ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SPRING 2019
The English mania for seaside holidays predated the railways – but the arrival of the steam train supercharged it
Seaside resorts and inland watering places have a long history in England. “One would think the English are ducks,” wrote Horace Walpole in 1790; “they are forever waddling to the waters.”
Walpole was writing at a time when the most prominent resorts were increasing sharply in size. Travel times from London to Brighton and Bath had been much reduced by the introduction of mail coaches in 1784. By the 1820s the Margate hoys had been superseded by
steamers, which did the journey down the Thames in eight hours. In the ﬁrst half of the 19th century, towns to which people travelled for purposes of health and recreation actually expanded at a faster rate than manufacturing towns (though from a much lower base).
The railways cut journey times still further and brought about major growth in seaside towns, as well as the establishment of new settlements, often encouraged by the railway companies themselves (for example in North Wales).