13 July 2018

Sea themed Aberystwyth exhibition to make a splash

Black and white photo of Aberystwyth seafront in days gone by.

Old seaside images of Aberystwyth by Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum
‘Making a Splash’, is a new exhibition that opens at Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth on July 14, taking a look at bathing, the seaside and the Great British summer holiday.

Its launch timed perfectly to coincide with the UK’s heat wave, museum staff have been raiding its stores to find those wild and wonderful knitted swimming costumes once fashionable, as well as the bloomers and bikinis that our grandparents and parents wore to soak up the surf and sun. They’d make quite an impact if worn to the beach today, maybe even start a new trend… 

The museum appealed for old images of holidays at the coast and included some of these in the exhibition. ‘Making a Splash’ runs from July 14 to October 13 as part of the 'Year of the Sea’ theme in Wales. And what a theme – from coastal eateries and unique places to stay, to beach sports and islands to visit, there are many wonderful sea based activities to participate in here in Wales. 
 
Andrea De Rome, Ceredigion Museum’s collection access officer, outlined some of the background to the history of visiting the seaside.

“Ceredigion has attracted visitors from far and wide since it first became known as the Brighton of Wales in the 1790s.” 

Looking back at the early history of those who visited Aberystwyth, Andrea found that the north beach, between the pier and the bandstand, was one of the most popular spots for bathing, even before those structures were there. And bathing meant quite a different thing in the 1800s, as Andrea told us:  
 
“By 1807, there were four bathing machines recorded as being situated on the north beach at Aberystwyth,” she said. “These were wooden structures, like sheds on wheels, from which people could go bathing.
 
“By the middle of the 1820s, there were 21 of these machines. There were complaints that the public would gaze at those bathing, but some had no qualms at being stared at.
 
“There were reports that some local people of both sexes were addicted to the sea and would travel from the country to the coast and plunge naked into the waves.”
 
By the time the train came to the coast in the 1860s sea bathing and the idea of taking a holiday, away from work and home, was very popular. It was also believed that sea bathing was good for your health. We wholeheartedly agree! Take a look at this selection of Welsh beaches we’ve compiled - a visit is bound to be good for your health!
 
The notion of ‘taking the waters’ had long been part of the whole tourist package. Many of the old railway posters advertise a visit to the seaside as being beneficial to your health: ‘Aberystwyth, where there’s health in the air and a friendly sun.’
 
Our joy at the seaside has not diminished. Adventurous bathers leap from the wooden jetty whenever the sun appears and surfers ride the waves from Borth to Aberporth. If you too are feeling daring, you could try one of these special seaside experiences on offer in Wales this summer. 
 
People at the seaside want to laugh and have fun, and Punch and Judy puppet shows were a major form of beach entertainment for centuries. There are a number of puppet shows and workshops on offer at the museum for visitors to the exhibition.
 
Whether you prefer to swim in the shallows or surf the waves, chill under a parasol or paddle-board along the coast, there’s something for everyone in Making a Splash. 
 
For more information about the exhibition, the museum, shows and workshops take a look at their website. To explore Ceredigion, take a look at our picks of things to do and search our accommodation recommendations.