This spring, it’s all about getting you to the seaside armed with your camera: DCLG and English Heritage are looking for photographs of England’s coastal heritage. From historic lighthouses and Victorian piers to colourful beach huts and coastal railways, we want to see your best shots of what our seaside has to offer. Snap and tweet those seaside structures!
The public will vote for their favourite from among the best entries and the top three winners receive a photography masterclass with an English Heritage photographer, and 10 runners-up will receive a copy of The English Seaside.
Tweet your photo using #HistoricCoast – saying what your photo is of and where it is – before the competition closes on Friday 6 March. Visit here for more information and competition rules.
To inspire you, here are some recent pictures and thoughts from the North East coast by English Heritage’s Lucy Jessop, who continues her journey around England’s seaside towns with her colleague Allan Brodie. They are currently researching the buildings, structures and ephemera of England’s seafront heritage. As these photos were taken at speed in whatever weather and light conditions Lucy and Allan had at the time, we’re sure that you can do better. Enjoy the seaside!
This is one of the most interesting combinations of public conveniences with other functions we’ve seen at the seafront. The brick podium houses toilets for men and women – the original toilet stalls and urinals survive – whilst the elegant colonnade of Tuscan columns could serve either as a viewing platform or a bandstand. Locally known as ‘Gandhi’s Temple’, it was probably constructed shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Public gardens play many roles at the seaside, beautifying towns, creating spaces for leisure and promenading, and making something out of land where the ground or gradient is unsuitable for the construction of buildings. In towns with cliffy topography like Scarborough, gardens are particularly important, cladding the barren slope between the town above and the beach below, providing access between the two, stabilising the ground and creating an attractive landscape setting and amenity for both levels of buildings.
Some seaside towns embraced technology to conquer their cliffs, with lifts and railways keeping visitors and residents in touch with the sea. Saltburn’s cliff lift, built in 1870, collected people from the gardens near the hotels, boarding houses and the station on the cliff and deposited them directly at the entrance to the pier. The pier of 1867-9 is entered via a pavilion of 1925; the cliff lift was replaced by the current inclined tramway in 1884.
As seaside resorts are often located where streams, rivers or valleys meet the sea, it is no surprise that bridges can be a major feature of the seafront. This footbridge of 1827 is one of the most spectacular examples. It crosses the Ramsdale valley and its construction enabled the development of the South Cliff area above the spa by providing a viable connection with the historic port town of Scarborough. It also functioned as an elevated seafront promenade and strollers were charged a toll for the pleasure of making the crossing.
Terraces of 19th-century lodging houses were built on the cliff above the beach at Filey. Seaside visitors flocked to this flexible accommodation, in which they could rent a room or a floor, with food and services provided by the owners who camped out in the basement for the summer season. The gardens between them and the sea encouraged strolling for exercise and pleasure, as well as listening to music in the bandstand.
Once the bathing machine had been abandoned and mixed bathing had become the norm, the beach hut became extremely popular. Huts could be rented for the day or for longer, their interiors being useful for private changing for the beach or as a place just to sit and watch the world go by. These are early examples, from 1911-12, and the colony includes a café where visitors to the beach, the huts and South Cliff gardens could get refreshments.
Lucy Jessop and Allan Brodie are Senior Investigators in English Heritage’s Assessment Team: their books include Margate’s Seaside Heritage (2007). They are currently undertaking fieldwork for a major project on England’s seafronts, charting their history, character, significance, development and the issues they face.