the guardian Sat 28 March 2009
John Cowper Powys vividly recalled ogling girls' ankles on Brighton beach, as well as the "smells of seaweed and fish and tar and sweat and sandwiches and rope and paint and cheap perfumes and foam drenched petticoats and bilge-water and beer". A professor at Sussex University, Fred Gray's study of seaside architecture is rooted in his knowledge of Brighton, "Britain's greatest seaside resort". In the 1730s, the Rev William Clarke and his wife more or less invented the seaside holiday when they told their friends of lazy days spent "sunning" themselves on the beach, bathing and listening to the "plashing of the waves against the cliffs". They stayed at Brighthelmstone, later renamed Brighton. Although Designing the Seaside is dry at times, the wonderful illustrations (including McGill's saucy postcards) more than compensate. From pavilions and piers (including the scandalous demise of Brighton's West Pier), to bungalows, beach huts and bathing machines ("the first purpose-designed form of seaside architecture"), this is a fine celebration of a very English invention.