Seaside Postcards

Seaside Postcards

We’ve sent Seaside Postcards since the postal service began, they’re a greeting from holiday makers through the years. Did you know that their history dates back to 1894? It was way back then that Royal Mail gave publishers permission to make and send postcards through the post.

As the twentieth century turned and the British public learned how to holiday in their millions, the seaside postcard grew in popularity. It became a tradition to send scenic views back to friends and family at home.

The Rise and Fall of Seaside Postcards

ETW Dennis of Scarborough printed the first seaside postcards. Only two 1894 postmarked examples of them survive today.

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In the 1930’s the saucy seaside postcard appeared, but by the 70’s and 80’s they’d gone full circle and went out of fashion again.

Original postcards are very collectible and the rare ones sell for large sums of money. We’ve got a small collection here at Visit Fylde Coast. In the ‘Gallery’ sections of each of our websites you can enjoy a walk down memory lane with some copyright-expired examples.

North Pier in 1908, Tuck Postcards
North Pier in 1908, Tuck Postcards

You’ll still see seaside postcards on sale at shops all along the Fylde Coast. They’re part of our countries culture, and you’ll easily find them on sale in Blackpool, Fleetwood, Cleveleys and St Annes.

The weather is always perfect in a postcard. Have you ever seen one picturing a typical wet and windy day at the coast? John Hinde was the photographer who captured many of these brighter than bright days. They’re an interesting record of social history in Britain.

Saucy Seaside Postcards

The saucy seaside postcard came along in the 1930’s and quickly became everyone’s favourite message. At the height of their popularity they were selling at a rate of 16 odd million a year.

The best known of the saucy postcard artists was probably Donald McGill.

You can see the collection at the Donald McGill Museum in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. He created over 12,000 designs throughout his career!

Saucy Seaside Postcard by Donald McGill
Saucy Seaside Postcard by Donald McGill

Censorship of Saucy Seaside Postcards

The newly elected 1950’s Conservative government were concerned about the content of the saucy seaside postcard. So the Postcard Censor was born.

Saucy postcard disapproved by Blackpool Postcard Censorship Board
Saucy postcard disapproved by Blackpool Postcard Censorship Board. Photo: Donald McGill Museum

Dan Robertson is the Curator of Local History & Archaeology at the Royal Pavilion & Museums in Brighton.

A couple of years ago Visit Fylde Coast was contacted by Dan, looking for information. He’d received a request from a student at the University of Chichester, looking for more information.

The student was completing a project on seaside postcards, particularly the saucy ones. They were looking for information relating to the Postcard Censor linked to the council. It was they who banned postcards regarded as too rude.

Postcard censorship in Brighton

Apparently the postcard censor in Brighton was busy banning and destroying saucy/lewd postcards by the likes of McGill.

There’s reference to 17,989 postcards being seized and destroyed in Brighton, and a bonfire that destroyed 113 of McGill’s postcards in 1953. The student mentioned a Picture Post article published 29 August 1953. The police confiscated cards from five shops in Brighton!

Do you know anything about postcard censorship imposed by Blackpool police/council/shop committees in the 1950s? We know that lots of you share our interest in local history from the country’s entertainment capital!

If you’ve got something to add, we’d still like to hear from you. Just get in touch, email jane@theRabbitPatch.co.uk

You told us…

We asked the question about local postcard censorship in the Blackpool’s Past – The Original Facebook group.

Stella Siddall told us that there’s a collection of old censored Blackpool postcards in the local history library. If anyone fancies popping in, Tony Sharkey was the man to talk to but has since retired. Just ask for any of the heritage assistants who will be able to help you.

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Jill Carruthers is the Exhibitions Assistant at Blackpool Museum Project and she got in touch with more information. She said:

“Tony (Sharkey) had done a great deal of research on this topic so I shall share some of it with you –

More about Postcard Censorship in Blackpool

This article from the Blackpool Herald, dated 3 May 1912, signals the beginning of the censorship committee in Blackpool.

Appointment of a Postcard Censorship Committee, reported in the Blackpool Herald on 3 May 1912
Appointment of a Postcard Censorship Committee, reported in the Blackpool Herald on 3 May 1912

As you can see it was actually a trade matter, not established by the Council or authorities.

This is the follow up, published on 12 May 1912, when the members were selected.

News about Postcard Censorship Board, Evening Gazette 10 May 1912
News about Postcard Censorship Board, Evening Gazette 10 May 1912

Although it drops off the bottom of the scan these were: Mr Beswick (tobacconist), Mr Coop (bookseller & stationer), Mr Green (draper), Mr Riley (furniture dealer), Mr Sweeten (bookseller), and Pilling & Whittaker (subpostmasters).

“Some of the cards still on view are not only grossly offensive in design, but their ‘double entendre’ is very pronounced.”

After the War (circa 1950) there was a renewed campaign against what were seen as lax standards, with prosecutions in various parts of the country. In Nov 1950 the Gazette said “the only solution seems to be a broadminded and experienced panel of censors”.

Blackpool Postcard Censorship Board

In Nov 1951 Blackpool Postcard Censorship Board met for the first time.

This Evening Gazette article from 18 March 1952 reports ‘of 1865 cards seen, 1539 were approved and 326 disapproved (= 17.5%)’

News about Postcard Censorship Board
News about Postcard Censorship Board, Evening Gazette 18 March 1952

By 1954 there were trade censor bodies in Hastings, Cleethorpes and Brighton as well as Blackpool (IOM committee was official).  The Blackpool 1951 committee included a vicar, landlady, bank manager (retired), solicitor and a stationer. It was disbanded in 1968.

Canon Pritchard was a member of Blackpool censorship board from 1959-1965. He said they reached the end of the road when a shop in Aberystwyth placed notices in their shop window saying “For sale – postcards banned by the Blackpool Censorship Board”.

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Robert Allen told us his father was called George Allen and he was in Blackpool in 1952. But he’s 99.9% sure it wasn’t him!

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Do you fancy adding any to your own collection? Censored postcards occasionally turn up on ebay according to Andy Morley. He showed us this lot which was for sale at the time.

Approved Blackpool seaside postcards for sale on eBay
Approved Blackpool seaside postcards for sale on eBay

Anything to add?

If you’ve got any information to add please get in touch with us here at Live Blackpool/Visit Fylde Coast.

Email jane@theRabbitPatch.co.uk or ring 07932 143431

We’ll share your information here.

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