Celebration of the golden age of the seaside

Keeping cool on Blackpool beach   Photo:  John Gay/Historic England/Mary Evans Picture Library
Keeping cool on Blackpool beach Photo: John Gay/Historic England/Mary Evans Picture Library

These striking black-and-white pictures capture the essence of Blackpool in its heyday as a popular UK holiday resort.

The wonderful archive shots, which show the Promenade, packed beaches and arcades and the famous Tower Ballroom are taken from a new book, which aims to transport readers back in time to Blackpool of yesteryear.

Busy scene on Blackpool beach   Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library/Shirley Baker

Busy scene on Blackpool beach Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library/Shirley Baker

Drawing on the archives of Mary Evans Picture Library, the book Images of the Past: The British Seaside is a nostalgic promenade through the history of Britain’s seaside resorts, from their early genesis as health destinations to their glorious, mid-20th century heyday, subsequent decline and recent regeneration.

British coastal resorts, including Blackpool, developed during a period of vast expansion and social change.

Within a century, the bathing phenomenon changed from a cautiously modest immersion in the sea, to a pastime which prompted the building of vast art deco temples – such as the open air baths at South Shore – dedicated to the cult of swimming.

Once quiet fishing villages mushroomed into bustling sea-fronts with every conceivable amusement and facility to entice visitors and secure their loyalty for future visits.

Playing in the sea in the shadow of Blackpool Tower   Photo: John Gay/Historic England/Mary Evans

Playing in the sea in the shadow of Blackpool Tower Photo: John Gay/Historic England/Mary Evans

Where transport to the coast may have once been via coach and horses or boat, soon thousands of working class day-trippers flooded seaside towns, arriving by the rail network which had so quickly transformed the British landscape. And in Blackpool’s case, the new tram network too.

This new book, written by Lucinda Gosling and published by Pen And Sword Books Limited, follows these shifts and changes from bathing machines to Butlins holiday camps, told through a compelling mix of photographs, cartoons, illustrations and ephemera – with many images previously unpublished.

It covers every aspect of the seaside experience – whether swimming and sunbathing or sand castles and slot machines. The packed beaches of the Blackpool of the 1950s, 60s and 70 can be seen – with barely a space between the crowds of sun-worshippers.

Busy arcades also feature, along with iconic tourist attractions, such as illuminated trams and the world-famous Tower Ballroom.

Pals playing in the sand on Blackpool beach  Photo: John Gay/Historic England/Mary Evans

Pals playing in the sand on Blackpool beach Photo: John Gay/Historic England/Mary Evans

A sight no longer seen on the resort’s beaches – a cart selling oysters, shrimps and cockles – is also shown in the book.

The British Seaside reveals Blackpool’s traditions, rich heritage and unique character in all its sandy, sunny, fun-packed glory.

• Images of the Past: The British Seaside, is available in paperback, priced £14.99

Relaxing with a good book on Blackpool beach   Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library/Shirley Baker

Relaxing with a good book on Blackpool beach Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library/Shirley Baker