July Books 27) Broadstairs: Heydays and Nowadays, by Nick Evans
Staying overnight with cousins in Broadstairs, home of Charles Dickens and childhood home of Edward Heath; a pleasant and quiet resort town which is actually built around two sandy beaches on the edge of Kent. This book collects classic photographs of the town and compares them with the way the same places look today (well, 2007); what struck me was that if anything the last few decades have seen some of the overdevelopment of the early twentieth century rolled back, and the town is if anything prettier now. Walking along the esplanade yesterday I felt a little as if something was missing on the headland between the beaches; I may have been feeling the absence of the Grand Hotel, a hulking mass which dominated Louisa Bay until it was demolished in the 1990s. Some of the nicer-looking outlying hotels have also been demolished, and others are private houses or in other lines of business. Mass tourism no longer happens here as it did fifty years ago, but rather than sink into decay the town has trimmed back and reoriented itself for a new era of day trippers and London commuters.
(One particularly jarring note from the past: the 1935 picture of "Uncle Mack" and his five fellow minstrels, all in blackface; apparently there is film of them here. It is practically the most dated photograph in the book.)