Scarborough Museums Trust holds a fantastic collection of posters promoting the seaside town dating from the Edwardian period, through the acknowledged heyday of the railway poster in the 1920s and 1930s and onwards to the post-war period and their eventual demise during the 1960s.
With their vivid, sun-drenched images of the sweep of Scarborough’s South Bay, the geography of which has been compared to the French Riviera, they’re enduring, gorgeous and hugely collectable pieces of art that speak of the eras they were created in.
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But of the 200-plus tourism and railway posters in the Scarborough Museum Collections, there’s one dating from the early twentieth century – that can probably lay claim to being the strangest.
It’s thought the locally-based painter and prodigious railway poster designer, Frank H Mason, painted the background of the Yorkshire seaside town’s famous South Bay and beach for the North Eastern Railway poster for the Yorkshire Coast. Illustrator Noel Pocock painted the two weird figures – the walrus and the carpenter from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass – in the foreground.
Mason and Pocock’s signatures are below an ‘acknowledgement and apology’ to Sir John Tenniel, who illustrated the original Alice books. There is also a line from the poem: ‘They cheered like anything to see such quantities of sand’ (the word ‘cheered’ is underlined on the poster, presumably because the original wording is ‘they wept like anything’).
Visitors are urged to contact the Passenger Manager at the North Eastern Railway, York, where they can get a free copy of the booklet Alice in Holidayland, ‘containing a New Version in Picture and Verse of a Story Beloved by Children’.
The now forgotten book was actually published in 1914 and again in the 1920s, and promoted the railway services running to the Yorkshire coast where Alice ‘visits’ some of the resorts in the area including Robin Hood’s Bay, Filey, Whitby and Scarborough.
Other posters in the collection seem less surreal to modern eyes although a family of penguins sheltering from the sun under Japanese parasols were used to sell the Northern seaside resort in the post war period.
Seaside posters were famously made by rail companies such as LNER and later British Rail, to promote their seaside special rail services to the UK’s seaside towns, but the collection also contains a large number of posters commissioned by the Corporation of Scarborough who in the post war years promoted the healthful qualities of the town with the words “Scarborough, The Tonic Holiday”.
The posters are also a fantastic canter through the fashions of the 20th century. There are some stunning Edwardian scenes on the Spa featuring jewel colours and some wonderful fin de siècle feathered hats and draped dresses.
There are Pierrot entertainments of the 1920s and by the 30s, things have become much less formal, with bathers in the town’s open air, sea water swimming pool, the girls all sporty and tomboyish, the boys louche and laid-back.
An air of sobriety returns with the Scarborough visit of the Battleships HMS Rodney and Valiant in summer 1932 but by the 1950s and 1960s, the fashions have become distinctly racier.
If you thought body image issues were a product of the social media age, then take a look at some of the bikinis on gorgeously sun-tanned bodies on display here.
A Day at the Seaside is at the gallery at Woodend until April 26 2020. The gallery is open Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm, and Saturdays and Sundays 10am to 4pm. Entry is free.
The Gallery at Woodend
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
The gallery at woodend supports a diverse range of artists and craftspeople who work in Scarborough and North Yorkshire. Located in the foyer and main Gallery space, our collections offer a range of original art works and comprises a unique assortment of hand made products including fine art, craft, jewellery,…