Middle-class versus working-class resorts
The account by Walton in Exploration 4: 'The Victorian Seaside' emphasises the variety among British seaside resorts: Blackpool and Southend were predominantly working-class, others had a more middle-class clientele, perhaps the best example being Eastbourne. Moreover, many seaside resorts were to an extent segregated: middle-class visitors would be concentrated at one end of the town, or even in an adjacent or nearby resort. These 'satellite resorts' included Lytham St. Anne's near Blackpool and Cliftonville, a suburb of Margate (see Waller). At Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, the local landowners excluded any kind of amenity that might prove attractive to working-class consumers (Walton): this gave Frinton a very different aspect to nearby Clacton.
Resorts were often more than just holiday towns
The seaside resort often included many other social and occupational groups. Many, like Sidmouth in Devon and Great Yarmouth on the East Anglian coast, were also fishing centres; and towns like Bournemouth and Eastbourne contained many annuitants and retirees, features for which they are still well known. Like the Victorian town more generally, there was no typical Victorian seaside resort.
Critics of the seaside resort
Naturally, the development of the seaside resort was not without its critics. Resorts, as Walton suggests in exploration 4, were accused of fostering sexual immorality, and more generally of encouraging vulgar cultural forms. Even in the mid-nineteenth century, Margate had a reputation for 'vulgarity' and 'tawdriness' (Waller), and the working-class character of some resorts was the target for middle-class condemnation and rebuke.
The culture of the seaside resort was complex, and the reactions it provoked were often both condemnatory and contradictory.