Inspired by Norfolk Record Office document MC 2784/G/16.
In 1884, Juliet Mary Seebohm – later wife of Sir Rickman John Godlee, one of the first surgeons to remove a brain tumour – holidayed in Cromer with her family and the Weber family. Her sketches show a charming insight into what the families got up to during their stay.
Fourteen cartoon-strip-esque panels show various events from a day at the beach. The
subjects vary from waiting impatiently for an empty bathing machine on the beach, to capsizing a boat in the sea, to playing cricket in the evening. Rhyming verses on the back give us an idea of how Juliet Mary Seebohm saw and interpreted the events. My favourite is the verse on the back of the drawing titled ‘Desertion’:
‘One day the sea is raging wilde
But gentle mayds are brave
One false mayd leapes – the other sinks
Head-first into the wave.’
Eight more, smaller sketches are stuck to a page which looks as if it has been
ripped out of an exercise book. The artistic talent ranges from an intricately drawn child wearing a striped jumper and holding a cricket ball, to a sketch of a lady labelled ‘Hilda’ who isn’t really much more than a glorified stick figure.
M. Seebohm herself doesn’t feature in any of the sketches, showing that she was probably more of an onlooker than a swimmer. But her drawings give us the chance to see her
holiday for ourselves, and to see that, despite the 120 year difference, beach holidays haven’t really changed all that much. The verse on the back of ‘Paradise’ still hold the essence of the joy a beach holiday today can bring:
‘These laydes are in Paradise
All bright, with gladfull glee
Disporting them for houres in
The greene and sunnie sea.’
Written by Eleanor Johnson July 2018