Tag Archives: Sea

Art Walk Porty


awp 2019

‘Souvenir’ began as a growing community-making project involving the postcard form, papermaking, and memories of visiting and living in Portobello. Starting points came from the research into the Portobello Paper Mill which once operated from Bridge Street and the tradition of ‘sending home a postcard’ when on your holidays. Within the 2018 theme of ‘Pleasure Ground’, the project sought to explore individual responses to begin to build a collective memory of the heritage of this seaside town. This was achieved via a series of drop-in workshops at Bellfield and on the Prom over the weekends of last year’s Art Walk. This is an evolving body of work and the results, thus far, will be exhibited as part of this year’s Art in Shops programme at the Cancer Research Shop, 208 Portobello High Street (Venue 32).

It always comes back to the inky joy of the word-work and making. The Book Arts permit explorations beyond and between the words and becomes a place to start, continue and re-visit conversations that got lost along the way.

Bookwork and prints on show will include pieces from ‘Souvenir: Wish You Were Here?’ made in response to last year’s Art Walk Porty.


During the Art Walk this year, I will be printing postcards with the public from my own c{art}. We will be responding to the theme of ‘Land Mark’ and Portobello’s industry history, particularly related to the Paper Mill which once operated in Bridge Street, as well as the tradition of  ‘sending home a postcard’ when on your holidays.





Souvenir: Postcards


1.  a thing that is kept that recalls a certain place, occasion, or person; memento; token; keepsake; trophy; a relic

remembrance, nostalgia

C18: from French, from (se) souvenir to remember, from Latin subvenīre to come to mind, from sub- up to + venīre to come

‘Without the owner’s input, the symbolic meaning is invisible and cannot be articulated.’

Souvenirs as objects include mass-produced T-shirts, collectables, fridge magnets, mugs, bowls, ashtrays, fudge and of course, my favourite, the one you share with others, the postcard.

Riso trial pc front

Riso trail pc back

Sent from Portobello August 1907


The first postcard was sent in the 1840s to the writer Theodore Hook in Fulham, London. It was a satirical poke at the Post office and it has been suggested that he sent it to himself. 

Postcards evolved from an existing tradition of envelopes with pictures printed upon them. Innovations in the fledgling postal system (such as the uniform penny postage stamps and the idea to charge by weight, not distance) quickly became popular allowing the sender to post these ‘postcard letters’ for a very small fee.

Austria became the first country to publish a postcard and the idea quickly spread across Europe. Images (before photography) came via the lithographic print and as the technology for mass printing of artwork advanced publishers experimented with special edition postcard sets.

The Post Office started selling postcards (without images but with stamp printed and included in the price) in 1870. Picture postcards featuring the holiday destination became increasingly popular across Europe. This led to the Royal Mail giving permission for publishers to produce and distribute postcards that could be sent through the post in 1894.

Picture postcards became very popular with the tourist market. Views of the sites were a great way of sharing your destination with those back home with a ‘wish you were here’. J. Valentine & Co. of Dundee became internationally famous as producers of Picture Postcards. James Valentine started his business in 1851 and by 1860 was selling topographical views. They gained huge success when they aimed their views to the middle and upper-class tourist markets.

‘The workforce grew from 14 in 1851 to one hundred by 1886 but this expanded tenfold consequent on William’s decision in 1898 to enter the picture postcard market. The effect on the business was to increase the few hundred new negatives added to stock annually to many thousand new views being recorded.’*

Aspects that could be associated with the leisure market were popular along with ‘stately homes, historic ruins, great open spaces, beaches, the grandeur and curiosity of nature and great engineering feats.’* Valentine’s often sourced their images from local photographers.


Bathing Pool and Amusement Park, Portobello (with Paper Mill). Postcard by Valentine’s of Dundee


Divided Back Postcard. Image courtesy of Portobello Heritage Trust

The early postcards saw people add their message to the front but from 1902 the Post Office allowed the introduction of the ‘divided back’. On the left the message could be written and the right for the address. This left the front free for the picture only.

Postcards were an ideal way of sending short messages. They became incredibly popular as they were cheap, reliable and with multi-deliveries throughout the day, a very quick and effective way of communicating.

With the advent of social media their popularity was declining but as with vinyl, they appear to be making a comeback… as with vinyl, for some they never went away…




Souvenir: Come and have a go!

Portobello-Postcard-01Portobello Postcard-02

Pleasure Ground

Sea bathing had begun c. 1790 and coincided with the building of the Georgina Villas on Bath Street. From 1801, the idea of Portobello as a bathing place started to grow. In 1806 a suite of hot and cold salt-water baths was installed at the foot of Regent Street and Bath Street, overlooking the sea.


Portobello Beach Huts

‘Portobello was to Edinburgh what Brighton & Hove were to London, without the Prince Regent and his Pavilion’

In the Victorian era, the population of Portobello doubled. There was a general move in the early 19th century from rural to more the more urban areas. Millions of migrants across the UK moved to towards the towns and cities as industry and commerce developed and transport improved. The industries were originally founded on available natural resources. For Portobello it was the clay which was used for making bricks, tiles and earthenware and the sand, for making glass. Though the industry had attracted a migrant population by 1891 Portobello was already becoming less of a ‘place to work’. It became a place to retire to, a health spa and a bracing seaside resort. The ‘Brighton of Scotland’ became a haven for widows, annuitants and people ‘living on private means’. Increasingly the middle classes built their summer residencies in Portobello.

Portobello’s hey-day was from before WW1 until WW2. There were day-trippers and holiday-makers (the latter predominately from Glasgow). The ‘Glasgow Four Week’ (last two weeks July + first two of August was the highlight of the season when there was an invasion of ‘cloth caps, pipes and net bags’. Before WW1 Portobello boasted the Promenade Pier (from which excursions by steamer could be taken) and the Edinburgh Marine Gardens and Zoological Park (which opened in 1909 and saw 750,000 visitors in the first year). Captain Spence made daily ascents in his hot air balloon, parachuted into the sea and was rescued, W. H. Ewen (the only Scotsman at the time to hold a pilot’s licence) offered flying displays and ‘Daredevil Cormack’ dived from a 70ft tower into a small water tank. The coming of the railway and the increase in leisure time for the working classes added up to Portobello becoming the pre-eminent holiday destination in Scotland.

Every second shop could hardly be seen because of their being heavily decorated with outside wares. They sold every kind of knick-knack, cans of hot water for picnickers and the Italian community brought ice cream and fish and chips.


Portobello Pier, 1904 from ‘Portobello in Old Picture Postcards’ (1985)

Portobello Pier was opened in 1871. It was 381m long promenade pier complete with pavilion and bandstand. It was the only one of its kind in Scotland.