September 10, 2014, by Kathryn Steenson
Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
We were inspired to write a post about all things Skeggy by the recent BBC News story featuring 104-year-old Sid Pope, who has visited Skegness every year since he was 10.
A tiny fishing village of just 350 people at the time of the 1871 census, the coming of the railway a few years later boosted the population by almost a thousand people in a decade. Skegness became a popular holiday destination for working-class day-trippers from the Midlands. In 1908, Great Northern Railways encouraged visitors with the slogan “Skegness is so bracing” in reference to the cold wind that sweeps in off the North Sea (having spent many childhood summers in Skeggy, I can confirm the advertising slogan is accurate, if not enticing).
This colourised postcard of South Parade showing the boarding house ‘Southsea’ (marked with an X), is dated around 1905 (Ref: La Phot 2/166). At this time it was run by Mrs E. Staynes, the aunt of author DH Lawrence, and with whom he stayed. Lawrence was diagnosed as tubercular in 1901 (he eventually died of the disease in 1930) and visited Skegness several times throughout his life, to convalesce from his ‘weak chest’ in the bracing sea air.
Skegness peaked as a tourist destination in the 1920s and 1930s, and one of its claims to fame is that the first of the chain of Butlin’s holiday camps opened there in 1936. These next few postcards date from the town’s heyday. Despite the miles and miles of sandy beach that drew the crowds, neither of the holidaymakers who sent postcards chose one with a good photo of it! These two postcards (Ref: MS 19/117-118) were sent to Frank and Gertrude Bowley of Nottingham in 1938. One shows the pier and putting green, and the other a small boat on an artificial waterway.
The Bowleys had apparently never visited Skegness, as the sender writes that “You must come here in a couple of years’ time and bring Evan for a holiday, it’s perfect for children and their parents. The sands are lovely”.
As the summer draws to a close, it’s probably getting too late for many more donkey rides on the beach this year, but there’s always next year. I hope Mr Pope will be fit and well enough to join the thousands of other day-trippers enjoying fish and chips on the seafront next summer.