Irreplaceable: a History of England in 100 Places - Travel & Tourism

England is blessed with hundreds of tales of travel, and destinations created for our leisure and pleasure. The modern seaside resort was born in England, and what better way to experience some of our glorious historic seaside towns than through the delights of the picture postcard.   

Redoubt Shelter, Royal Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex (1895/1910) by James Valentine & Sons LtdHistoric England

Picture postcards and the seaside go hand-in-hand

Holidaymakers have been sending picture postcards since the 1890s. They were designed to show off the delights of our favourite seaside resorts and to entice new visitors. The picture postcard has been a success for over a century. Here are some of our favourites from the collections of the Historic England Archive.

The Pleasure Beach and New Promenade, Blackpool (1920-01/1933-08) by Unknown photographerHistoric England


Blackpool was the world's first working-class seaside resort. It's Pleasure Beach amusement park evolved from the 1890s into what has become one of England's most popular tourist attractions. Full of innovative and exciting rides, it is now home to an amazing six buildings of historic significance, all listed Grade II, including The Big Dipper and Sir Hiram Maxim's Captive Flying Machine.

Winter Gardens and Wellington Pier, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk (1900-01-01/1912-07-27) by Unknown photographerHistoric England

Great Yarmouth

Patients were sent to 'take the air of the sea' at Great Yarmouth as early as 1619. The town expanded greatly from the early 19th century and soon offered visitors a vast array of leisure and entertainment buildings. These included two pleasure piers, the Winter Gardens (imported from Torquay), an aquarium, the earliest surviving seaside cinema, and The Hippodrome circus - one of only three in the world to have an arena that turns into a pool for aquatic displays. 

Vane Hill and Rock Walk, Torquay, Torbay (1900/1920) by F Frith & Co LtdHistoric England


Torquay evolved from a small coastal village to a thriving seaside resort. This view shows the waterside Princess Gardens, created from land reclaimed from Tor Bay, and in the distance the Baths Saloons - a multi-functional health and leisure complex that included a swimming pool with access to the sea, a Medical Department and reading rooms. Opening in 1857, it became the social hub of the resort. 

The Links, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside (1900/1930) by James Valentine & Sons LtdHistoric England

Whitley Bay

Confusion with the Yorkshire resort of Whitby led to Whitley being renamed Whitley Bay. With the natural charms of its wide, sandy beach and rugged dunes, plus easy access from Newcastle upon Tyne and towns and villages along the North East coast, Whitley Bay's popularity was assured in the later 19th century. 

Illuminations, West End Promenade, Morecambe, Lancashire (1920/1940) by Unknown photographerHistoric England


Visitors from inland towns were coming to Morecambe by the early 19th century 'for the benefit of the physic in the sea'. Its popularity with workers from the Yorkshire and Lancashire industrial towns stimulated the construction to two piers, tidal paddling pools, winter gardens, amusement park and the Super Swimming Stadium. The arrival of the railway not only influenced its growth, it has also left us with one of the country's finest seaside hotels, Oliver Hill's Midland Hotel of 1932-3. 

Fairy Dell Fountain and Bridge, Marine Gardens, Skegness, Lincolnshire (1926/1931) by Arjay ProductionsHistoric England


A number of sea-bathing facilities had emerged along the Lincolnshire coast by the end of the 18th century. Around this time, Skegness was a small inland settlement and it wasn't until the 1870s that the resort grew rapidly to service the demands of trippers from the towns and cities of the East Midlands. A pier was built over the sands, and gardens and amusements laid out at the edge of the beach.

View towards the Central Bandstand and Pier, Herne Bay, Kent (1920/1950) by Unknown photographerHistoric England

Herne Bay

A new resort was developed beside the village of Herne Bay by local landowner Sir Henry Oxenden in the early 19th century. The construction of a pier in 1831-2 improved access for visitors travelling by steamer from London but grand hopes for investment in hotels and baths for 'the Nobility and Visitors' never really took off. However, over 52,000 visitors arrived by steamer in 1842. Herne Bay's majestic seafront Bandstand opened in 1924.

West Cliff, Cromer, Norfolk (1901/1906) by Published by ETW Dennis & Sons LtdHistoric England


Once a prosperous medieval fishing village, Cromer's fortunes were revived in the late 18th century as the fashion for sea bathing took hold. Noted as a respectable watering place in Jane Austen's novel 'Emma' (1814), it was considered by the author of an 1841 guidebook as a 'paradise for the clergy and old ladies'. However, this splendid isolation was ended by the opening of railway stations in 1877 and 1887, which stimulated much investment and construction in the town.  

De La Warr Pavilion and Promenade, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex (1936/1939) by Shoesmith & Etheridge LtdHistoric England


England's seaside resorts are home to many iconic structures, from Blackpool Tower to the scores of pleasure piers that extend into the sea. Modernism found a second home as the seaside and this picture postcard features one of England's greatest examples - the De La Warr Pavilion. Perfectly embodying the spirit of its age, the Pavilion opened in 1935 and featured an auditorium, restaurant, conference hall, library and sun terrace. Following extensive refurbishment, the Grade I listed De La Warr Pavilion remains the focal point of the resort. 

Cliff Gardens, Queen's Promenade, North Shore, Blackpool (1900/1930) by Unknown photographerHistoric England

Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places

We think everybody should know about the places in England that have witnessed some of the most important historic events.

Historic England's Irreplaceable campaign, sponsored by specialist insurer, Ecclesiastical, aims to highlight the places that have changed England and the world.

Image: Cliff Gardens, Blackpool
Situated at the North Shore, Cliff Gardens provided a sheltered, calm environment for visitors to Blackpool in the early 20th century.

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