I’m doing some research and thought yu might like a brief history of English holidays.
The summer holiday can be traced back as far as 1626, with the discovery of a spring at Scarborough. Drinking sea water was thought to be a cure for gout, and men and women bathed together naked.
Before the First World War, only the posh took summer holidays. By the end of the 1930s it was the norm for 15 million people. In 1938 the Holidays With Pay Act became law, guaranteeing everyone at least one week’s paid holiday off per year, although there were exemptions; farm workers, servants and shop workers had to negotiate their breaks.
Trade unions negotiated deals for their members and others took unpaid leave. The mill workers and industrial staff of the North took breaks so that the machinery could be serviced, but Londoners increasingly took holidays for granted. Cars made a difference; by 1939 there were 3 million on the road, two thirds of them private.
By the end of the 1930s people bought houses at the coast – an elegant art deco house was roughly twice the cost of a car, at around £450. Seaside towns were illuminated for all to enjoy, and most electrical goods arrived. (Television was for the wealthy, whereas now it’s increasingly for the poor).
Many took their breaks to the coast in winter, the theory being that it was still warmer at the coast, and resorts were chosen for their historical value. The town of Newquay went to great lengths to stress that there was nothing modern or flashy about it in guidebooks, and that the name went back 500 years.
A 1925 Guide to Hastings explained that on holiday ‘we become truly ourselves and tastes which have had to be suppressed, and dreams which have been restricted to golden moments snatched from duty are released. We are resolved to do as we please, and all we ask of the town we are visiting is that it shall have something for each inclination.’
Why don’t we speak like that now?
More to follow…