swim suits become briefer.

1930’s Suntan creams on sale for the first time.

1936 Billy Butlin opens his first holiday camp, know as Butlins

1939-1945 The Second World War.

1950’s Package Holidays start to become available.


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