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Changing Times | Guides provide snapshots of holidays past

Seaside entertainment has taken many forms during the history of our town. I have been looking through some old programmes and holiday guides, as we approach our summer season, and thought I would share them with you this week.


One undated programme, possibly early 1900s, advertised the Skating Rink, in the Assembly Rooms. We know this building today as the Picturedrome. There was to be a Fancy Dress Carnival judged by Dr and Mrs. Tidcombe, Mrs Holmes, Lieut J Hancock and J Haviland.


The event was taking place from 7pm until 8.30pm with ‘ordinary skating to follow. This single sheet of advertising shows 12 separate competitions, finishing with God Save The King. The programme cost 1d (0.5p) and was printed by Webster and Webb. So much information about the town in a small one-sided piece of paper, with no advertising. By 1910, the same carnival had built into a larger event, complete with advertising for Harry Mann’s annual sale at his drapery and millinery premises in London Road.


The advertisements within programmes certainly provide a complete snapshot to the town, some of which even provide prices, which I always find interesting. For example, ‘Commer Car Motor Char-a-Bancs’ ran trips to places of local interest. The company was eventually sold to the Southdown Coach Company, which was bought by Stagecoach. At the time of the programme it would cost you 2/6d (12.5p) to travel to Arundel, Goodwood and Selsey Bill. Brighton was only 5/- (25p).


Another advertisement which catered for our entertainment was ‘Wood’, Kodak Specialist, situated in the High Street. They dealt with photographic, sports and stationery supplies.


The range of goods include fishing tackle, model aeroplanes, roller skates, water wings, kites also a wide range of Kodak items. One other advertisement I thought was interesting, was for ‘Power Cigarettes’, a shop in The Arcade.


In 1938, a programme was issued for the ‘Band Enclosure’ where the Municipal Orchestra played daily at 3pm and 8pm with its programme of entertainment.


I did find it interesting that on a Sunday at 11.45am there were ‘Gramophone Recitals,’ sounds interesting!


Admission to these events was 3d (less than (2.5p) or a season ticket cost 17/6d (88p) but this did include listening to the orchestra and for comfort you had a chair. It was only 10/6d (53p) for the orchestra only, if you decided to stand.


This programme also advertised the Pavilion Theatre, where there was dancing twice a week between 11pm and 2am. The admission charge was only 1/6d. Also in 1938 there were advertisements for Pierrotland where Eric Ross was appearing in Dazzle.


The late 1940s town guides were still promoting the town, with the logo of The Royal Key to Health following King George V’s visit in 1929. There were a lower number of advertisements for trades within the town but a large number of hotels.


The Royal Norfolk was advertising it was re-opening in March, 1948, and had central heating throughout after a complete interior rebuilt with gay lounges and a cocktail bar. The restaurant had first class cuisine, wines and dancing. There would have still been certain items under rationing from the war, but the promotion of good food would have been very welcome. I was intrigued to read that there was ‘a telephone in every room and a novel signal system eliminating bells!’


The guide began to evolve and included more of the surrounding areas, but still continued with its statistics of sunshine and rainfall figures and the birth and death rate, which I always found interesting! Lists of organisations, churches, sports clubs and recreation prevailed.


The advent of Butlin’s holiday camp in 1960, with accommodation for 5,000 guests, and the other sites around the town, such as the very popular Riveria Lido, which had opened in 1938 but was closed in the 1980s, brought more visitors. There were also many caravan sites, which started to change the appreciation of accommodation and the associated entertainment available within these sites to entice people to their premises, compared with hotels, without entertainment.


In the 1970s one of the main areas of entertainment was, of course, the Esplanade Theatre, across the road from the Royal Norfolk Hotel. Regular programmes extolled the virtues of the many shows that were held under the title of Dazzle Old Tyme Music Hall, a very popular destination. Other events were promoted such as the Hotham Park bandstand music and, three days per week, ‘Dancing on the lawns,’ with seats at 5p. It was also possible to enter senior and children’s talent competitions in the summer marquee.


The increased ability to travel abroad with the rise of cheaper air flights, saw the English seaside holiday inevitably change from the traditional bed and breakfast, Saturday to Saturday holiday.


By the start of the new millennium, the guides had reduced to A5 in size and included much more text on the various events of which the town were becoming more recognised for, like Sands of Time and the Birdman rally, but sadly a decline in the number of hotels advertising, from the 1960s heyday of over 60 premises offering holiday accommodation.


As technology has entered everyday life, for many environments, the internet has become the home of much more information, with less printed material available.


We should remember that people worked harder over longer hours in the past, had less free time and less entertainment available. So, we should not necessarily wish for the past just try to imagine their enjoyment on the day.


Also would we want to partake of some of the entertainment of the past. Another loss is that future generations will be unable to look back at our lives with an old holiday guide or programme to view the advertisements and activities available to understand our way of life.

Posted in Lifestyle.