Summer by the Sea, 1903 (Sheringham),

Summer by the Sea, 1903 (Sheringham).

Photos from the Pete Grafton Collection.

Sheringham beach, 1903.  From a family album of photos from a summer stay in Sheringham, Norfolk, 1903.

The photos were kept in a Kodak photo album.

“Sheringham” inscription, inside cover page of the Kodak photo album.


“A Pretty Corner, Sheringham”.  Crop from a J.Salmon postcard, pre-1914, but published after the coming of the railway to Sheringham.

The railway came to Sheringham on the Norfolk coast in 1887.  This was quite late for coastal villages and small towns that were to become seaside holiday destinations. For instance, the railway came to Weston-super-Mare in 1841, Southport in 1848, Girvan in 1860 and Newquay in 1876.

Train in a Sheringham garden, 1903.  Photo from the Kodak family album.

Although two brick works are shown in the Sheringham area on a 1906 Ordnance Survey map it’s likely the railway brought the materials, and probably the men that built The Grand Hotel.    It opened  in 1898.

The Grand Hotel, Sheringham.   It had a ballroom, a billiards room, and a bowling green. 

Sheringham was typical of many British seaside resorts that developed quickly with the coming of a railway.  Where once there had been just fields and cottages, and “pretty corners”, or no corners at all seaside resorts sprang up.   There was a public – a population – ready and eager to soak up the sea, the sun (when it appeared) and the fun.

Crowds on North Pier, Blackpool, Lancashire, Easter, 1914.

Sheringham was a three and a quarter hour train journey from London Liverpool Street station, changing at Norwich.

London Liverpool Street station, morning rush-hour, pre-1914.

Because Sheringham was not close to industrial cities and towns the seaside holiday-makers were mostly middle class, and entrepeneurs were quick to build detached house with large gardens for summer lettings, or ownership.

A Sheringham house, with Mother, child and on the left, nanny/domestic servant.  Circa 1903.  From the Kodak family album.

London & North Eastern Railways map of train lines in the Norfolk and adjacent area, 1930.  Sheringham is at the top, near Cromer.

The original 1887 Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway line went from Norwich to Sheringham via Melton Constable and then on to Cromer Beach, where it terminated.  This crop is from how the local railway lines had developed by 1930, by which time they were owned by LNER.  Source LNER route map.

Page from the Kodak Sheringham photo album, 1903.

The Kodak London address on the inside cover of the Kodak photo album –  “43, Clerkenwell Road” – dates the album to 1903. The year before and the years after Kodak’s London address was different.  The album may have been old stock when bought by the wife or husband (featured in the photos that follow) but with the immense popularity of photography ushered in by roll film Kodak cameras, and the demand for photo albums to put them in, it is reasonable to assume that the photos that follow were taken in the summer of 1903 0r the summer of 1904.

Kodak camera promotion advertisement.  The Kodak woman with the distinct striped dress was introduced in their advertising in 1910.

Sheringham Beach, 1903.

The child with his back to us is one of the three children that the mother, and the father, (when he was down at the weekends) took photos of.  We know nothing about the family, beyond what we can speculate from the contents in the photos that follow.  They were probably renting the house (rather than owning it) for the summer;  they had a nanny/domestic servant and Dad, when we see him, seems to be a dapper middle class gent, and definitely not “trade”.  Most of those on the beach and elsewhere that we see are also middle class.  There is one exception, where the gent is possibly “trade”, and possibly from nearby Norwich.  It is assumed the other holidaymakers were mostly from London and the Home Counties.  The Kodak photo album was bought by Pete Grafton in 2008 in a second-hand bookshop.


By the Sea

“Sheringham is So….” 1903. 

Five years later: John Hassal’s artwork for the first “Skegness is So Bracing” poster, 1908.

Young boy – the young son of the family – on the beach, Sheringham, 1903.

Nanny/domestic servant, young son* sitting on the beach, his sister standing facing us and found on the beach beach-mate. The onlooking dog is not part of the family.

* It is strongly believed that despite the hat, and skirted garments the young child sitting on the beach is a boy, the son of the family.   There was a fashion of dressing small boys in dresses and other skirted garments from the late nineteenth century well into the Edwardian period.  This fashion did not survive the First World War. This fashion was separate from the velvet jackets and long hair style inspired by the novel Little Lord Fauntleroy.  The following photo, believed to have been taken in the USA in the late nineteenth century is an example of boys wearing dresses.

