An aerial view of the seafront at Weston-super-Mare.

Weston from the air, looking north towards Worlebury Hillfort. © Historic England Archive, photographer credit Damian Grady, image reference NMR 33066/023.
Weston from the air, looking north towards Worlebury Hillfort. © Historic England Archive, photographer credit Damian Grady, image reference NMR 33066/023.

Introduction to Issue 13

John Cattell, Historic England's National Head of Research, introduces issue 13 of Historic England Research magazine focusing on tourism and seaside heritage.

As we swelter in record summer temperatures this year and people are flocking to our seaside towns and beaches in huge numbers it seems especially fitting to be introducing this special issue on tourism and the seaside.

Historic England and its predecessor organisations have been researching and publishing on England’s seaside heritage for the last 15 years. Led by Allan Brodie, Senior Architectural Investigator, with input from many other colleagues, this work has transformed our understanding of that much-loved component of our national heritage, including the seaside’s ‘shop window’: the seafront.

More recently our research has sought to locate the heritage of the seaside within the wider heritage of tourism in the UK which makes an ever greater contribution to our economy as well as to the enjoyment and wellbeing of domestic and international visitors alike.

This improved appreciation of the importance of heritage to our wider tourism offer is important, as understanding how places developed, their character and significance is a vital first step in shaping change that results in attractive, vibrant and sustainable places in which to live, work and to visit. Seaside towns face particular challenges including a lack of investment and the seasonal nature of their local economies. This is recognised by Government and has resulted in an array of funding streams such as the £45 million Sea Change Programme and policy initiatives targeted at seaside towns.

Historic England has been playing its part with the creation of Heritage Action Zones in Weston-super-Mare and Ramsgate. The aim of HAZs is to unlock the economic potential of heritage sites in order to breathe new life into places. In this issue we feature two articles on our research in Weston - focusing on architectural investigation and the perspective gained from aerial photography.

We provide a preview of historic area assessment work in Ramsgate, the full results of which will be published next year. We also include a guide to the rich holdings on heritage tourist sites and the seaside in the Historic England Archive, an indispensable resource for those seeking to learn more about where they live.

As is clear from the articles in this issue our seaside towns exhibit a long history of constant change and adaption. Some, most notably Margate, have begun to reinvent themselves, providing a focus for cultural activity and iconic new buildings that alongside revitalised heritage buildings attract new visitors and provide a much-needed economic boost. They are to be celebrated as fascinating and remarkably resilient places which with concerted action can develop and thrive for many years to come.

John Cattell

National Head of Research at Historic England

John has worked for Historic England and its predecessors since 1989 in a variety of roles, including senior architectural investigator and research manager. He is now responsible for developing and leading the organisation's national research work. John is also responsible for Historic England's relationships with the Research Councils and leading on Independent Research Organisation engagement.

Download Issue 13

Historic England Research Issue 13

Published 7 August 2019

Tourism and seaside special issue of Research magazine showing how research has transformed our understanding of that part of our national heritage.

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