Get Ready for the Beach!

It’s July! It’s time to head to the seaside!

Historic England’s tourism history expert Allan Brodie has dipped into the Archive and come up with a handy list of things to pack for your holiday.

1. Bathing costume – optional.

1 AA047938 portrait of two young women in swimming costumes seated on railings beneath diving boards blackpool lido
Portrait of two young women in swimming costumes, Blackpool Lido, Blackpool 1946-1955 © Historic England Archive | AA047938

Optional if you were a man in the 18th century or a naturist today! Men originally bathed in the nude, while women wore linen slips that clung to their bodies when wet. Therefore, in the 18th century men and women bathed separately, either on different sections of the beach or at different times during the morning.

2. Beach Tent

A view looking north along the sea wall at Filey, showing a long line of bathing tents on the beach 1937 © Historic England Archive | WSA01/01/17504

Today we have a wide choice of pop-up tents in which to store valuables, keep sand and water at bay from our phones and change our children into their swimming costumes. By the 1930s many beaches had changing tents to rent, taking the place of bathing machines after World War I.

3. Tea bags

southwold suffolk beach huts
Beach huts in Southwold, Suffolk © Historic England

If you own or rent a beach hut, it’s the perfect place to make a cuppa and relax after a hectic morning on the beach. Beach huts are the modern successor to the bathing machine and originally some may have once been these cumbersome contraptions with their wheels removed.

4. Cricket bat

Children playing cricket on the beach at Filey, 1930 © Historic England Archive | WSA01/01/G0584

After a busy morning in the sea, the beach is an ideal place for a bit of football or cricket, the quintessential summer game. Behind the expectant batsman is the wicket-keeper with young fielders on the boundary and an adult audience.

5. Bucket and spade

Bamburgh Castle.
Bamburgh Castle © Historic England

No holiday would be complete without a major construction project. And the key to success is a bucket and spade and a willing workforce. Could any parent resist the temptation to recreate the architecture of Bamburgh Castle.

6. Deckchair

6 AA047919 blackpool
Informal portrait of holidaymakers on the beach at Blackpool, 1946-1955 © Historic England Archive | AA047919

Since the 1890s the deckchair has been an icon of the seaside holiday. Where better to pose for portraits for a budding young photographer. Smile – you’re on holiday!

7. Sun hat

7 aa086155 blackpool
Holiday makers on an crowded beach at Blackpool with an elderly couple in the foreground and the North Pier visible on the horizon 1946-1955 © Historic England Archive | AA086155

The well-dressed man on a post-war Blackpool’s beach might stick with his flat cap or be forced to resort to a handkerchief on a hot day. Today, pack a baseball cap or pick up a kiss me quick hat when you arrive at the seaside.

8. Beach umbrella

8 BB88_02329 Weymouth
Holidaymakers on Weymouth beach, Dorset, 1890’s © Historic England Archive | BB88/02329

Today a large brolly can offer respite from the hot sun. But a parasol was indispensable to Victorian and Edwardian ladies in an era when a suntan suggested outdoor, manual labour rather than affluence and Mediterranean holidays.

9. Model boat

9 AA99_00311 paddling pool bridlington hallam ahsley 1959
Children bathing at a paddling pool in Bridlington 1959 © Historic England Archive | AA99/00311

A paddling pool is still the perfect antidote to a crashing sea or a crowded beach. Pond yachts have appealed to children of all ages and some patient and skilful enthusiasts recreate old battleships and even submarines.

10. Carrots

10 AA99_00354 general view showing line of donkeys bridlington
Line of donkeys on the beach at Bridlington 1931 – 1980 © Historic England Archive | AA99/00354

Hard-working donkeys deserve a treat after a long day’s work. This obedient line of animals, their jockeys, and one supportive mum have dutifully posed for the portrait without a handler in sight.

So what else do we need?


A picnic

A few beers

No traffic on the roads


Warm sea


Allan will be lazing around Weston-super-Mare this summer, in the name of research of course. Find out more about the new Heritage Action Zone at Weston here.

What are your favourite memories of the beach?

You can nominate the places that you think are nationally important for Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places, our new campaign sponsored by specialist insurer, Ecclesiastical.

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From Brunel’s railways and Telford’s bridges, to salty seaside piersand Hi-de-hi holiday camps. Where are the places that launched and harnessed the great English boom in travel and tourism? 

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4 responses to Get Ready for the Beach!

  1. Professor Vanessa says:

    Blackpool every day each perfect part of it from glories of Winter Gardens the towering ambition of the Tower and the modernity and streamlined beauty of the Pleasure Beach – not withstanding it’s three piers

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