Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Pebble Gifts at the Seaside

On a recent holiday in Cromer my brother and I left stones that we had decorated on benches near the sea front for other holidaymakers to find.

This is something I first did a few years ago after walking along the beach and finding unusual stones that looked like faces and animals.

Why don't you have a go next time you are at a seaside resort that has a pebbly beach? Arm yourself with some Sharpies to add character to the stones and then plant them where people will find them.

Return to the locations later to see if the stones have been picked up. 

On this latest occasion a large stone cat managed to make its way from a seat overlooking the Rocket Cafe to a bench further up the coastal path! I wonder... did it walk there itself?

Monday, 28 August 2017

A Rather Grand Beach Hut: Brighton Royal Pavilion

If you think that Brighton has become an overpriced suburb of London, accommodated by Hipsters and bright young things then blame Dr Richard Russell and the Prince Regent in the late 18th and early 19th century. Seawater as a restorative cure for all ills had resulted in seaside towns superseding the English spas, particularly after the Prince Regent made it fashionable at Brighton to follow the advice of Dr Russell whose Dissertation Concerning the Use of Sea-Water in Diseases of the Glands had been published in English in 1754 (Walvin, 1978: 16, and Hassan, 2003: 6).

Dr Russell recommended the health-inducing effects of dipping oneself into the sea, hence the invention of the bathing machine for seaside dippers. This was an altogether more palatable way of enjoying the medicinal qualities of seawater than drinking it! Once Prince George made Brighton fashionable, the upper- and mercantile classes followed in his place. 

Prince George's (subsequently King George IV) original Marine Pavilion was not grand enough for him to entertain his aristocratic guests in the lavish style he desired and so in 1815 he commissioned John Nash to transform the house into an ornate oriental palace. The grandest seaside residence ever designed. Rob Shields says that a growing sense of ‘spectacle’ in the mid nineteenth century, alongside a growing number of visitors to Brighton subsequently contributed to the town’s transition from a place of ritualised health-pursuits into a location for fun and social mixing (2002: 81).

However, when Victoria became Queen she was unhappy with the association that the Pavilion had with George IV's extravagant lifestyle and sold the house to the town. Visitors to Brighton can now enjoy the spectacle of the Royal Pavilion for themselves. 

An idea of what Prince / King George IV's lavish banquets were like might also be gleaned from Minnelli's 1970 film On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Some scenes for the film were shot in the Pavilion itself, as studio sets would not have been able to match the opulence of the palace itself.

Further reading:

Hassan, John, 2003, The Seaside, Health and the Environment in England and Wales Since 1800, Hampshire: Ashgate.

Shields, Rob, 2002, Places on the Margin, Alternative Geographies of Modernity, London: Routledge.

Walvin, John, 1978, Beside The Seaside, A Social History of the Popular Seaside Holiday, London: Allen Lane.