Since the 18th century, people have headed to the seaside to improve their health and to enjoy fun with friends. To cater for millions of holidaymakers, specialised buildings and structures were built, ranging from a fantasy palace and Europe’s largest hotel to the oldest rollercoaster in Britain and the longest pier in the world.
To celebrate Historic England’s first summer, our seaside expert Allan Brodie counts down seven listed structures that sum up the English seaside experience.
7 Saltdean Lido, Brighton and Hove
This grade II* Art Deco lido of 1938, designed by R W H Jones, is built of reinforced concrete with sprayed cement finish painted white. It is one of just three seaside lidos still in use in England, and was recently awarded Heritage Lottery Funding to revitalise the site.
6 Southend Pier
At 1.34 miles long, this Grade II pleasure pier was built in 1889 by James Brunlees and is the longest pier in the world. The Royal Eagle Paddle Steamer, shown above, began operating in 1933, taking tourists up and down stream from Tower Bridge to Margate. The East Anglian Film Archives hold fascinating films of crowds waiting for the steamer in the 1950s.
5 The Scenic Railway at Dreamland, Margate
Margate (as featured in our banner image of Victorian beachgoers) has been a popular seaside destination for over 200 years. An early form of rollercoaster, Dreamland’s American-style railway was built in 1920 by J H Iles and listed at Grade II* as the oldest surviving rollercoaster in Britain. In 2008 it was damaged by fire, but the park is being rebuilt: tickets are on sale now!
4 The Brighton Royal Pavilion
This Grade I Royal palace began life as a farmhouse, and was transformed into an oriental fantasy for the Prince of Wales by James Wyatt and John Nash in 1811-23. You can visit to explore spaces like the Banqueting Room and the Chinese Gallery.
3 The Hippodrome at Great Yarmouth
A Grade II* purpose-built circus (meaning a curved stadia design; the Hippodrome is one of just two left in England) of 1903 by R S Cockrill, with a striking art nouveau façade.
2 The Grand Hotel at Scarborough
Built in 1863-67 by the architect Cuthbert Brodrick, this immense Grade II* structure was reputedly the largest hotel in Europe when it opened. As Scarborough was a famous spa town, the hotel’s baths included an extra pair of taps, meaning that Victorian guests could bath in seawater as well as fresh.
1 Blackpool Tower
This icon is a Grade I entertainment complex built in 1891-4 by the architects Maxwell and Tuke, and the engineer R.J.G. Reade.
Do you agree with Allan‘s choices? Let us know!
- Download free images for your smartphone, desktop and computer background images, and see the full list of Historic England publications on the seaside.
- Take a look at Allan Brodie’s Introduction to Historic Amusement Parks and Fairground Rides.
- A book on the best of England’s seafronts is in the pipeline, and you can read more about the coastal heritage of the North East in Allan’s blog showcasing the work of our photographer Lucy Jessop.
- Looking for protected seaside marvels near you? A number of England’s best seaside towns have been showcased in our books on Blackpool, Weymouth and Margate.
- Understand how our Marine teams discover and save England’s rich coastal heritage – from hidden wrecks to quiet coves – from increasing erosion and development activities.
Curious about arts and crafts, mystified by medieval settlements or intrigued by industrial heritage? Our “Brief Introduction to” series is for those who want to find out more about the historic environment. From buildings and monuments to art and landscapes, we summarise our knowledge using examples from the National Heritage List for England.