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Brighton beach in 1920s?

Is the caption right?

I have been trawling through the Brighton Herald photograph collection and was fascinated by this beach scene. The museum caption tells us that it is Brighton beach, but bearing in mind the mix-up on the last image, I am taking nothing for granted.

Strange beach fashions?

Regardless of its actual location, it is so interesting to see how the majority of the beach goers are dressed. Men are to be seen either in a full suit, or shirt and trousers; one is even carrying a small suitcase. The ladies are almost without exception fully dressed; some are wearing dresses, hats and kitten heels.

Questions for you

I was especially interested in what looks like a row of wooden benches on the left hand side of the image. I have never seen this in any other beach photos – do you know about these? So here are your challenges – is it Brighton beach – what was that unlikely line of benches? And can you find anyone in a bathing costume – male or female?

Brighton beach in the late 1930s
Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove

Comments about this page

  • This looks like Dalton’s Beach immediately east of the Palace Pier. I knew the late Jean Penney (nee Dalton) whose family owned the Pier and after whom the beach was named; her uncle owned it and her dad was the manager. The wooden benches were on Brighton beach until WWII (I believe) and do feature in other images from the early 20th century.

    By Geoffrey Mead (31/05/2017)
  • Yes Brighton beach deffo.  If you enlarge the image it says “Brighton Fastest” top LH side.  Also the sea wall and under cliff colonnade walk confirm it’s Brighton. Benches I don’t know. The entrance to the “Scooter Car Rides, Brighton’s Fastest” is also a bit of a mystery; it looks like a permanent structure but too close to the sea.  I think it can be explained by long shore drift and the beach now much deeper. Another interesting point/mystery is the sign for “Bathing Pool”. The lady sitting on the white object in front of the Bathing Pool sign is in swimming costume, and also the man to her left, but there aren’t many.

    By Peter Groves (31/05/2017)
  • I would imagine the Bathing Pool sign really meant that you could catch Volks Railway along to Black Rock Pool. If you look carefully you can just see the Madeira Lift. The man with the little suitcase was probably a preacher. There were many of these about in those days of all denominations and they always had a little suitcase to carry their Bible and prayer books in.

    By Tim Sargeant (01/06/2017)
  • Definitely Dalton’s beach, one along to the east from the Palace Pier. The late 1930s date seems correct as the sign Bathing Pool refers to the Black Rock Pool which opened in 1936. Volk’s Railway could be used to travel along the seafront to visit the pool. The Aquarium Station of this railway was moved from the Palace Pier to its present site in the 1930s and can just be seen to the right of the shelter, top left. The sign ‘Scooter Car Rides. Brighton’s Fastest’ probably refers to the ‘Rytecraft Scooter Car’, a miniature car which with adapted ‘bumpers’ which became a fairground ride in the 1930s and could be either electric or petrol powered. The crowd of onlookers near the flagpole are at the site of the later post war bumper car track.

    By John Blackwell (01/06/2017)
  • I believe the Rytecraft cars mentioned by John above were moved to the West Pier after the War on a little track to the right hand side quite near the entrance.

    By Tim Sargeant (01/06/2017)
  • What a fantastic picture. Those crowds. My idea of hell, although I bet there was a great atmosphere amongst them all. Thanks for filling in the details everyone. MB&H posters are a mine of information.

    By Janet Beal (02/06/2017)
  • Two things come to mind here. 1. the deckchair attendants were busy and there are not many people that have swinsuits on. 2. all of them are in their coats and Sunday best.

    By Barry (02/06/2017)
  • They are the famous “Day Trippers” who would pour out of Brighton Station from London just for a few hours on a bank holiday. They would start their exodus up West Street and Queen’s Road at around 5 o’clock, so it wasn’t feasible to bring swim gear (no room for changing clothes anyway!). I have found one young lady though in a black one-piece costume: cast your eye vertically from the man with a suitcase to the first, rare patch of vacant pebbles, and she’s standing just to the left, about to go down for a dip. Day tripping lasted well into the 60s, until the advent of the Mods and Rockers when trippers would be herded en masse back up Queen’s Road by the police. Living at Kemp Town meant we could keep well away from the town centre at these times!

    By Brian Hatley (07/06/2017)
  • Returning to Jennifer’s ‘bench’ query, I was in The Keep this week and saw excellent B&W images of the Chain Pier beach just east of this view, dated 1890s, and there were many wooden benches west of the Pier.

    By Geoffrey Mead (08/06/2017)
  • Bathing suits,  hmmmm?  Well, bearing in mind swimsuits were not so skimpy in those days, it meant ignoring the rolled up trousers and the tucked in skirts, and the fact that the picture fades away to blotchy, but I have come up with a total of nine real swimsuits….so far.  Still looking!

    By Sandra Bohtlingk (10/06/2017)
  • Love this photo, how crowded the beach and not one sun hat in view? The caption is 1930’s not 20’s which is probably more correct. Men did not carry bags with towel etc, so think male with small suitcase had his towel and sandwiches in it. I would hate to visit such an overcrowded beach but these people knew nothing better. I visited a beach on the East coast of Central Florida, very crowded, but found a lovely bare patch of sand, just near the water. My son and I settled. Soon up walks a life guard, “sorry you cannot sit there, our station is just up from you and we leave a wide pathway to the water in case of emergency. Wondered why beach goers around had left this area clear. Now we know, we felt rather stupid gathering our belongings and attempting to find another area.

    By Bonny Cother (27/09/2020)

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