A founder member of the Seaside Heritage Network, Kathryn Ferry asks for your vote in a new competition to recognise the best-loved heritage of our nation’s seaside resorts.
The British seaside is a special place, shaped by the enjoyment of generations. Where the coast conjures up images of high cliffs, windswept views, wildlife and nature, the seaside is a human landscape dedicated to pleasure and fun.
Many different things go into making it so and the Seaside Heritage Network has come up with a way to celebrate that variety – but we need your help. We asked for nominations of places and experiences that encapsulate the very best our seaside has to offer. Now we need to whittle down those candidates into a Top Ten ‘Bucket and Spade List’ and we’d like Coast readers to vote for their favourites.
From Blackpool’s iconic Tower to rockpools and donkey rides, the long list has something for everyone; we asked fans and representatives to make the case for your support.
Bournemouth Beach Huts
Andrew Emery manages Resort Development and has no doubt about the importance of the 3,700 beach huts in his council’s care: “Bournemouth is credited with building the UK’s first municipal beach huts back in 1909. Today they remain highly coveted as the perfect place to create happy holiday memories and their bright colours make people smile as they walk along the prom. The British seaside just wouldn’t be the same without its beach huts.”
According to BACTA, trade body for the UK’s amusement machine industry, two-thirds of the British population have visited an amusement arcade and one third of us do it every year. As John White, BACTA chief executive, says: “There’s nothing quite like placing a few 2p pieces in the slot of a penny falls or pusher machine. It’s simple, inexpensive family fun, the perfect treat when the summer rain starts. These machines have been around since the early ’60s. Most of us have played them and sometimes we even win!”
It’s hard to argue with Blackpool Council’s Carl Carrington when he calls Blackpool Tower the defining icon of the British seaside. Carol explains: “It’s the ultimate example of Victorian ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit, embedded in the memories of generations of British holidaymakers.
“From its famous Ballroom and remarkable Moorish-style Circus to recent attractions like the Tower Dungeon and a seaside-themed Harry Ramsden’s restaurant, the Tower complex is a glittering example of how seaside heritage can adapt and change yet still retain its historic character to serve visitors today.”
Scarborough South Cliff Gardens
Renovations to the magnificent Victorian gardens on Scarborough’s South Cliff are now complete thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Community Engagement Officer, Gemma Alexander, describes the location as “natural beauty and spectacular sea views complimented by areas of formal landscaping, including the much-loved Rose and Italian Gardens.
“Amid the winding pathways are beautifully restored shelters, a working cliff lift, clock tower café and beach chalets, putting green and a newly added children’s play area and community hub.”
The ‘Queen of Welsh Piers’ opened in 1877 and, as Anya Chapman of the National Piers Society points out, “it still features much of its original Victorian architecture, plus stunning views of the Irish Sea, and its traditional landing stage, where PS Waverley – the only remaining coastal paddle steamer in Britain – will be calling this summer. From classic fairground rides to leisurely afternoon teas, Llandudno Pier really delivers on great British seaside atmosphere.”
Jubilee Pool, Penzance
The unique triangular Jubilee Pool was the height of Art Deco fashion when it was built in 1935 but the shape also helps counteract storm waves. Ironically, a horrific storm in 1962 led to the seawater lido becoming abandoned until brought back to life by the Friends of Jubilee Pool in 1994.
Heritage professional, Samantha Barnes, is a recent convert: “Although I have lived in Cornwall for half of my life, my first visit was in 2021, something I’ve repeated several times since.” She’s yet to try the geothermal pool but has been won over by “the atmosphere and more-traditional sea temperatures of the main pool that, for me, really capture what it must have been like 88 years ago”.
Morecambe Winter Gardens
Chair of The Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust, Vanessa Toulmin is passionate about ‘The Albert Hall of the North’. It was a place of dreams when it opened in 1897, intended, as she says, “to bring a high-class London-style concert hall and theatre to Morecambe so that a mill girl could feel like a Duchess for a day.”
Lavish interiors enticed the public into its magnificent auditorium but 80 years later the dream died when the building closed. After years of abandonment, dedicated local volunteers purchased the building, recently securing over £3million funding to put the theatre back at the heart of Morecambe.
Weymouth Clock and Promenade
‘Tick, tock… it’s time to cast your vote for Weymouth’s Jubilee Clock and stunning promenade!’ Visit Weymouth are clear about why it’s a winner with tourists. Nestled on Dorset’s famous Jurassic Coast and overlooking the resort’s multiple award-winning sandy beach, the colourful clock tower is a much-loved fixture of a popular promenade that offers a backdrop of genteel Georgian houses and beautiful seafront gardens.
Not all seaside heritage is in such good shape or productive use. The Kursaal building on Southend seafront was the gateway to a hugely popular amusement park, packed with rides and sideshows, promising music and dancing into the night. It is currently empty and deteriorating but it is nominated for what it was – and what it could still be. The first step on the road to restoration is proving that heritage like this is valued so vote for Southend Kursaal!