Studio photo of three boys in dresses. Late nineteenth century, believed to be USA. Photo source House of Mirth.

Boy in dress with dog, late nineteenth century. Unknown photo source.

Sister and her brother, Sheringham, 1903.

Older sister, her brother, and the younger sister with her back to us holding a dog.  In the sea,  Sheringham, 1903.

We will see a photo of the dog – a puppy, again, in the garden of the house it is presumed the family are renting for the summer.

Believed to be the Nanny/domestic servant, walking down to the sea with the young brother.  Photo believed to have been taken by Mum. Dad seemed to come down to Sheringham at the weekends.  Sheringham, 1903.

Believed to be Mum, in her swimsuit. Note the swimsuit detail on her shoulders, absent in the Nanny’s swimsuit.  Sheringham, 1903.

Mum with her son and daughter. Sheringham, 1903.

The beach at Sheringham had a mixture of stretches of sand, stretches of large pebbles, and a mixture of both.  Sheringham, 1903.

Brother and sister, with beach spades, pebble beach, cool summer day.  Sheringham, 1903.

Sandy beach with brother and his sisters.  Note the bather. Coolish day, Sheringham, 1903.

Dapper Dad, on the beach. It is believed he came down to Sheringham at weekends. 1903.

Dad with his daughters and son. Sheringham beach, 1903.

Dad with his younger daughter, outside their changing hut. Overcast cool day. The child and woman to their right have use of the adjoining beach hut.

Dad outside changing hut with his eldest daughter. The changing hut looks cheaply built. Would it survive a storm? The initials probably refer to the hirer of these huts.  Update:  The hut initials are those of local fisherman and Sheringham lifeboat crew member Jimmy Dumble who had a concession for beach huts on this section of the beach – West Beach.  My thanks to Tim Groves, chair of the Sheringham Museum Trust for this information. (1)

Nanny with the younger daughter and son. Note the beach changing huts in the background. Sheringham, 1903.

Nanny with the children in the water. Sheringham, 1903.

Younger daughter on a nice warm sea-side day, with rowing boat.  Note the finger print caused when the film was developed.   Sheringham, 1903.

Nanny with the little boy. Her facial dark skin colour is probably caused by the limitations of the then widely used Ortho film.  It was not good at capturing the different light tones and certain colours.  In some photos of the children their faces are accurately captured whilst their hands in the shadows can be very dark. The limitations of ortho film can be seen particularly in old photos of summer gardens where green vegetable leaves and orange flowers can be rendered almost black.

A sunnier beach day, Nanny with the little boy.

Snapshot taken by either Mum or Dad.  Note the Grand Hotel up on the left. The children, dressed very differently, are not the family children.

“The Promenade, Sheringham.”  A Jarrold’s Series postcard. No date.

Homeward bound.  The Nanny with the little boy in his perambulator, his younger sister on the grass bank. 


House & Garden

The holiday home and garden. Mum, son and on the left, the nanny.  Sheringham, 1903.

The brick built house with cement rendering would have been built following the arrival of the railway in 1887.  There’s about ten years of climbing ivy growth on the house, which would roughly date it to 1893.  It’s a hot day with integral sun blinds out, and upstairs windows open.  There’s a curious ad-hoc net curtain, and curtain pieces set-up in the windows, as if they have been rigged up by the family, who it is assumed are renting for the summer. As there is a roll blind drawn three-quarters of the way down in the large upstairs window it is assumed the ad-hoc curtaining is to give some privacy, rather than pull curtains to, or blinds right down on hot sunny days.

The tree on the right is struggling.

There’s a soil pipe, seen rising above the guttering, next to a small open window, which will be the toilet.  Whether it fed into a septic tank or whether mains sewage had been installed for the new houses is not known.  House lighting would probably have been by gas, though many older houses and buildings in the town would still be lit by paraffin lamps.  The kitchen could possible have a gas oven, a relatively new innovation in those days. The town’s gas works (it’s assumed Sheringham had a gas works) would run on coal, originally brought to the town by coastal shipping, and then carted on by horses. With the coming of the railway, coal would be brought by train.  Local stations up and down the land had a siding or sidings and a coal yard, right up to the 1960s.  Even after many lines were axed, the coal yard would survive near the derelict country station.  Going by the double chimneys, there at least 6 fireplaces in the house, though one could be for a coal burning kitchen range.

