Tales from the Treasure House: Heyday of the postcard when going away really meant ‘getting away from it all’

The postcard sent by 'Sid'.
The postcard sent by 'Sid'.

When was the last time you sent someone a postcard? Let’s face it, not many of us can be bothered these days while we’re on our summer holidays. Maybe we’re all getting too lazy, or maybe it’s just that the ‘postcard’ has had its day? In a time when you can send a picture message from Peru, Skype from Scotland, or use Instagram in India, who needs to spend valuable minutes writing on the back of a photograph and finding a post-box to send it home – especially when half the time it arrives after you get back from holiday!

But joking apart, whilst the postcard is perhaps not as popular as it used to be, some of us still retain a nostalgic affection for it and take pleasure in receiving a handwritten note from family and friends on the other side of the world or at the other end of the country.

Back in its heyday though, the postcard was more than just a novel greeting, it was the best and most efficient means of sending a quick message to a loved one to let them know how the holiday was going. While today we can churn out text-after-text, words were precious in the days of the postcard, and often people would just send a single card to sum up their entire holiday.

At the Treasure House in Beverley, there are lots of old postcards in various historic collections held by the East Riding Archives, some of which still contain the messages of the people who sent them. One such postcard was sent by a man called ‘Sid’ while on holiday in Withernsea during 1905, which reads:

“Dear Mabel,

I am sending you a P.C. as promised. I aren’t a native of Withernsea, having a ripping time, wish you were here. Was out at 6 oclock this morning but not batheing, Give my love to Bertha. With Very Best Love


Archivist Sam Bartle said: “The messages on historic postcards are a true snapshot of holidays in the past, but they leave a lot of unanswered questions. Take Sid’s postcard for example; who was Mabel, who was Bertha, and what was Sid doing at 6 o’clock in the morning if he wasn’t bathing?”

These days we can give a blow-by-blow account of our holidays if we so wish, thanks to social media, and perhaps therein lies the charm of the postcard – it whisks us back to a time when you couldn’t be reached 24/7, and going on holiday really did mean ‘getting away from it all’.

To view some of the historic postcards in the East Riding Archives, visit the Treasure House, Beverley. Call (01482) 392790 for details.