So as we move into June we start to think about sunny days, warm weather, the sound of leather on willow and lazy days. It’s Britain so let’s amend that to cloudy days, mild weather and the sound of rain on covers or sky’s so blue it’s unbelievable and it’s too hot to move. All this means its holiday season. Jetting off to far of places or staying in the UK, which ever you do it will be really different from the holidays of our ancestors.
Let’s start off with the obvious. May of our ancestors will never have had a holiday in their lives. They probably only had Sundays as a day of rest, but probably worked at home on this day.
So off to the seaside then. The main places to develop in the Victorian era as holiday places were Blackpool, Scarborough, Ramsgate and Brighton. Llandudno and Rhyl were the places to go in Wales.
Now we don our short and t shirts for a beach outing but think of our ancestor. They wore their everyday clothes or even their Sunday best. Men in 3 piece suits and women in so many layers they could virtually stand up without needing their legs. Can you imagine how hot they were?
They may have worn a straw bonnet instead of the normal hat but that would have been the only nod to the beach.
So they needed to cool down. What better way than an ice cream. No cone and lovely flavours for our ancestors though. You got a penny lick. Now this was a solid glass which had a small indentation on the top which would hold a small amount of ice cream. You paid your penny, ate your ice cream and gave the glass back. If you were really lucky the glass may have been rinsed before you got it, but not always. Think of it like hundreds of people sharing a spoon, gross.
Perhaps a donkey ride across the beach? These rides began in the Victorian era and continue to this day at Blackpool amongst others. The wind in their hair as the donkey trotted (well slowly walked) along the sand.
The best way to cool off was probably a dip in the sea. What better way. Not for me, seaweed, crabs, fish no thank you. Apparently you’re not supposed to squeal and run out of the sea claiming something touched your foot! Why? But not just a normal dip in the sea for our ancestors there was etiquette to consider. You had to be correctly dressed.
Ladies wore full length dresses to begin with made from a non transparent fabric and weighted at the hem so it wouldn’t float up and show an ankle, the horror! Later into the Victorian era women began to wear a pair of bloomers with a short dress over the top. Modesty at all times. Men began by wearing what looked like woollen long johns from ankle to wrist. Over time these became shorter and looked more like a modern ladies racing swimsuit. I’ve got a photo somewhere of my Grandpa in a thigh length bathing suit that when it got wet stretched out of all shape.
But I hear you cry how did they change? Well the answer was one of two ways. There was the bathing machine. This was effectively a garden shed on wheels. You went inside and got changed and then stepped out in you bathing attire. Some were wheeled from the promenade to the sea so you stepped out into the sea and then when you were done you were returned to dry land. It was usually only the rich who were taken into the sea. You could also use a sort of beach tent thing. We had one. It was like a huge towel with a hole in the top for your head. You simply got changed underneath it. Surfers use them these days to get out of wet suits. Another way ladies got around the need for a changing room was to use the bell dress type thing.
I’ll be honest it looks more like a drowning aid than a swimming dress.
So this summer when you’re lying on the beach in your chosen attire think of your Victorian ancestors and be grateful no to have to wear a suit or crinoline.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!