A day at the beach: 200 years of seaside scenes28 June 2022 Whether the mercury is rising, or wind is whipping sand into your ice cream, we all love a trip to the seaside.
In Britain, beach vacations first started in the 1700s when the wealthy built their own seaside homes. Doctors prescribed coastal trips as a way to treat conditions from gout to hysteria, and it has remained a favourite pastime even for those in good health.
It would become a favourite pursuit of Jane Austen, who, in one of only two known pictures of her is depicted staring out to the ocean. A beach visit is central to the plot of her novel Persuasion.
However, seaside holidays came into their own in the mid-19th century. Thanks to the railways and the Bank Holiday Act of the 1870s, more people than ever could enjoy an escape to the coast. Blackpool, Scarborough, Brighton and many other seaside towns became popular holiday resorts.
In the 20th century, the beach holiday had a heyday in the post-war years. Thanks to the Holiday Pay Act of 1938 and the relatively affordability of these domestic coastal towns, the British seaside holiday became an institution.
Saucy seaside postcards became a standard part of beach holidays. The artist Donald McGill in particular became associated with this genre of postcard, which specialised in earthy observational humour.
Thanks to travel restrictions, economic constraints and a newfound appreciation for greener holidaymaking means there is renewed interest in the UK beach holiday.
Depictions of the seaside range from the sentimental to the austere and are as old as the holidays themselves.