The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Holiday Making

Category: Land + People

It is the sea that dominates the holiday programme in Britain. With no place in Britain more than 70 miles from the coast anyone can easily get to a sea-side resort of some kind in a day’s travel. Probably more people between 35 and 64 than any other adults go to the sea, some because they have become used to it, and many because it is the best and easiest way of keeping the children happy. Tent life has enormous appeal to many. An English family with five children think nothing of taking their fifth-hand old car andragged tent all the way down to Cornwall from London every Saturday in order to sleep under canvas for the very few hours left after getting there on Saturday night. Very few people in Britain have summer-houses to visit for holidays and week-ends. However caravans (or, as Americans would call them, “trailers’’) are very popular. Some people bring their own caravans pulling them behind their cars, others hire caravans already in position. A caravan, pulled by the family car, can provide good opportunities for holiday making in solitude, but many people also like the friendly atmosphere generated in an organised caravan site.

There is another sort of family holiday very popular in overcrowded England, the holiday camp. Sixty years old, it has swollen from a modest beginning to take over large slices of the sea-side coast despite the fury and calumny of ousted landladies and hotels. If lower-middle class England believes in mutely “keeping itself to itself’’, working-class England still enjoys boisterous holidays, spending freely, and having a whale of a week, which is all most of them get.

The amusements are largely of an energetic kind. The accent is heavily on competitive sport, with all facilities for tennis, bathing, golfing, boxing, cricket, football, skating, billiards, quoits, bowls, and of late motor-cycling and the trampoline.

For poor Londoners, the traditional holiday has for a century been hop-picking in Kent. Each September thousands of families still leave the slums and tenements, and today sometimes the new council houses and flats, and swarm to the Kentish hop-fields. They bring their own crockery, tables, chairs, curtains, heaters, even wallpaper, and set up a home in corrugated iron huts provided by the proprietors of the hop-fields. They do their own cooking and washing and housework, as well as picking hops from seven in the morning till five in the evening. The bigger children also pick hops. The youngest tumble about on the grass or in the mud.

Although today the machines pick over half the hops and the easier half at that, although the price paid for picking has not gone up in proportion to the cost of living, yet people to do come. Many have never taken any other kind of holiday.

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