Thursday, 19 January 2012

An Edwardian Visit to the Seaside

An Edwardian Seaside Scene (1)

An impending Summer holiday (currently being the Southern Hemisphere Summer) reminded me of my delightful china beaker, one side of which is pictured above. Unfortunately the artist and maker are unknown but I have always enjoyed this carefree although admittedly idealised and romanticised view of seaside summer fun. The whole scene reminds one of those carefree summer holidays with family and friends that we all enjoyed as children when it never ever seemed to rain and summer really did seem to go on forever.

An Edwardian Seaside Scene (2)

The children's clothing is a delight, the bright colours adding greatly to the enjoyment of the scene.

 An Edwardian Seaside Scene (3)

The final view in this seaside "triptych" scene, showing how the scene extends almost all the way around the beaker. If anyone can provide further information on the manufacturer of this type of china I would be delighted to hear from you. I have simply never seen anything like it.

Ayr Beach, Scotland, as viewed on or prior to 1908

What Edwardian visit to the seaside, in this case Ayr Beach in Scotland, would be complete without a sandcastle complete with a little flag? Even in a real life photograph there were obviously certain standards of dress that had to be maintained.  How times - and standards - have changed.

A painting of Ayr Beach, Scotland, Pre 1914 ?

This "oilette" style painting of a somewhat busier Ayr Beach, while undated, appears to have been posted before the First World War. The above scene includes small row boats which are obviously available for hire but more intriguingly a tripod on the beach which could very well be a camera with its cloth dark cloth light cover. And what could possibly be contained in the two wooden trunks at left?

Very well served by the Glasgow and South Western Railway as well as by a regular coastal paddle steamer service, Ayr proved early on to be a popular holiday destination, especially for Glaswegians. This was mainly on account of its fresh coastal air, fine sandy beach, and proximity to the small attractive town of Alloway with its connection to the poet Robert Burns. From 1901 Ayr sported an electric tramway service connecting with Alloway and even gas lighting which had been installed as early as 1826.

Portobello Beach, Edinburgh, circa 1900

A crowded Portobello Beach, being Edinburgh's own popular "Seaside Resort". Unlike a similar view now everyone is completely clothed save for the raised trousers of a few children paddling in the sea. There was certainly nothing déshabillé about these beach goers. The Promenade appears also to be a popular place for a stroll, almost certainly on a Sunny Sunday afternoon or public holiday.
On my first visit to Edinburgh it was not until having a pleasant walk in the early summer evening sunshine that I discovered I was staying no more than one block from what turned out to be a beautiful sandy beach, not what I had expected to find in Edinburgh!

Portobello Pier, circa 1900

Portobello Pier (1,250 feet) had been sanctioned by Parliament in 1869 and designed by Sir Thomas Bouch (who was later responsible for the ill-fated Tay Railway Bridge which collapsed in a storm), being opened on the 23rd May 1871. It had been felt that a pier was required to add to the variety of attractions available to visitors and "to develop Portobello as a place of pleasure and enjoyment to its inhabitants and to the many visitors from Edinburgh and afar." A nominal toll fee was charged which few begrudged for the chance to enjoy a bracing walk. Other attrractions on the pier included a tea rooms and restaurant, a concert hall, and a camera obscura. Frequent structural repairs due to corrosion necessitated the demolition of this rather spindly looking structure in 1917.

Millport Bay, Great Cumbrae, pre 1905

Children "messing about in boats" in Millport Bay, a small seaside resort on the Island of Great Cumbrae off the Ayshire Coast. Millport, along with Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, was famous with generations of day trippers from Glasgow as one of the seaside resorts visited on paddle steamer trips "doon the watter" from Glasgow. A ferry also served the town from Largs and Wemyss Bay, both having good railway connections via the Glasgow and South Western Railway and the Caledonian Railway respectively.  
From Millport can be seen the mountains of Arran, the Island of Little Cumbrae, the Eileans, Ailsa Craig, and the hills of Ayrshire.

The South Beach, Freemantle, Western Australia, pre 1910

With not a surfer in view, fully dressed Edwardian beach goers enjoy South Beach, Freemantle in Western Australia. A marquee white canvas tent at left appears to hold an attraction for children. A lady in the foreground holds a sun umbrella however there is no evidence of sea bathing. Otherwise a walk along the beach in company with others appears to be the main activity.

St Clair Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand c.1910

The "Favourite Seaside Resort" of St Clair beach, Dunedin, New Zealand appears to again be restricted to nothing more than fully clothed adults watching children paddling in the sea. Were it not for the straw hats and sea paddling one would have imagined it to be a cold winter's day although there does appear to be a breeze blowing.

This is now a popular beach for surfers, dog walkers, sun worshippers, a bracing annual mid-winter swim, and even, in these rather more enlightened times, the occasional nude rugby game! The "promenade" now includes popular eateries, an upmarket hotel, and not forgetting the oft photographed shark bell to warn surfers and swimmers of any unwanted "guests". 

Bibliography :

- All images are from my own personal collections.

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