A day on the beach

Just how hot…well quite hot indeed.

My first daughter was born 5 years ago in the middle of a heatwave and now my second born just two days ago in the middle of this wonderful Indian summer.

October 30th and young Daisy-Emma’s entrance into the great adventure that is life has officially been declared Britain’s hottest October day in more than a century.

However seaside adventures were somewhat different in the Victorian Era as you can see from this photo taken in September 1895.

No one was really interested in the ‘seaside’ until the mid 18th century when Dr Richard Russell promoted the drinking of sea water as a cure all for diseases from jaundice to gout, of course drinking sea water as the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge goes:

Water, water, every where, 
Nor any drop to drink.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, part II, stanza 9

However if we take a lot of salt into our bodies our metabolism goes into crisis. From Bill Bryson:

From every cell, water molecules rush off like so many voluntary firemen to try to dilute and carry off the sudden intake of salt. This leaves the cells dangerously short of the water they need to carry out their normal functions. They become, in a word, dehydrated. In extreme situations, dehydration will lead to seizures, unconsciousness, and brain damage. Meanwhile, the overworked blood cells carry the salt to the kidneys, which eventually become overwhelmed and shut down. Without functioning kidneys you die. That is why we don’t drink seawater.

Anyway I digress.

It was the Victorians themselves who set about giving the seaside an atmosphere of relaxation and enjoyment. Street musicians, Reading rooms for card games, Punch and Judy shows for the children, minstrel shows, acrobats, raffles, whelk stands, ice cream carts, travelling photographers all appeared as did the discrete bathing machine and modest bathing suits…paddling was great fun!

When the railways arrived the throbbing mass of all classes swarmed into various resorts but success of a resort very much depended on there being rough social equality between guests.

Of course out of this grew business, Brighton was the first major seaside town but now is far from it’s peak (after a recent visit I found it quite run down) was patronised by the Prince Regent. Other resorts appeared up and down the coasts of Great Britain, there was: Blackpool, Southport, Scarborough, Llandudno, Ramsgate, Margate, Weymouth, Torquay, Dover, Ilfracombe, Ryde, Cowes and Worthing.

Southwold Pier 2011

Piers were developed as an extension of the promenades and there are still some great ones left. The wealthier tended to sail along the coastline on their yachts with the working classes taking in the sea air on the beaches

Soon many resorts developed into highly organised towns with properly regulated local services, which provided housing, transport, lighting, sanitation and all the amenities needed to satisfy residents and visitors. And thus the British seaside, an invention of the Victorians was born.

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