Seeking Shelter At The Seaside

Enjoying a healthy break by the sea in Britain was popularised by the Prince Regent, who had a palace built close to the sea in Brighton in 1787. When he became king, he continued to visit, believing the salt water would improve his health. By the Victorian era, seaside resorts were beginning to become popular all around the UK, with ease of access to them provided by the growing railway network. Many towns built piers out onto the water, and pleasure gardens for tourists to stroll in.

The problem was, and still is, that we have unreliable weather in this country. So visitors needed somewhere to shelter when it rained. Some beautiful shelters were built for this purpose, and continue to be used to this day. Later additions used more modern building materials and styles. Here are some I found online, from all around England.

Historical Photos Around Britain: 1860-1999

This varied selection looks at different eras in the history of Britain, from the Victorian age to the dawn of the 21st century.

The interior of a mine in Cornwall, 1893. The miners were working on a 30-degree slope, and the photographer wanted to capture that difficulty.

Inside Westminster Abbey, London. This was taken in 1860.

St Giles’ Fair in Oxford, 1905.

Art Deco pub sign and wall design, 1938. This was in Minster, Kent.

The junction of Steep Street and Trenchard Street in Bristol, 1866.

A house in Exeter, Devon. Before and after bomb damage from a German raid in WW2. (1942)

Liverpool Street Staion, London. (1960)

A courtroom in the Royal Courts of Justice, London. 1999.

Hanbury, Staffordhire. The aftermath of the largest ever explosion on British soil. An underground munitions store exploded on the 27th November 1944 and killed about 70 people.

An aerial view of the bomb damage in the City of London around St Paul’s Cathedral, taken in 1948.

Grimethorpe Colliery (Coal mine), South Yorkshire. Taken not long before it was closed down in 1993.

The Grim North In Photos: 1960-1965

John Bulmer’s photographs were taken at a time when the North was undergoing a vast transformation. The collapse of traditional industries that had been the wealth creators of the Industrial Revolution was deeply affecting communities throughout the region; from the Black Country and Potteries, through Greater Manchester up to the coalfields and shipyards of the North East and Glasgow.

In 1960, I was 8 years old. We lived in South London, and rarely ventured north across the River Thames, let alone to the North of England. The industrial north of Britain was unknown territory for a young Londoner, and believed to be grim indeed, offering hard lives to those who lived there. Looking at John Bulmer’s photographs, I think he reflected that well.

It was just ignorance on our part at the time, many places in London and the South were just as bleak.

Leaving for work before dawn.

Hanging out washing in the shadow of factory chimneys.

A night out at the social club.

Collecting coal washed up on the beach.

An old lady washing down the wall outside her house.

Bringing home bags of coal during a harsh winter.

The pub is still standing after slum housing has been demolished.

Miners with their pit ponies.

Hanging out washing across the street.

Women cleaning the front steps of their houses.

Hair in curlers, ready for a night out after work. Eating chips for lunch.

An industrial area in Manchester.

Britain In The 1950s: Children

A selection of photos found online, all taken around Britain during the 1950s.

Being helped onto a double-decker bus.

Copying the Guardsmen outside Buckingham Palace.

Feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

Getting a good view of something at the seaside.

Anticipating firework night.

Fishing in a public park in London.

Feeding a Porcupine at the zoo.

Checking how much you weigh for a penny.

Playing in the street, unsupervised.

Boy Scouts cleaning shoes to raise money.

Reading your comic while mum was inside the baker’s.

Home-made soapbox cars racing.

Dressed in your cowboy outfit outside the local cafe.

War Damage And Rebuilding: Prefabs In London

Prefabricated homes were seen as the quick answer to the housing shortage caused by German bombing in WW2. Built on top of pre-plumbed ­concrete slabs, these homes could be erected in a day by teams of German and Italian prisoners-of-war who were in no hurry to return home, come the peace. Londoners soon gave them the shortened name, Prefabs.

For more than 150,000 homeless, bombed-out families across Britain, these two-bedroom prefabs were meant to be a merely temporary solution at the end of the war. But they were a godsend, too — detached houses with the then astonishing luxury of a garden, a bathroom, and a separate indoor toilet. They soon became the envy of those still living in pre-war accommodation nearby, and were one of the most desirable options for social housing.

