The history of our town as a seaside resort

Curator Janice Smith in the new exhibition
Curator Janice Smith in the new exhibition

Tourists have been coming to Bridlington for centuries – and a new exhibition at Sewerby Hall charts the rise, fall and rise again of the town as a seaside resort.

Beside The Seaside is a nostalgic look at the halcyon days of Bridlington, as well as the way it is trying to attract new visitors in the 21st century.

Dawn Storey and Nick Bale trying on the hats on show

Dawn Storey and Nick Bale trying on the hats on show

It has been brought together by curator Janice Smith.

She said: “It’s a celebration of the great British seaside holiday for the family, focusing on Bridlington, because this is us, this is our culture.

“It is our event to tie in with the City of Culture.”

Among the exhibits are an old-fashioned photo board, a giant magnetic postcard you can put your own message on, replicas of Victorian bathing costumes which children can dress up in and a soft play area which features a custom-made Flamborough Lighthouse which children can build up and knock down.

Kaitlyn Baxter-Lister, aged eight

Kaitlyn Baxter-Lister, aged eight

There is a wealth of information on display looking at how the town has changed in more than 400 years.

Janice said: “In the 17th century, Bridlington was a thriving port, taking malt to Whitby, bringing coal from Newcastle and taking wool across the North Sea.

“It was quite a wealthy place but then trade tailed off. However, almost seamlessly came the rise of sea bathing, made popular by aristocratics. There was a stampede to the coast.

“It brought the rise of the resort and boarding houses and lodging houses built up around King Street, Queen Street and Prince Street.

Arthur Baxter-Lister takes in the view

Arthur Baxter-Lister takes in the view

“After that, the arrival of the railway in Bridlington in 1846 was a significant point. The town was burgeoning and enjoyed glory days right to the end of the 19th century.

“The interwar period was probably Bridlington at its best, I would say. The Spa was lit up and it was catering for allcomers. The factory fortnight, when people had paid leave from work, was a real novelty.

“That was the golden age of seaside holidays in Britain, up to the 1970s.”

Package holidays and cheap flights to the guaranteed sunshine of the Mediterranean meant British resorts suffered badly.

Emily and Charlee Cullen pictured with a soft play Flamborough Lighthouse

Emily and Charlee Cullen pictured with a soft play Flamborough Lighthouse

“It wasn’t just Bridlington. Every seaside town suffered the same fate,” said Janice.

As Bridlington tries to reinvent itself as a modern-day resort, with its state-of-the-art leisure centre and the impressive Spa theatre, it is an exhibition with a nod to the past but an eye on the future.

“Anybody interested in how Bridlington grew, thrived, declined as a resort, and is now reviving again, will find this exhibition fascinating,” said Janice. “It mirrors so many seaside resorts right across the country, and forms a unique social history of our wonderful town.”

l Admission charges to Sewerby Hall and Gardens are £7 for adults, £4.90 for children and £22 for a family.