Summer Vacation, Victorian-Style, AND Two Giveaways!

We’re starting our weekend early at the blog today, just because–it’s summer! I always think of summer as a lazy, quiet time, with long evenings spent on the patio with a glass of wine, vacations in locales exotic, familiar, and somewhere in between, and schlepping the kid to day camp. Naturally, his favorite camp is a 25 minute drive.

I tend to think of Victorian era summers as similarly lazy and quiet, although I have no idea if they truly were. I’ve written before how affordable train travel revolutionized the way middle-class Victorians spent their leisure time, and summer was a popular time to take that vacation they’d saved for all year. Victorians traveled a lot, including women on their own, and their travels took them not just to the Continent, but to the Middle East, Asia, India, Australia, and America.

Brighton, Frederick William Woledge. 1840.

But for those less adventurous souls, a trip to the seaside was just the thing. For those who wished to stay fairly close to London, Brighton was only fifty miles away, easily accessible by train. Sometimes called “London-by-the-Sea,” Brighton was a mini-London without the smog. Bradshaw in his 1863 Railway Handbook writes of the traveler’s first view of Brighton from the train station: The twang of saltiness that greets the lip, and the freshening invigorating tone of the breeze, are agreeable proofs, on your first entrance, of the bracing bleak atmosphere that characterises the climate, though in various portions of the town, more shelter, the air will be found adapted to the exigencies of the most delicate invalid. The panoramic view that first bursts upon the eye is so striking of itself, that it may be worth while glancing at it in detail, for the benefit of the visitor’s future peregrinations.

Brighton, from the Pier, ca 1890. Source: Photochrom Print Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He also notes,

Bathing establishments, too, are almost as numerous [as accommodations], whilst, for amusements, there is no provincial town in the kingdom that can offer such a variety of assembly and concert-rooms, libraries, bazaars, and other expedients for slaughtering our common enemy–Time.

The more things change…

Blackpool Promenade, 1898




Brighton, of course, wasn’t the only seaside destination. For those in the North, a popular resort was Blackpool, on the northwest coast. When the cotton mills in Lancashire closed for a week every  summer, the town was inundated with factory workers seeking a respite from their usual lives.

Southend Pier, date unknown. By Snapshots Of The Past (Wikimedia Commons).



On the east coast, holidaymakers sought their summer break in Southend-on-Sea, situated at the mouth of the Thames in Essex, famous for its pleasure pier and miles of sandy beaches. Currently the longest pleasure pier in the world at over a mile long, in 1848 it was the longest pier in Europe at 7,000 feet long. Our friend Mr. Bradshaw notes of Southend in 1863, “The company that assemble here in the season will be found more select than at Margate, but it suffers severely in its climate when an easterly wind prevails…[Its pier] forms besides a pleasant promenade for those who love to enjoy the salubrity of the sea-breeze…”


Woman in bathing suit, 1893.

There were countless other resorts dotting the English coast–Margate, Ramsgate, Tynemouth, Dover, etc.–and at most of them you could find the ubiquitous bathing machine. These cabanas on wheels would be pushed out in the water, where bathers could descend into the sea, modesty intact, via a set of stairs.

Many of these resorts remain popular today–minus the bathing machines.

What’s your favorite summer vacation spot? If you comment below, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a $10 Amazon gift card OR an autographed copy of one of my books, your choice. (I will use a random name generator to pull the name of a commenter on July 31, when the Summer Blog Hop has concluded!)

And now that you’ve finished taking the seaside air with me, click here to visit my fellow Wild Rose authors on their summer blogs. Each blog offers another glimpse at summer–and possibly another giveaway–so be sure to check them all out. You can also enter to win a Kindle Fire from Wild Rose Press using the Rafflecopter below. Thanks for visiting and happy Summer!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bradshaw’s Descriptive Railway Hand-Book of Great Britain and Ireland (1863).

43 Replies to “Summer Vacation, Victorian-Style, AND Two Giveaways!”

  1. I enjoyed the old pictures and especially the “woman in the bathing suit.” My how life has evolved since those early years. Thank you for such a interesting post!

  2. I always loved spending the summer at Rushford Lake when I was a kid.We had 2 cottages.We spent our days swimming fishing and water skiing.It was always so carefree and fun.

  3. Lovely relaxing blog post. My best summer holidays are always island getaways. Any island, I’m not fussy. The more remote, the better. Zanzibar, Mauritius, The Maldives ….. love them all! xx

    1. Very exotic! I tend to think of islands as winter destinations, but perhaps that’s because it’s so cold in Cleveland I just love to get away to a tropical island in the winter. Not that it happens all that often, but I can dream! 🙂

  4. Fascinating post! I’m afraid my favorite place to be in the summer is right on my own porch with a beverage. I like to travel but there’s no place like home 🙂 Best of luck with your books.

    1. I have to say, I’m not sure I’d mind a bathing machine. You can get out into the water without too many prying eyes. 🙂

    1. The Delaware beaches are beautiful! I used to visit once upon a time when I lived near DC. How nice to live in a place you like to vacation. 🙂

  5. Very interesting article. I loved the old pictures. I think I could be quite happy summering in Brighton Beach. I’d even like the old style swimsuits…no worries about exposing too much of anything.

  6. My family goes to a friends house in Michigan. They live near a state park and a little fast river runs through their property. We all go tubing or kayaking. It’s lots of fun and a great way to cool off when it’s really hot. Thanks.

    1. Thank you! It’s one of my favorite things to do, especially when things get stressful in today’s crazy life. 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about Victorian England’s summertime getaways. Very very interesting!
    My favorite Summer escape is Colorado. I love the hikes and the rivers and the concerts. 🙂 But just going to the beach an hour from my house is pretty fabulous, too.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kimberly! I love Colorado, but unfortunately I’ve only visited once, so far. I’m more of a mountain girl than a beach girl. 🙂

    1. What a nice thing to say, Nell! Thank you! I’ve never been to the Outer Banks, even though I have friends who go often, but I hear it’s really lovely. Sounds good to me right about now!

  8. I wish I could spend a summer in the Victorian period–if I could spend it with Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor, once Edward VIII. What an interesting period and you have captured the essence in this post. Thoroughly enjoyed.

    1. Wouldn’t he be interesting to talk to? I wonder what would have happened if someone had steered him away from Wallis… I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for stopping by!

  9. I kind of wish they still made bathing machines. I hate wearing a bathing suit, and there are times I’d to preserve my modesty. Thanks for the interesting post.

  10. Very enjoyable post, I’m always interested in learning more about the Victorians (Even though I write futuristic!) Sadly, we don’t take many summer vacations, having a dog and two horses to support, but a couple of years ago my husband and I had our first overseas holiday together and visited Ohio and Pennsylvania, where I not only met up with some lovely on-line friends but saw some wonderful and really interesting places – including covered bridges which which were a real novelty as we don’t get them here in the UK. From the rivers and forests of Pennsylvania, to the lakes and fascinating Amish communities in Ohio, it was the best holiday we’ve ever had!

    1. The Victorians shaped our world so much I think we can gain a lot of insight from them, even when thinking about the future. 🙂 I live only about 20 miles from Ohio Amish country–it is beautiful countryside. Thanks for visiting, Hywela!

  11. Hi everyone! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting on this post. As promised, I have run the names of all the commenters through a Random Name Picker, and the winner of the $10 Amazon gift card (or a signed copy of one of my books) is…

    Anni Fife!

    Congratulations, Anni! Please email me at with your preference and contact information.

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