Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh I Do Love To be Beside the Seaside!

I will be on holiday when you read this, which made me think of how the early 19th century saw the first flourishing of the English love of the seaside holiday.


This charming little rough sketch is a tiny detail at the foot of a fashion print and yet it shows people enjoying the beach in a way that seems entirely modern. Two ladies stroll away from us, deep in conversation. Another pair walk their dog and someone is taking the air in a donkey cart. In the distance you can just make out two tiny bathing huts, one of them flying a flag.

Everyone in this little sketch seems sensibly dressed for their walk in the sea air, but the fashion prints themselves show great interest in the most up to date outfit and, fashion being what it is, some of these are extreme to put it mildly.

Who, setting out to scramble over rocks with a telescope, dresses like this lady in an 1809 print for La Belle Assemblee? (Left) I can't help wondering if she had spotted the gentlemen's bathing beach!

On the right is a rather more practical outfit from Ackermann's Repository in the 1820s - but there is still the telescope and the rather guilty look!

The gentlemen, of course, made no bones about viewing the ladies bathing and telescopes were deployed all along the front in Brighton. I don't think it can have been a very titillating sight if this print of a Yorkshire seaside scene is anything to go by. The unfortunate bather looks perished with cold and the bathing machines are very utilitarian.


If you are taking a seaside holiday this year I hope the sun shines for you!

Louise Allen





7 comments:

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

I like the idea of the ladies taking their telescopes to spy on the men - getting their own back (in fact, it's giving me an idea for a story even as I write this)

As for Yorkshire - well it would need a much better summer than this one to tempt me into the water!

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I agree with Melinda/Sarah - I just love the telescope factor. I love the idea of it being the 'must have' accessory when visiting the seaside.

Louise Allen said...

Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to get to the beach without being soaked by the rain or having a sandstorm in the face! We could meet up with our telescopes...

Jan Jones said...

Lovely post, Louise, but the very THOUGHT of the beach in this weather appals me!

Joanna Maitland said...

Shivering as I type.

But telescopes and male bathers... Yes, well, didn't men bathe nude back then?

Just wondering...

Joanna Maitland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christina Courtenay said...

I feel very sorry for the lady being led into the water - she looks like it's a severe punishment! Great outfits though for the "spying" ladies :)