Tag: Seaside

Inside a Victorian Bathing Machine

Women bathing in the sea near their bathing machines. Wood engraving by J. Leech.
(Wellcome Images)

During the Victorian era, ladies visiting the public beach couldn’t simply wade out into the water and enjoy an invigorating swim. To protect their modesty, most ladies on a seaside holiday utilized a bathing machine. Though the name puts one in mind of a mechanized device, a bathing machine was really nothing more than a wooden dressing room set up on two wheels. The interior was usually equipped with both an entry and an exit door, and generally featured benches on either side, and hooks on the walls.[…]Continue Reading

Promiscuous Bathing at Margate: Victorian Outrage Over Indecency at the Public Beach

“Indecency among the Margate Bathers comes round as regularly as the season itself.”
The Era, 23 July 1865.

The Harbor, Margate, England, 1890-1900.
(Library of Congress)

In Victorian England, it was generally believed that the sexes should be kept apart when bathing. To that end, the gentlemen’s wheeled bathing machines at the beach were often kept as much as a quarter of a mile away from the ladies’ machines. This allowed both ladies and gentlemen to enter their respective machines, change into their swimming costumes, and descend into the waves for a swim all without exposing themselves to the lascivious gazes of the opposite sex. There was only one problem—many Victorian ladies and gentlemen actually wanted to swim in company with each other. When they did so, the scandalous practice was known as promiscuous bathing.[…]Continue Reading

Seaside Fashions of the 19th Century

“The close of the London and Parisian Season has now arrived, and the Fashionable World has sought the invigorating breezes of the Seaside…”
The Ladies’ Monthly Magazine, 1869.

On the Shores of Bognor Regis by A. M. Rossi, 1887.
On the Shores of Bognor Regis by A. M. Rossi, 1887.

During the 19th century, there was no such thing as a holiday from fashion.  Seaside resorts in England—whether in Brighton, Bournemouth, or Burnham-on-Sea—were as much a place to flaunt one’s style as London itself during the season.  An 1869 issue of the Ladies’ Monthly Magazine even goes so far as to declare:

“…splendid as they have been in the season just ended, dresses to be worn at the Seaside, and at the mansions of our Aristocracy, often surpass those that have been worn in London or Paris, during the height of the Season.”

[…]Continue Reading

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