Silcock’s Carousel, Southport
No visit to Southport Pier is complete without a ride on Herbert Silcock’s Original Golden Gallopers. Now 122 years old, its three original cockerels and 33 horses spin their riders round to the soundtrack of a historic Gavioli fairground organ. Operations manager Serena Silcock-Prince describes the Carousel as “a real landmark for people who live in Southport and for visitors from across the UK, many of whom have wonderful memories of riding on it as children, and who are now bringing their own children and grandchildren”.
The Expanse, Bridlington
The elegant Art-Deco architecture and sophisticated décor of Bridlington’s Expanse Hotel transports guests back in time. Opened in 1937, the hotel is a fourth-generation family business on the stunning East Yorkshire coast which continues to adapt to the changing tastes of seaside holidaymakers. Over the years, entertainers including The Who, Morecambe and Wise, Tom Jones and Jools Holland have enjoyed the hotel’s wonderful blend of old-world charm and modern-day luxury.
Seaside visitors have been exploring rockpools since Victorian times and it remains a cherished family activity. Many UK beaches have fabulous rock pools teeming with marine life where you can search for crabs, mussels, fish, anemones, and a variety of seaweeds. Rock pool safaris are a recent innovation providing an insight into these incredible environments from a marine expert. Where is your best rock pooling spot?
De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill
Affectionately known as the ‘People’s Pavilion’ since its opening in 1935, this inspirational Modernist building is buzzing with art, creativity, music and comedy. Its streamlined concrete and glass exterior makes it a landmark destination for architectural and cultural tourists, a success story of restored seaside heritage that is also a hub for the local community. Open every day, the De la Warr Pavilion is fully accessible, family friendly and boasts the best Channel views from its balconies you could wish for!
Home to the UK’s oldest wooden roller coaster, Dreamland Margate is a world-class family attraction opposite the golden sands of Kent’s earliest seaside resort. Capitalising on a heritage that goes back to 1870, Dreamland mixes vintage rides, pop-up entertainment, art installations and street food with a packed programme of live music and events. As Margate continues its transformation into one of the UK’s trendiest seaside towns, Dreamland lights the way with its exciting blend of old and new.
Donkey rides on the beach
Donkey rides are synonymous with seaside holidays and Melanie Llewellyn is happy to be continuing the tradition at Weymouth. Her award-winning West Hill Donkeys enjoy the highest welfare standards, as she explains: “Working on a rota they spend their rest time in open fields. Donkeys love to be around people and riders treasure their time with these special, gentle souls. That’s why donkey rides have stood the test of time; they stay in our hearts and memories long after we’ve left the beach.”
Babbacombe Model Village
Created in 1963, Babbacombe Model Village is one of the English Riviera’s best-known attractions. Managing director Mike Rhodes describes how “visitors get to feel like giants as they step through the small entrance to find four acres of miniature world opening before them. Within this are hundreds of hand-crafted model scenes, vehicles and people to marvel at, all made by the onsite team of highly skilled model makers.” With a major refurbishment programme nearing completion and a new Mythical Kingdom opening this year this slice of seaside heritage is constantly being renewed.
HOW TO VOTE
It’s easy to cast your vote. Just go to bit.ly/bucket-spade-vote where you’ll find all the nominees and an easy form to complete. We’d love to hear the reason for your choice too if you’d like to share it. The Top Ten Bucket and Spade List will be announced in September.
The Seaside Heritage Network is run by volunteers with the aim of connecting people, groups and businesses who care about the heritage of Britain’s seaside resorts. To find out more follow on Twitter @seaside_network
TASTES OF THE SEASIDE
Papas Fish and Chips, Cleethorpes
Fish and chips taste better at the seaside and George Papadamou has such faith in this belief that his Papas fish and chip restaurant and takeaway on Cleethorpes Pier is the largest in the world. He says: “We’re proud to source every fillet of sustainably caught fish from the fish market on the Cleethorpes and Grimsby Dock and our potatoes come from local Lincolnshire farms. Combine that with panoramic views and our family restaurant offers a real authentic seaside experience.”
Nardini’s of Largs
Scotland’s most famous ice cream parlour re-opened in 2008 following refurbishment of its landmark 1935 Art Deco building. Combining its heritage credentials with a contemporary feel and modern menu, Nardini’s remains synonymous with a trip “doon the water” making it a must for visitors to Largs and a Scottish seaside institution.
Volks Electric Railway, Brighton
Phil Lucas loves his unusual council job on the Volks Electric Railway team and is proud that “as the oldest working electric railway in the world, we’ve been transporting passengers along Brighton’s beautiful seafront since 1883. Travelling in the perfectly preserved cars takes you back to the Victorian era of innovation and ingenuity. It’s a one-off seaside experience”.
Saltburn Cliff Tramway
Saltburn Cliff Tramway was built in 1884 to get Victorian holidaymakers up and down the steep incline between beach and town. It is the oldest water balanced lift operating in the UK and “a jewel in the crown of North Yorkshire” according to Trevor Russell, of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. “The secret’s out,” he adds, “and we can’t wait to welcome even more visitors to this wonderful example of working seaside heritage.”