Monday, October 27, 2014

Seaside Architecture – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The British seaside resort has a long history. It was in the 18th century that the first Georgian tourists travelled to the coast to find a cure for their ills. To capitalise on the influx of wealthy health-seekers, coastal towns such as Scarborough, Margate, Brighton and Weymouth began to provide entertainment spaces for their visitors, which led to libraries, assembly rooms and theatres opening up alongside seafront terraces.

Though fashion has dictated the look of resorts, there has always been a playfulness about seaside architecture which is rarely found inland. Perhaps the greatest architectural legacy in this respect was left by the Prince Regent, later Kind George IV. The Indian-inspired domes designed by John Nash for his Royal Pavilion at Brighton would be repeated in Victorian and Edwardian buildings up and down the UK, lending an exotic air to many a seaside promenade. And as the railways connected with the coast from the 1840s onwards, new entertainment palaces were being built for people of all classes, not just the rich.
In the Victorian era, engineering technology extended the promenade over the waves. During the 1860s and 1870s, piers were built at an average of two a year. Iron, the material of the age, was also exploited for its decorative potential in kiosks, shelters, railings, bandstands and lamps. The need for indoor entertainments resulted in the development of new building types too, particularly acquaria and winter gardens.

Pleasure palaces containing amusements, theatres, ballrooms and shops began to open from the late 19th century onwards, built in evermore ornate and eclectic styles that offered mass-market luxury for Britain’s holidaymakers.

In the 1930s, outdoor swimming pools known as lidos became resort centrepieces in a number of coastal towns, as healthy holidays in the sun grew increasingly fashionable. Despite the lure of the foreign holidays, British seaside resorts continue to thrive, with new galleries, piers, beach huts and shelters being built to further enhance seafronts across the UK.  

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