Historic England is continuing to understand and protect England’s rich and distinctive seaside heritage. Ranging from piers to pavilions and bathing pools to beach huts these colourful historic assets reflect almost 300 years of seaside holidays and are still welcoming millions of visitors each year.
Challenges facing seaside resorts
In 2007 English Heritage’s England's Seaside Resorts, described the architectural development of these distinctive settlements. Informed Conservation books then focussed on four popular English resorts facing major, but very different challenges.
- Margate has been in economic decline for many years.
- Weymouth faced the challenge of significant change, particularly in the years prior to hosting the 2012 Olympic sailing events.
- Blackpool has felt a sharp drop in its visitor numbers during the late 20th century although some measure of recovery is apparent. However it still faces significant social issues and its central sea defences and seafront have recently been reconstructed.
- Ramsgate is defining itself as an attractive place to visit, live and work.
In response a masterplan envisaged regenerating several key areas of Blackpool. One of those, the seafront, was transformed with a new public realm behind improved sea defences and the creation of a new tram system, though Blackpool’s historic trams still also grace the seafront.
Research into Weston-super-Mare
Our research at Weston-super-Mare has been focused on informing heritage-led regeneration as part of the now completed Heritage Action Zone project there and an ongoing High Street Heritage Action Zone.
Our research to date included the following outputs and articles:
Seaside amusement parks
Research into our heritage of seaside amusement parks is designed to improve its protection through better understanding. Our recent research has enabled Historic England to publish an Introduction to Heritage Assets document to explain the history of this special type of heritage and why its protection is important to our popular culture.
England's seafront heritage
We have carried out a project to study seafront heritage. During the past 250 years the seafront of the seaside resort has been transformed from a natural environment to a highly regulated man-made space.
Once a relaxing place to promenade and look out to sea, it is now a busy thoroughfare of competing interests, the pursuits of holidaymaking co-existing with these towns’ everyday life and sometimes the local industries that predated tourism.
The seafront may also serve as a town’s public park, a space for celebration and commemoration.
It has also been in the frontline of human conflict and serves as the frontline between man and the sea. The project recorded this complex space and has culminated in a book 'The Seafront' by Allan Brodie, to celebrate its long, interesting history.
Seaside heritage from the air
A book written by Historic England’s tourism history expert Allan Brodie features over 150 aerial photographs of England’s best-loved seaside resorts.
The images were taken between the 1920s and the 1950s, when England’s coastal destinations were nearing the peak of their popularity. The images form part of the Aerofilms Collection, held by the Historic England Archive.