A whole new Victorian seaside infrastructure was built up along the beaches, to entertain the new tourists, now more concerned with end-of-the-pier pleasures than with austere health regimes.The first bandstand wasn’t actually by the sea; it was built in 1887, at Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich, near the iron foundries. The first municipal beach hut was built in Bournemouth in 1909 by Frederick Percy Dolamore, the town’s chief assistant borough engineer and surveyor.
It survives today; last year, it was given a special plaque, commemorating Bournemouth as the home of the beach hut.
Bournemouth now has 1,900 beach huts, and in all there are 20,000 strung across the British coastline – descendants of Victorian bathing machines.
There were two sets of taps in the hotel bedrooms – one with fresh water, the other with magically restorative seawater.
Across the country, seaside holidays – for health or pleasure, or both – grew increasingly popular through the 18th century, helped by George III’s patronage of Weymouth.
Queen Victoria’s Scottish holidays and, a little earlier, the novels of Sir Walter Scott injected romance into the wild landscapes north of the border.
Scotland also became a popular spot for a walking holiday, itself a recent invention: Britain’s first rambling federation, the West of Scotland Ramblers’ Alliance, was founded in 1892 by a group of working-class Glaswegians, keen to explore the lochs and mountains of Argyll, with their bewitching views of the fading blue Hebrides on the western horizon.The spa association is still strong in Bath, Buxton, Cheltenham, Malvern and Leamington Spa.Towns with “wells” in the name are a good giveaway to an early spa – like Tunbridge Wells and Llandrindod Wells.By the 19th century, Scarborough had developed assembly rooms, a bathing house and, in 1826, an iron footbridge across the valley to the new promenade on the clifftop above.Towering over South Bay was the Grand Hotel – the first hotel of that name in the world, and the greatest hotel in Europe when it was built in 1867.The taste for taking the waters then spread across the country.