The ‘Now and Then’ column with Aled Jones: Charting changes along the seafront area near the Spa

This week regular contributor Aled Jones treats Free Press to another ‘Now and Then’ column.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 17th June 2022, 10:46 am
Updated Friday, 17th June 2022, 10:59 am
This postcard from around 1904 shows the gated area where a stroll along the south seafront cost 6d. Postcard courtesy of Aled Jones
This postcard from around 1904 shows the gated area where a stroll along the south seafront cost 6d. Postcard courtesy of Aled Jones

Mr Jones compares and contrasts a vintage postcard of the seafront near the Spa in 1904 with a modern day photograph.

Mr Jones said: “For many, the Edwardian era was a beautiful time to be alive.

Britain had so much to be hopeful for, the British Empire was still the global superpower, the nation’s industrial base was stronger than ever, and the working-class was allowed to play more of a role in politics.

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The area around the Spa complex as it looks today. Photo courtesy of Aled Jones

“Bridlington’s south seafront is an historic snapshot of Edwardian high-fashion in this truly elegant postcard from c.1904. It shows a quite romanticised idea of the resort, and yet, what really strikes you is how barely recognisable the bygone scene is compared to the modern-day photograph. In fact, it could almost have been taken on a different planet.

“To begin with, the gated entrance to the Spa Gardens, with its fine-looking kiosks and turnstiles, has long since disappeared.

“It’s a reminder of a time when a stroll along the south seafront was not free – a daily ticket cost 6d. Note the uniformed gate attendant (right), also the sign on the left, with a finger pointing the way to the sands.

“What was arguably Bridlington’s most up-market café has also been long gone.

“Field’s Oriental Café, as it was known, was located on the immediate right, just inside the gated entrance, and can clearly be seen in the postcard.

“Along with a domed bandstand and other buildings, it was demolished by the council in 1925 and replaced with the new Spa Royal Hall at a cost to the town of £50,000, or £3.25 million by today’s money!

“Apart from the balconied apartments on the right, not a single edifice that features in the postcard has survived into the modern age.

“Indeed, there isn’t left here one brick of the original Spa Theatre! Built in 1896, it was totally destroyed by fire in October 1906, only two years after the picture postcard was taken. Its grander Edwardian replacement still survives to this day.

“In the background is South Cliff which was soon to become modern South Marine Drive. It shows a few houses perched atop there, but most actually weren’t built until after the First World War.

“Note the well-dressed lady with the cute pug, on the right of the postcard. No dogs were allowed along the south promenade in those stricter days, therefore I doubt very much she was on her way for afternoon tea at the Spa.

“Note, too, the marvellously wide proportions of the south seafront compared to today, the modernised Spa Royal Hall now taking up most of the lost space.”