Beside the Sea: Britain's Lost Seaside Heritage (2015) is a stunning retro fabulous coffee table book, highlighting the heydays of the British seaside. From the Victorian era to the end of the 20th century, millions of Brits used to flock in droves to British beaches. Sadly, this trend soon took a nosedive after cheap package holidays abroad became all the rage. This book recounts with nostalgia how holidays used to be all about fish and chips, bracing weather and chilly waters, not tropical holidays to far-flung destinations.
My father who is old enough to remember the 1960s and 1970s, fondly recalls the pool at Portobello, with its stunning classic Art Deco design and seriously high diving board. Apparently, on the rare hot summer days, local poseurs would skip work to don their skimpiest posing briefs and flex their muscles to the delight of the girls who had gone to the pool with their best swimsuits in the hopes of catching a few rays. Heat to the pool was supplied by the nearby Portobello Power Station – though most accounts of the water temperature still ranged from icy cold to sub-Siberian. It is also reported that Sean Connery worked a number of seasons as a lifeguard at Portobello Pool before becoming a full-time actor in the 1950s. Sadly, the pool closed in 1979 and was demolished in 1988. Other key attractions in Portobello included the Marine Gardens (opened in 1909), which featured a roller skating rink, circus, cinema and auditorium as well as a 'human zoo' (yes, this shockingly actually existed), featuring Somalians who were paid to perform mock battles to provide visitors with 'exotic entertainment'.
Other beaches featured within the book include: Blackpool, Filey, Brighton, Mablethorpe, Hastings, Hornsea, Southport, Whitley Bay, New Brighton, LLanduduno, Lee-on-the-Solent, Margate, Redcar, Jaywick, Morcambe, Scarborough, Cleethorpes and Bangor, providing a comprehensive overview of some of the most popular seaside beaches and resorts over the ages.
Overall, this is a fantastic book for anyone with a love of the British seaside or a passion for historical photography.
Beside the Sea: Britain's Lost Seaside Heritage is published by Aurum Press. Available from Amazon.co.uk (£19.99 for a hardcover).
One of the greatest luxuries of all is having the time to relax with a great book.