Pink kitsch – Victorian sentimentality and seaside souvenirs

Pink-shoe-Yarmouth-Souvenir

After Christmas and the New Year we are all encouraged to turn our attention to holidays. During the Victorian era with the coming of the railways more and more people could afford to take a holiday. And, a stay at the seaside became a family treat. Great Yarmouth on the east coast of Norfolk with its beautiful long sandy beach rapidly developed to attract the ‘new’ holidaymaker. Naturally, at the end of their visit people wanted to buy souvenirs as little reminders of their stay, and a porcelain plate decorated with pictures of various seaside attractions made the perfect keepsake.

pink souvenir plate Great Yarmouth
Printed transfers of ‘The Beach at Yarmouth’, ‘Town Hall Yarmouth’ and ‘Britannia Pier Yarmouth’ on a lustre pink souvenir plate. (Late Victorian)
Time and Tide Museum, Gt Yarmouth, Norfolk.

Plates, cups and saucers, mugs, jugs, and unusually, ceramic shoes were decorated with an appropriate topographical scene transferred on to white porcelain or earthenware. Coloured glazes then finished off the pieces. Glazes of pale blue and green were used, but pink was the most popular colour towards the end of the 19th century.

The popular Victorian preference for saccharin images of young children is used on this 'A Present From Yarmouth' plate. Time and Tide Museum,  Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.
The popular Victorian preference for saccharin images of young children is used on this ‘A Present From Yarmouth’ plate.
Time and Tide Museum,
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

However, a visitor didn’t have to buy the standard view of the seaside pier, they could always choose a ceramic adorned with the ever popular theme pictures of children.

The above pieces sum up in three objects so much about how we, in the 21st century, view the everyday Victorian and their questionable taste, but pause a moment and note that pink kitsch is alive and kicking today – not least in this pair of pink resin reindeers.

pink reindeers
Two pink resin reindeers curtesy of the shop ‘Holy Kitsch!’, Sydney, Australia.
(I just couldn’t bring myself to post pics of any of the truly, truly kitsch reindeers currently available – plastic, fluffy and cartoony)

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

4 thoughts on “Pink kitsch – Victorian sentimentality and seaside souvenirs”

  1. This is great tacky old stuff – seems that similar stuff was still available in the 50’s and 60’s at sea side resorts. At least it was biodegradable though – all the plastic souvenirs we produce now is around forever!!

  2. I live near Great Yarmouth and have visited Time and Tide several times. My Dad worked for Yarmouth Borough Council in the Town Hall and my Mum’s Dad grew up there. My Mum has just bought a plate like this with more pictures in a jumble sale. I said we could give it to the Time and Tide but now I know they have one we can keep it for ourselves! I don’t find it kitsch at all. The images are of historic interest to us. The spire on St Nicholas church looks different now as it was bombed in WWII, the market hadn’t yet been paved. The Town Hall looks similar but the sailing ships are long gone. On the back of the plate is a stamp “made in Germany”! This made my Mum think it must have been made before the Great War. Great Yarmouth would later suffer Zeppelin Raids in the WWI, the first place in UK to be attacked by aerial bombardment and two Yarmouth residents the first ever people to be killed in an air raid. In WWII Great Yarmouth was bombed again in the Blitz.

    1. Although I have recently moved back to Suffolk, I lived in Norwich for 17 years making frequent visits to Great Yarmouth, taking my daughter to experience the English seaside and remembering the times I went as a child. Great Yarmouth’s not the Victorian gem of Dickens’ visits (https://agnesashe.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/yarmouth-could-i-have-a-time-machine-please/), but I was delighted to see that the Time and Tide curators value the traditional seaside souvenirs enough to display them and appreciate them in all their wistful sentimentality. Regretfully, Yarmouth’s not quite the same town of my childhood visits when walking along the Marine Parade amongst the summer crowds was like Oxford Street during the Christmas rush. Every year my parents would take us to shows on the piers and the most memorable was my mother’s favourite, Engelbert Humperdinck. On a sadder note, St Nicholas’s has personal significance for me as it was there, for the last time, that my late mother enjoyed my daughter playing in the youth orchestra.

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