Essex history: Picture-perfect postcards of our county’s coast
PUBLISHED: 11:24 08 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:24 08 August 2018
In the first of two features celebrating the traditional British seaside holiday, Hannah Salisbury from the Essex Record Office shares picture postcards of the Essex coast | Words: Hannah Salisbury
Essex is a county of countryside, townscapes and coastlines. Our ancestors also enjoyed the delights offered by our county, as is evidenced by the picture postcard collection at the Essex Record Office (ERO).
In this first instalment of a mini-series based on this collection, we take a look at postcards from Clacton on Sea, Frinton on Sea and Walton on the Naze.
Postcards have existed in various forms since the 1840s, but picture postcards only became widespread in the UK from the 1890s. The boom in postcards coincided with a huge increase in tourism among ordinary people, driven by the invention of paid time off and the ability to travel further from home thanks largely to the infrastructure of railways.
A belief in the health benefits of sea air and salt water bathing also drove the development of coastal resorts. The small villages of Clacton, Frinton and Walton were all about to undergo dramatic transformations.
The development of Walton on the Naze began with the opening of the Marine Hotel in 1829 and the town’s first pier in 1830, both built by Mr Penrice of Colchester. The pier was the main way in which visitors would arrive and depart, travelling on steamships coming from London and Ipswich, at least until the railway arrived in 1867.
By the 1890s Walton had a second, much longer pier, with an electric tramway running its 790 metre length. Other attractions for the Victorian and Edwardian visitor included pleasure craft, bathing machines, theatrical entertainments and cinemas.
Development at Clacton on Sea began a few decades after it started in Walton. The resort was founded in 1871 again with the opening of a pier, built by civil engineer and businessman Peter Bruff, who had also played an important part in the development of Walton.
The Royal Hotel opened in 1872, also built by Bruff, and initially stood alone at the base of the pier. By the 1890s the pier had been extended and housed hot and cold sea baths, plus the Pavilion theatre at the pier head.
The railway reached Clacton in 1882, opening it up to even more visitors. In 1938 Billy Butlin opened his second holiday camp at Clacton, which was visited by thousands during its lifetime until its closure in 1983.
The development of Frinton on Sea began a little later again. In 1886 the Marine and General Land Company published plans for creating ‘a high class watering place’ at Frinton, including hotels, a marine parade, a cricket ground and tennis lawns.
One undated postcard sent from Frinton reads: ‘Yesterday we went to Frinton and enjoyed it very much, it is so pretty. You would like Frinton there are such lovely large private residences each standing in own grounds along the front – a very select place. Only 4 large hotels and no boarding houses.’
In their heyday these resorts attracted thousands of holiday makers every summer, and today they still offer the fresh air and wonderful sea views that attracted so many of our ancestors to visit.
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Each month the Essex Record Office helps Essex Life trace the history of a particular aspect of county life. For more information about the Essex Record Office, call 033301 32500 or visit essexrecordoffice.co.uk
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