On this day … 12 May 1838

The Preston Chronicle carried two advertisements for sea bathing at Blackpool. Mr T. Simpson was offering ‘Private sitting rooms to let, fit up for the accommodation of genteel parties’ and including ‘Bathing Machines’. And the other advertisement heralded the arrival of the sea bathing season with the announcement that the Fylde Union Coach would be running between Preston and Blackpool every day except Sunday.

Mr Simpson’s advertisement included the information that he had been offering his services at his cottages for eighteen years, suggesting that sea bathing was probably established at Blackpool from before 1820, when its population was around 500.

Sea bathing advert 1838 - accommodation
Sea bathing advert 1838 - Blackpool coach route

In fact, visitors were certainly bathing in the sea at Blackpool in June 1754, when a Bishop Richard Pococke noted, ‘At Blackpool, near the sea, are accommodations for people who come to bathe.’

The first detailed description of Blackpool as a resort was provided by a William Hutton and his daughter Catherine, from Yorkshire, who reported that visitors in 1760s had been ‘chiefly of the lower class’, including a ‘species called Boltoners’.

These members of the lower class where still among the visitors in 1813, as one observer noted, ‘Among the company are crowds of poor people from the manufacturing towns, who have a high opinion of the efficacy of bathing, maintaining that in the months of August and September there is physic in the sea’

Many of these visitors made their way to the resort on foot, paid nine pence a day for lodgings and generally stayed three or four days. According to another visitor, they were escaping their ‘confined, filthy, smoky’ towns to bathe and drink seawater.

July and August were the popular bathing months, and due decorum was maintained:

A bell rings at the time of bathing, as a signal for the ladies. Some use machines drawn by one horse, a few travel from their apartments in their waterdress, but the majority clothe in the boxes, which stand on the beach for their use. If a gentleman is seen upon the parade he forfeits a bottle of wine. When the ladies retire, the bell rings for the gentlemen, who act a second part in the same scene.

Blackpool was transformed into something resembling its modern form by the arrival of the railway in 1846, which led to the:

… laying out streets and walks – the erection of handsome houses and shops on every side – the establishment of elegant hotels, and billiard, news and coffee rooms, lounges, bazaars &c. – the building of a market place, and the opening and enlargement of places of worship, bespeak the rising importance of the town, and the anxiety of the inhabitants to render the sojourn of their visiters pleasant and comfortable.

Blackpool sea front 1840
Blackpool seafront in 1840 (same source)

Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage by Allan Brodie and Matthew Whitfield: https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/blackpools-seaside-heritage/

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