Elmbridge at the Seaside

Victorian postcard showing a seaside scene

This Victorian card with texts by H. M. Burnside shows seaside scenes of children building sandcastles

With many of us rediscovering the pleasures of a “staycation”, it is perhaps fitting that our next Object in Focus encourages us to reflect on the seaside holidays of the past. This beautifully preserved Victorian card provides a glimpse into how people would have enjoyed themselves at the seaside.

The card is held together by delicate pink lace that frames the image. Two pink tassels would have been used to turn the pages. Once opened, it reveals three further illustrations showing a variety of scenes from a seaside holiday. While fashions might have changed, sailor suits and bonnets long being a thing of the past, it appears our seaside activities are much the same. We can see children building sandcastles, constructing sand forts and finally relaxing on the beach – presumably exhausted from the day’s activities!

While there is no written message to let us know who the card was from, it was evidently meaningful to the family who received it. The card was passed down through the generations before being donated to the museum in the 1960s.

Image showing H.M. Burnside's verse on the card, which reads On the surface this card seems to encapsulate a seaside summer holiday, however a close inspection reveals an interesting twist. Each of the images is accompanied by the words of Helen Mary Burnside, a staple in Victorian Christmas cards, and if you take a closer look at the writing you will see that that is exactly what this card is! The clever wordplay “Christmas tide” connects the festive message with the seaside scene.  While the choice of subject might appear unusual, Victorian Christmas cards often included springtime imagery, perhaps to remind people of the things they had to look forward to on cold winter days!

In the collection

Inspired by our latest Object in Focus, we have been searching through our archives to uncover objects and information about the seaside. The railway boom in the Victorian period allowed families to travel to the coast to enjoy seaside resorts, and the residents of Elmbridge were no exception. We have found photographs of Elmbridge residents having fun at the seaside from Brighton to the Isle of Wight.

Watch the video to find out more…

Online collection

Take a look at our online collections page and see what objects you discover. Let us know if you would like them to feature in our next Object in Focus!

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