As a child in the 1950s, I remember them near where we lived, and how much everyone was jealous of being able to live in one.

They were designed to last only ten years, just long enough to allow post-war Britain to build all those wonderful new council blocks for homecoming heroes like Hector Murdoch and his family.

As the Sixties unfolded, multi-storey concrete utopias were popping up all over Britain’s ­metropolitan skylines and most of the prefabs came down. But as the years went on, the script went badly wrong. Many people found that they hated living in high-rise blocks, no matter how much the architects and the councils told them how lucky they were. In the end, the tower blocks started coming down again. Yet, the remaining prefabs — and their grateful residents — stayed put.

Even the local church was prefabricated.

Sadly, most have since been demolished by different authorities around Britain. In total, 156,623 prefab bungalows were built between 1945 and 1949. According to the Pre-fab Museum, around 8,000 are left in the UK with around 30 listed for presevation. They are still lived in today.

Postcards Of The 1960s: The Photos Of John Hinde

The postcards were produced in the 1960s by photographer John Hinde, a key figure in the development of the colour photograph as a postcard. Each photograph is innovative in its use of colour and stage-management. Shot with large format cameras, the production of these photographs was an extraordinary undertaking. Sometimes photographs could take a day and a half to get right. He used vibrant, highly saturated colours to depict a proverbially beautiful image produced to the highest standards.

It wasn’t just postcards of London that he produced. John Hinde was born in Somerset in 1916 and had always been interested in photography. During the 1940s he took photographs for many series of books, including ‘Britain in Pictures’ and ‘Garden in Colour’ and famously he photographed London during the blitz, which were used to illustrate ‘Citizens in war – and after’ published in 1945. After a short stint in Chipperfield’s Circus, and failing to make a success on his own, he started John Hinde Ltd in Ireland in 1956.

During the following 16 years, he and his studio of photographers travelled Great Britain, Ireland, and many European and African countries taking photographs to produce as postcards. When the company was sold in 1972, it was the world’s most successful postcard company with annual sales of over 50 million postcards.

All images are from John Hinde/John Hinde Collection/John Hinde Ltd)

The Bathing Pool at Ramsgate. A popular seaside holiday town in Kent.

Bottons Funfair, Great Yarmouth. A holiday town on the east coast, not far from Beetley.

Dublin Airport, Ireland. (Yes, people bought postcards of airports. Air travel was something exciting then.)

Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire. Created in the grounds of an ancestral stately home, this became a very popular attraction that still exists today.

Cars racing on a beach in Jersey. The Channel Islands have long been a popular tourist destination for British people.

Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland.

A caravan park in Pentewan Sands, Cornwall. I spent all my childhood holidays in Cornwall, and the county is still popular with holidaymakers today.

The Royal Festival Hall, South bank, London.

The Post Office Tower, London. This opened in 1965, and once had a revolving restaurant at the top. I took my first wife there for a birthday meal in the 1970s.

The Houses of Parliament at night, London.

A policeman on traffic duty.

Battersea Park Funfair, South London. (Now closed.)

The open-air paddling pool at Battersea park.

Random Historical Photos From Britain: 1900-1970

No real theme in these, I just found each one interesting.

Female mill workers, 1900. (Partially colourised.)

Young mill girls with their bobbins, 1901.

City boys evacuated to the countryside during WW2, 1940.

WW2 rescue workers at the scene of German bombing of Cardiff, 1941.

Children in front of their bonfire for Guy Fawke’s Night, 1957.

A pub in Wales, 1960.

Slum conditions in Northern England, 1960.

Welsh miners help each other in the shower after their shift. 1960s

A teenage boy after his first full shift down a mine. Wales, early 1960s.

Welsh miners attend a union meeting outside the pit, late 1960s.

A man with his beloved racing pigeons, 1970.

The Far Right In Britain: Fascism and Racism

In the early 1930s, aristocrat and member of parliament, Sir Oswald Mosely, formed the British Union of Fascists, the BUF. He was attracted by the success of Mussolini and Hitler in Italy and Germany, and disillusioned with democratic politics in Britain. A member of The Labour Party at the time, he did not stand for re-election in 1931, instead forming his neo-Nazi party.

