Historic photography

The Historic Beach Holiday Packing List

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!

Get ready for the beach! It’s time to head to the seaside.

We’ve dipped into our Archive and come up with a handy list of things to pack for your holiday.

1. Bathing costume (optional)

Optional if you were a man in the 18th century, or a naturist today!

Portrait of two young women in swimming costumes, Blackpool Lido, Blackpool 1946-1955 © Historic England Archive. Ref: AA047938
Portrait of two young women in swimming costumes, Blackpool Lido, Blackpool 1946-1955 © Historic England Archive. Ref: AA047938

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

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.

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

By the 1930s many beaches had changing tents to rent, taking the place of bathing machines after World War I.

3. Tea bags

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 in Southwold, Suffolk © Historic England Archive
Beach huts in Southwold, Suffolk © Historic England Archive

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

After a busy morning in the sea, the beach is an ideal place for a bit of football or cricket, the quintessential summer game.

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

Behind the expectant batsman is the wicket-keeper with young fielders on the boundary and an adult audience.

5. Bucket and spade

No holiday would be complete without a major construction project. And the key to success is a bucket and spade and a willing workforce.

Bamburgh Castle © Historic England Archive
Bamburgh Castle © Historic England Archive

Could any parent resist the temptation to recreate the architecture of Bamburgh Castle?

6. Deckchair

Since the 1890s the deckchair has been an icon of the seaside holiday.

Informal portrait of holidaymakers on the beach at Blackpool, 1946-1955 © Historic England Archive. Ref: AA047919
Informal portrait of holidaymakers on the beach at Blackpool, 1946-1955 © Historic England Archive. Ref: AA047919

Where better to pose for portraits for a budding young photographer? Smile – you’re on holiday!

7. Sun hat

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.

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. Ref: AA086155

Today, pack a baseball cap or pick up a kiss me quick hat when you arrive at the seaside.

8. Beach umbrella

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.

Holidaymakers on Weymouth beach, Dorset, 1890’s © Historic England Archive. Ref: BB88/02329
Holidaymakers on Weymouth beach, Dorset, 1890’s © Historic England Archive. Ref: BB88/02329

9. Model boat

A paddling pool is still the perfect antidote to a crashing sea or a crowded beach.

Children bathing at a paddling pool in Bridlington 1959 © Historic England Archive. Ref: AA99/00311
Children bathing at a paddling pool in Bridlington 1959 © Historic England Archive. Ref: AA99/00311

Pond yachts have appealed to children of all ages and some patient and skilful enthusiasts recreate old battleships and even submarines.

10. Carrots

Hard-working donkeys deserve a treat after a long day’s work.

Line of donkeys on the beach at Bridlington 1931 – 1980 © Historic England Archive. Ref: AA99/00354
Line of donkeys on the beach at Bridlington 1931 – 1980 © Historic England Archive. Ref: AA99/00354

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? Here’s a few ideas.

Towels
A picnic
A few beers
No traffic on the roads
Sunshine
Warm sea

Perfect!

What are your favourite memories of the beach? Let us know in the comments.

I am an architectural historian and historian who has researched everything from Roman forts to 20th century airports. My main interests are the history of tourism, prisons and law courts, and medieval architecture and sculpture.

6 comments on “The Historic Beach Holiday Packing List

  1. Fred Gray

    A super and fun list.

  2. ❤️ ‘Weston-super-Mare’: 😂😂😂

  3. Professor Vanessa

    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

  4. The other essentials were the picnic rug & the windbreak ( which could also protect your modesty when changing g out of the knitted swimming costume) Many happy childhood days spent on the beach at Hunstanton in the ‘50s

  5. Thank you for showing us part of our lives now gone but never forgotten. Sand – it gets everywhere and stays there forever almost. Dont know the southern places but give me the NW and its sand dunes with lots of entertainment too. I just loved my life as a child. wearing crazy hats and soggy bottom swimsuits. My brother was best cos he always dressed in half girlie suits. Kids today would have a fashion crisis if we tried to dress the kids in our clothing then.

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