I bring you a book that I could not resist reading at this point when most of us are (or have been) stuck indoors.
Beside the Seaside: A History of Yorkshire’s Seaside Resorts by John Heywood
Almost all of us have happy memories of excursions and holidays spent beside the sea. For many, these will have included the Yorkshire coast which runs unbroken for more than one hundred miles between the two great rivers, the Tees and the Humber. Within those boundaries are the popular seaside resorts of Whitby, Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington as well as numerous smaller and quieter but equally well-loved destinations. How did the love affair with the area start and how did it develop? Over the years, all the ingredients for the perfect holiday are there – the spas, the sea and sun bathing, board and lodgings, entertainment and just as importantly, the journeys there and back. Beside the Seaside takes a detailed but entertaining look back at the history of these resorts over the last four hundred years and asks, what does the future hold? Packed with information, this book is fully illustrated with photographs, old and new, together with paintings and etchings. Coupled with the thoughts and memories of tourists and travelers from the 17th century through to the present time, it gives a fascinating insight into how our ancestors would have spent their time at the coast. Evocative and intriguing, absorbing and surprising, John Heywood’s book will appeal both to those familiar with the area and to others who just enjoy being Beside the Seaside.
About the author:
I am an experienced professional family and local historian living in West Yorkshire. History has been my passion for over forty years. I blame my parents for taking me to every abbey, castle and historic house they could find. I am so glad they did though. My first book Silent Witnesses told the story of those men from the village of Horbury near Wakefield in Yorkshire who paid the ultimate price during the Great War. My latest book Beside the Seaside – A History of Yorkshire’s Seaside Resorts was a great labour of love to research and write. Both my wife and I take great pleasure in being by the sea.
I am currently working on my second book for Pen and Sword due for publication in Spring 2019. I am a contributor to several magazines and have recently collaborated with Wakefield Cathedral on a World War One project.
Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early paperback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.
This gorgeous non-fiction book offers readers a history of Yorkshire’s seaside resorts. I lived in South Yorkshire for quite a few years, and I had a chance to visit some of the resorts mentioned in the book (Scarborough and Whitby more than the rest), but I didn’t know much about their history or how they had evolved over the years. I had no idea that many of these resorts had had piers, for instance (it’s difficult to survive as a pier on the Yorkshire coast, as I’ve learned by reading this book), or the fact that many of them had started life as spas (people were going to take the waters in Scarborough as far back as the early XVII century).
Heywood has done a great job researching the topic, and although he tackles the subject chronologically (we go from the very early mentions of the resorts by visitors to our era), he divides it up in chapters centred on different topics that can be consulted independently as well, like those on boarding and lodging, bathing fashion, the journey (the train helped the expansion of the tourism enormously, as it did with so many other activities), excursions, entertainment, and a dip in the sea, where the bathing machines make an appearance. I’ve always been fascinated by bathing machines, and I couldn’t help but think they would be a fantastic way of ensuring social distance was maintained while bathing, in the post-COVID-19 era). There is plenty of information about what happened in these towns during both World Wars, and how they pulled through the difficulties and changes over the years, as well as plenty of details on the different venues, buildings, gardens, facilities, performers, attractions… This book works both, as a reference for people interested in any of these topics and also as an engaging non-fiction piece of historical and social British seaside history.
The book includes some fantastic illustrations, pictures, and advertisements of the era, which are a joy to see and help us better understand how visiting all these resorts in the past must have felt like. There is also a bibliography for those who might want to read more on the subject, and an index in case you’re looking for specific information. Readers who love curiosities and social history will have a field day with this book. And if you’ve always wondered how the British love with the seaside towns and the seaside resorts came to be, this book offers you many clues.
I recommend this book to students and fans of social history, to those who love to read about Britain, its culture, and its towns and cities, to people who love Yorkshire, its coast and seaside towns, to historical authors thinking of setting their stories in these locations or eras, and to anybody who loves to take a stroll beside the seaside. I enjoyed the opportunity to be out and about, especially now, and I hope to be able to visit the area again in the future, armed with plenty of useful knowledge and a new perspective.
Ah, and I couldn’t help but share this.
Thanks to Rosie and the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep safe and keep smiling.