In 1903 families would make their own amusement: cards, games, reading, singing and music, if there was a piano.  The “Talking Machine” –  the gramophone, was starting to become popular, but was not yet that widespread.  Few houses in 1903 had telephones, including even those of upper class folk, but there were three Royal Mail letter and postcard deliveries a day, and a telegram could be sent, say from London, and delivered to the house on the same day.

Mum, Son and daughters on the very large lawn of the house. Glimpse of another house built around the same time.  Photo most likely taken by Dad or the eldest daughter.  Sheringham, 1903.

Crop of the above photograph.  Mum, son and daughter in the garden.  Note the nanny/domestic servant in the background. It looks as if she is weeding a flower border. Sheringham, 1903.

This was a happy family, with a great sense of fun….


The son on his toy train. Note the shadow of Dad’s peaked cap, as he takes the photo.

Nanny/domestic servant/wicket-keeper. Note the “at home” pinafore and the white cuffs she wears over her by-the-sea “Nanny” dress.  Nice swinging “hit it for 6” action from the batswoman.


Lovely to see the hint of a smile on the Nanny. She looks like a well liked/loved Nanny. Note her cap: this photo is taken on a different occasion from the cricket match.

The new puppy?

Crop from above photo.  Puppy dog, Sheringham, 1903.  Note the girls’ sandals.  We saw the puppy carried by the younger daughter in the sea in an earlier photo.

Son’s wardrobe adjustment by Mum…

… Adjusted.

It’s imagined that the house and the surrounding houses with these large gardens have been jostled in by shoe-horned homes since the 1970s where the gardens once were.  In fact, it’s possible some of these pre-1914  houses were demolished to maximise the amount of new homes that could be built on the site.


Fishermen, Boats & Fishing

The coming of the railway to Sheringham in 1887 not only brought city and suburban middle class families to what had been a by-the-sea fishing hamlet, it also benefited the local fishermen.   Their catch of fresh crabs, lobsters and whelks, and cod were sent on the up train to the Billingsgate fish market in London.  The Wikipedia entry on Sheringham estimates that because of the coming of the railway the number of Sheringham fishing boats harvesting the sea reached a peak of 200.

Fisherman repairing lobster pot with promenading ladies in the background. Note what looks like a fairly new concrete slip, possibly for the lifeboat.  Photo by either Dad or Mum.  Update:  The building is the Henry Ramey Lifeboat House. My thanks to Brian Farrow of Sheringham RNLI for this information. (2)  Sheringham 1903.

Fishermen by their boats and view towards the lifeboat station.  This photo is believed to have been taken at the same time as the one above.  (Note the fisherman repairing his pot in the background, behind the boats.)   Sheringham, 1903.

The Sheringham Lifeboat. The son and his younger sister in the mid-ground. Update:  The lifeboat is most likely the William Bennett, in service 1886 – 1904.  It has been described as a very difficult boat to launch. For this information and identification of the Lifeboat House (see the two photos above) my thanks to Brian Farrow of the Sheringham RNLI  (2)  Sheringham 1903.

The Sheringham lifeboat William Bennet on Beach Road, and fishermen, with son and sister looking at the lifeboat. My thanks to Brian Farrow, Sheringham RNLI for this information. (2)    Sheringham, 1903.

Sheringham Lifeboat William Bennett, with the younger sister looking at a group of fisherman. By her dress we can tell that this photograph was taken on a warmer day than the previous photo. The girl in the foreground is probably a local girl. Note her different type of clothes  Also note the gas light. Lifeboat information from Brian Farrow, Sheringham RNLI.  (2)   Sheringham, 1903.

Sheringham summer visitors looking down at a probable hauling of nets.  Note  on the foreground right what seems to be the head and shoulders of Dad as he takes the photograph, a shadow of a lamp standard and then the long shadow of a boy. Mid summer’s evening,  Sheringham, 1903.

Crop of the above photo showing the onlookers and a bath chair. On the left, a fingerprint smudge from photo developing.

2nd crop of the main photo. Note the “For Sale” sign on the building on the right, and dogs.

Harvesting the sea at Sheringham. Visitors and fisherfolk on the beach. Photo taken on a different, overcast day to the photo above.  Note the wall (blurred, foreground) as in above photo. Sheringham,1903.

Fisherwomen on the beach, and typical type of fishing boat used at Sheringham.  1903.

Two fishing boats beached, and changing tents for the tourists. A woman reads a book and visitors on the beach.   A warm calm day.  Sheringham 1903.


After the Storm

Photos after a storm, or a high tide with a strong on-shore wind.

