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Wish you were beside the seaside?

Written on the: July 21, 2018 by Helen Brenton

Torquay – Wish you were here?

As someone who is interested in local history, and the evolution of our seaside town, I just knew the ‘Wish You Were Here’ postcard exhibition at Torre Abbey would be right up my street. Or should I say prom!

So with a tiddley-om-pom-pom I strolled along, trying to recall when the last time was that I sent a post-card… or received one!

The first picture post-card is thought to date back to 1840, and the fashion for sending them as souvenirs was sparked in 1889 following the opening of the Eiffel Tower – it was very ‘a la mode’ to let friends know you had been!

By 1902, Royal Mail had allowed the sending of cards without an envelope and then progressed to dividing them so that the message, previously written on the front, could be added on the reverse with the address.

The sending of postcards reached its peak in the 50s and 60s when holidays were no longer just for the wealthy! With more and more people heading to seaside resorts, the Great British Holiday institution had begun, and people wanted to let everyone know where they were!

Who remembers the saucy seaside photo tradition featuring large bosomed ladies and henpecked husbands?! Deemed unfit for the general public, prudish officials had these banned nearly 50 years ago! Ooo errrĀ missis!

  • Where I work!
  • Part of the exhibition
  • Everything under the sun!
  • Where I run French Club!
  • Saucy seaside cards!
  • My local beach!


So fast forward through the years and the development of the British holiday postcard has gone through many fashions, until it started to die out completely with the rise of social media instant communication. However, apparently it is the new on trend thing for millennialsĀ to do -to send a postcard home from their gap year travels!

So, as I immersed myself in the history of the Torquay holiday postcard, I was captivated to see so many familiar views changing slowly over the decades. Not only noting the morphing and even disappearing landmarks in some vistas coupled with the diverse fashions of the period, but also recognising how photography, equipment, techniques, and print media also moved through one century and into the next offering us different images of the identical view.

Strolling away thinking how much I like to be beside the seaside, I asked myself the question ‘Wish you were here?’ Answers on a postcard, please!!!!


(The exhibition runs until the end of August at Torre Abbey, Torquay)



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