They wore black shirts, and uniforms similar to those seen in Germany. Mosely was a skilled orator, also adopting the straight-arm Nazi salute for hs party, and organising mass rallies and marches that were deliberately confrontational.

Their flag was comparable to some Nazi insignia.

Following the outbreak of WW2, the BUF was banned in Britain, and Mosely spent three years in prison for advocating pro-German sympathies.

By 1958, immigration was becoming a contentious issue in Britain, and the White Defence League was formed, basing its ideology on racism, and white supremacy. That later merged to become the larger British National Party, led at the time by Colin Jordan. They liked to parade on marches through areas of immigrant settlement, deliberately inflaming tensions in communities. Rather than be associated with Nazi symbols and regalia, they used the Union flag and the St George’s flag in their propaganda, trying to appeal to ordinary white Britons. Since then, both flags have sadly had unpleasant associations with racists and fascists.

In the late 1960s, some splinter groups got together to form the National Front, led by John Tyndall. That party had an openly racist and antisemitic agenda, and used large groups of mostly young men (including skinheads) to carry out violent protests on the streets. It gained considerable traction, mainly in England, and had over 20,000 official members, as well as twice that number of sympathisers. In 1979, they stood in many seats at the General Election, but failed to get any candidate elected. Despite some mainstream appeal, some NF supporters used the Nazi salute, and wore Swastika emblems. That made them unpopular with many British people.

Ninety years after Mosely’s BUF, the Far Right political groups have never gone away. Numerous organisations have existed in the decades since the 1980s, and hatred against Muslims since 9/11 has driven new supporters to them. The most prominent of these is The Englsh Defence League, which is still very active, and primarily Islamophobic.

As someone old enough to have had relatives who fought against Fascism in WW2, it makes my heart sad to see all this. The hard lessons of history are not only ignored but celebrated, and similar Far-Right groups are re-emerging all over the western world.

Women At War: Britain 1939-1945

As well as working in many traditional male jobs during WW2, women also joined the armed forces.

Members of The Women’s Guerrilla Corps being instructed in how to carry and use a rifle, 1941. All the women are aged between 40 and 60, so too old to join the regular armed forces at the time. They were training to resist any German invasion of Britain.

A female pilot of the Air Transport Auxiliary, 1944. They ferried planes from aircraft factories to airfields across the UK. This lady is about to fly a Spitfire.

A group of West Indian army recruits at a training camp in 1943.

Two plotters for an anti-aircraft battery, waiting for enemy aircraft to arrive over the coast.

Volunteers of The Home Defence Corps learning hand to hand combat. London, 1942.

A civiilan war worker fixing tracks onto a tank, 1940.

Polish volunteers in the British army undergo combat training, 1943.

A member of The Observer Corps stands ready with her binoculars to spot German aircraft, 1943.

A group of women from The British Mechanised Transport Corps push an ambulance out of soft ground, 1940.

British Social History: Photos By Thurston Hopkins

In the 1950s, immigration from the West Indies was becoming a political issue. At the same time, many people all over Britain were still living in slum conditions and poverty. Thurston Hopkins travelled to some cities in Britain to record what was happening.

1955. Three West Indian men photographed on the streets of Birmingham. Racist attitudes often made it very difficult for them to find accommodation and employment.

1955. Mr Siebert Mattison from St Anne in Jamaica now lives, sleeps and cooks in the same room with his Welsh wife and their three children.

1955. Kwessi Blankson from Jamaica offers a light to workmate Jack White at The Phosphor Bronze Company where he is in charge of the oil burners.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
A child sleeping in a slum dwelling in the backstreets of Liverpool, where 88,000 of the houses are deemed unfit for human habitation.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
A woman washing her face over a basin in her rundown Liverpool home.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
A woman sitting by a stove with two children at their home in the Frank Street slum clearance area of Liverpool. She is probably their grandmother.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
Three teenage boys with fashionable hairstyles on a street corner.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
An elderly woman standing among the litter in a back alley of the Liverpool slums.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
A group of children playing weddings.