Beach storm damage, Sheringham, summer, 1903.


Here and There

The elder daughter side-saddle on a donkey. The boy will be earning some useful money. Note the ragged ends to his breeches. The school leaving age was 13 in 1903.  In agricultural areas many parents took their children temporary out of school for seasonal work, such as pea or fruit picking.  There were Truancy Officers, but the extra money coming into the household was an opportunity not to be missed, and would be looked forward to each year.   The boy in the photograph may well have left school in the summer of 1903.  He looks as if he could be 13.  

Nanny and the son, with arm of Mum, near the golf links above the town. Photo believed to have been taken by Dad.

A wonderful photo of the son at the same location. The photo is unusual, like the one above, because of the sky and white cloud detail, lacking in all the other photos in this collection.  This suggests that Dad has put a yellow filter over the lens, that brings out such detail.

A “candid” photo near the golf links above the town, with the Grand Hotel in the background. It’s a lovely study, and Dad, who probably took it, might have been “tickled pink” by the subject matter. It looks as if the gent is in “trade”. 

Another “candid photo”, this time of canoodling couples on the beach at Yarmouth, 1892.  Yarmouth is further down the coast from Sheringham. This type of “behaviour” would not be permissible for the middle class seaside visitor, and would rarely be seen, if at all, in 1903 Sheringham.  Photo: Paul Martin. (1)

The son in his summer finery in a lane. Going by the details, it’s reasonably sure that the house in the background is the same house that he and his sisters, his  Mum and Dad nanny/domestic and the puppy are staying in.  The two white painted posts will be an entrance into the garden, near where the photo was taken of the manicured gravel path, with Mum and his two sisters and the puppy dog on the lawn.  Houses seen beyond the garden in some of the garden photos will be over to the right (unseen). 

The two sisters gingerly crossing a trickle of a stream. In the background it looks as if the Fair has come to Sheringham.  The tents and horse-drawn vehicles are in too good a condition for it to be a gypsy camp.

Crop from the above photograph.

Cattle and ducks, or geese, in a field, from the same outing, going by the clothes. The function of the lone pole is a mystery. Sheringham, 1903.

Sunny but windy.

“And dolly came too”. Family walk in the nearby countryside, with nanny pushing the perambulator. Dolly has her own  perambulator. This dolly perambulator is seen in one of the photos taken in the garden. Dad would have taken this photo.


There is still a train service to Sheringham from London via Norwich. The Sheringham Grand Hotel was demolished in 1974.  The Sheringham fishing fleet and the men have almost disappeared.  The Wikipedia entry for Sheringham says that there are now just eight boats operated single-handedly.

And the family in the photo above and the Nanny, and Dad?  Nothing, as yet, is known about them.  There were two World Wars to come.  Was Dad conscripted into the First World War?  The son would have been about 39 when the Second World War began. Did the nanny work in ammunitions in the First World War and earn a lot more money than being a nanny/domestic?  And did Mum volunteer for the Voluntary Aid Detachments – the VADs?

After the First World War  the fashion for dressing young middle class boys in dresses and skirted garments ceased, whilst young women bobbed their hair audaciously – boyishly -short and their chest was minimised.

If Nanny, or the daughters or the son had had children their surviving grandchildren would now be in the 70s to mid 90s age range, and there would be great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren texting, Messaging each other,  ordering their grocery and clothes online and phoning for Indian curries and Italian pizzas to be delivered to their door.  They’re mostly drinking French, Californian and Australian wines along with Czech pilsner.  They’re driving German, French, Japanese and South Korean cars, and they Skype and Facetime each other –  relatives and friends in Australia, or those taking a holiday on the hot seaside beaches of Majorca and Miami.

But, despite all the changes, dollies still go on outings,  and puppy-dogs still bring warmth and delight to households.





(3) See Victorian Candid Camera: Paul Martin 1864 – 1944, edited by Bill Jay, David & Charles, 1973.

Further Reading

The Snapshot Photograph: the rise of popular photography 1888 – 1939, Brian Coe and Paul Gates,  Ash & Grant, 1977.

The Seaside by Sarah Howell, Studio Vista, 1974.


If you spot mistakes of fact or can add further information to these photos of Sheringham, do please get in touch using the Leave a Reply box below. Thank-you.


With the exception of Pin Interest, for use of these photos from the Sheringham 1903 Family Photo Album contact Pete Grafton in the Contact Box at the foot of this Post.


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