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Black and white and beautiful – aerial photography as it used to be

Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection
The pier at Clacton-on-Sea (1938) (Image credit: Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection)

England’s Seaside Heritage from the Air, a new book out today, illustrates England’s rich seaside heritage as few holidaymakers ever see it – from the air.

Published by Historic England, England’s Seaside Heritage from the Air is written by  tourism history expert Allan Brodie and features more than 150 aerial photographs of England’s best-loved seaside resorts.

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In an age where aerial imagery has become commonplace thanks to digital camera and drone technology, there is something reassuringly old-fashioned about the black and white coastal collection in England’s Seaside Heritage from the Air. The images were taken between the 1920s and the 1950s, when England’s coastal destinations were nearing the peak of their popularity, and form part of the Aerofilms Collection, held by the Historic England Archive.

Part coffee-table book, part social documentary, England’s Seaside Heritage from the Air tells the story of how England’s seaside resorts developed both as places of leisure and as working towns and offers an insight into traditional aerial photography, an art which has largely been consigned to history.

Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection

The open air swimming baths and Victoria Pier, Blackpool (1929) (Image credit: Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection)

The new book particularly shines a light on England’s seaside towns during the interwar yeas, when resorts expanded rapidly and created new outdoor pools and entertainment facilities for millions of holidaymakers.

The photographs capture a wide array of traditional English coastal resorts,  including Morecambe, Blackpool, Walton-on-the-Naze, Weston-super-Mare, Clacton-on-Sea,  Southport and Weymouth, many of which have now changed almost beyond recognition.

Author Allan Brodie said: "The photographs in the book hopefully capture the joys of our coastal resorts, including some fascinating features that alas no longer survive, as well as passing moments in the story of our seaside holidays.” 

The Aerofilms Collection in the Historic England Archive was created by Aerofilms Ltd in 1919 and includes over a million urban, suburban, rural, coastal and industrial aerial photographs of Britain.

For more information or to buy England’s Seaside Heritage from the Air visit the Liverpool University Press website.

Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection

The Midland Hotel and seafront, Morecambe (1934) (Image credit: Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection)

Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection

Weymouth beach and esplanade (1932) (Image credit: Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection)

Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection

Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens (1920) (Image credit: Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection)

Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection

The steam yacht Alacrity, Brownsea Island (1933) (Image credit: Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection)

Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection

Flooding around Canvey Island (1953) (Image credit: Historic England Archive, AeroFilms Collection)

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