The ‘Now and Then’ column with Aled Jones: Changes along the South Promenade

Aled Jones, a regular contributor to the Bridlington Free Press and collector of vintage postcards, has produced another ‘now and then’ comparison for our readers to enjoy.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 2:00 pm
This postcard  is dated to before 1906 as it shows the original Spa Theatre building. Postcard courtesy of Aled Jones
This postcard is dated to before 1906 as it shows the original Spa Theatre building. Postcard courtesy of Aled Jones

Mr Jones contrasts a classic postcard with his modern day photograph to show how the South Promenade has developed over the years.

One of the main differences is how the narrow path has become an accessible thoroughfare for all.

Mr Jones said: “This fascinating old postcard shows the South Promenade in the distant days when it was only a narrow walkway, and an especially crowded one at that.

This photograph shows the developments along the South Promenade.

“As you can observe, there was no barrier between the promenade and the beach, which must have made it quite precarious, especially in wet weather.

“In the background, you can clearly see the original Spa Theatre building (built 1896) which was destroyed by fire in October 1906, behind it is Pembroke Terrace.

“It, therefore, confidently dates this postally unused card to before 1906, so the Late Victorian/Early Edwardian era.

“The New Spa Theatre and Opera House was constructed on a much grander scale and opened in July 1907 by the actress Mrs Maud Beerbohm-Tree.

“Note how every person in the postcard is sporting a hat of some kind.

“The sky, too, may be blue and sunny but some of the children appear a little overdressed for the clement weather.

“However, I love the fact that back then everyone put on their smartest and best clothes when they went out for the day to the seaside.

“I’ve much admiration, too, for the fact that (without mobile phone technology) they could only look at each other and their surroundings through their own eyes – making every moment so natural and spontaneous.

“Gazing at this lovely old postcard you immediately realise that nobody in it is alive today, a reminder to us that life is short and that every moment counts.

“Personally, I really enjoy looking at the faces and trying to imagine who they were and what stories they had to tell.

“The modern photographic comparison shows the incredible changes that have taken place since the original postcard was produced, not least of all the extension to the Spa sea wall.

“This took place in the late 1920s and was officially named Princess Mary Parade in honour of the royal princess who opened it.

“Note, too, how the pathway on the left, leading up to South Marine Drive, is a great deal wider (but far less steep) than it was at the turn of the century.”