The Evolution of Tourism in Britain 1066 to 2000

138 TUTOR: Allan Brodie (MA Hons MA PhD)

The course will examine the history of tourism in Britain from the Middle Ages to the present day. It will cover how places became destinations and were transformed in the process to create such different places as Bath, Blackpool and Brighton. It will also examine how transport transformed tourism and how the growing wealth of Britain spread the holiday habit from the wealthy few in the 18th century to the mass tourism of the 20th century. A number of famous and unknown diarists and authors will provide interesting insights into the changing tastes of holidaymakers.

1 AM
AM course

Course Notes

This course will tell the history of tourism from 1066 to the present day in the country that created the modern seaside holiday. Britain was the first country to feel the impact of the Industrial Revolutions and alongside it there was a quieter leisure revolution created due to the country's growing wealth. Time and disposable income led to holidays for growing numbers of people until they became almost universal by the 20th century.

This course will look at tourist destinations, how people went on holiday and what they did when they arrived. It will do this through a wide range of historical sources, including the towns themselves, documents, photographs, advertisements, maps and illustrations. It will also use the letters and diaries of a wide range of famous, unknown and even anonymous travellers to understand how tourism has evolved during the past 1000 years.

Day 1: Pilgrimage and discovery - Early Tourism in Britain 1066 - 1640

After an introduction concerning the essentials for tourism to take place, the session will look at early tourism from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 17th century. This was a time when travel was difficult, and few written sources survive but thankfully enough record some of the sights seen and sites visited. Topics discussed will include:


- Introduction and overview of the history of tourism

- Medieval travel combining business with pleasure

- Pilgrimage

- Investigative and inquisitive tourism in the 16th and 17th centuries

Day 2: Taking the Waters - visiting spas 1540-1750

From the 16th century onwards, people visited spas to improve their health and to socialise with fellow wealthy 'patients'. The central theme today will be how a number of towns developed to cater for this new activity and the session will also describe the science and social dimension of taking the waters at places as different as Bath and Buxton, and Turnbridge Wells and Scarborough. The session will examine:


- Bath and the origins of spas

- 17th century spas and the development of scientific studies of water

- The Georgian spa - and it's not all fun!

- The spa v the seaside


Day 3: The Georgians discover the Seaside 1700-1847

Why did people decide to visit the seaside? Which were the earliest seaside resorts? And who were the first sea bathers? This session will see how handfuls of bathers gradually became thousands by the early 19th century and it will consider their role in the creation of the seaside resort. It will also look at how spas declined faced with competition from seaside resorts but would be reborn in the 1840s with new treatments for a new era. Topics include:


- The First Seaside Resorts

- The science of sea bathing and how to bathe in the sea

- A day at a Georgian seaside resort

- The beginning of mass tourism - steamers and seaside holidays

- Reviving the spa - Hydrotherapy and a new form of spa


Day 4: All aboard - Victorian and 20th century seaside holidays 1840-2000

The aim today will be to examine the growth of popular mass holidaymaking at the seaside and to consider how resorts have weathered many storms during the 20th century. The modest-sized resorts of the early days would become vast settlements welcoming millions for a day trip or a week's holiday. New technologies would transform the character of the holiday experience and giant structures would come to dominate some seafronts. This session will include:


- The coming of the railways

- Millions come to seaside resorts

- New technologies, new possibilities for holidays

- The popular seaside holiday in the 20th century

- Post-war seaside resorts.

- The future of seaside holidays


Day 5: Exploring the travel diaries and writings of Georgian and Victorian holidaymakers

This session will look in more depth at various diaries to examine how people travelled, what they went to see and how they recorded their holiday. They also serve to paint a picture of some of the character of early travellers as they set out to discover and record the country in which they lived. Among the sources examined will be:


- An unpublished holiday diary of 1724

- The unpublished diary of a Cambridge Student 1725

- Bishop Pococke's travels in mid-18th century Britain (and beyond)

- The Journals of Rt Hon John Byng

- The writings of William and Catherine Hutton

- Jane Austen's letters

- William Fry's holiday Journal 1826

- Daniel Benham's Holidays from 1820s-1850s

- The Revd Kilvert's Diary



Suggested reading:


Allan Brodie and Gary Winter England's Seaside Resorts. London: English Heritage 2007

Allan Brodie The Seafront. Swindon: Historic England, 2018

Allan Brodie Tourism and the Changing Face of the British Isles. Swindon: Historic England, 2019

Allan Brodie England's Seaside Heritage from the Air. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press 2021

Sue Berry Georgian Brighton. Chichester: Phillimore and Co. Ltd, 2005

Kathryn Ferry The British Seaside Holiday. Shire History 2009

Kathryn Ferry Seaside 100: A History of the British Seaside in 100 Objects. Unicorn Publishing, 2020

Fred Gray Designing the Seaside: architecture, society and nature. London: Reaktion 2006

Phyllis Hembry The English Spa 1560-1815: A Social History. London: The Athlone Press 1990

Phyllis Hembry British Spas from 1815 to the Present: A Social History. London: The Athlone Press 1997

John K Walton The English seaside resort: a social history, 1750-1914. Leicester: Leicester University Press 1983

John K Walton The British Seaside: holidays and resorts in the twentieth century. Manchester: Manchester University Press 2000



Course Tutor

Allan Brodie

MA Hons MA PhD

About Allan


Allan is a historian and architectural historian who worked for Historic England (and its predecessors) since 1986; he is now a Visiting Fellow at Bournemouth University. Originally a medievalist, an interest that he still pursues actively, he has researched everything from a Roman fort to a 20th century airport.


For the past 20 years he has been studying the history of tourism and has written a number of monographs on the subject. His works includeEngland's Seaside Resorts(2007),Travel and Tourism in Britain, 1700-1914(2014),The Seafront(2018),Tourism and the Changing Face of the British Isles(2019) andEngland's Seaside Heritage from the Air(2021). He has also written studies of individual resorts, including Margate, Weymouth, Blackpool and Weston-super-Mare.


Allan is also the co-author of Behind Bars: The Hidden Architecture of English Prisons and English Prisons: an architectural history. He has also written a number of papers on prisons, including on their locations in towns, a history of their closures and the future of prison tourism.


Allan is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society.


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All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 8 Jul - 12 Jul

WK 2 15 Jul - 19 Jul

WK 3 22 Jul - 26 Jul

WK 4 29 Jul - 2 Aug

Morning Courses

9.15AM to 12.15PM

Afternoon Courses

1.45PM to 4.30PM

All Day Courses

9.15AM to 4.30PM