Being interested in all thing seaside, I have long wanted to see an actual Victorian Bathing Machine in person. So it was with great anticipation that I saw the most exclusive bathing machine of them all this past week – Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s own bathing machine on her very own private beach at the sublime Osborne House near Ryde on the Isle of Wight.
These huts on wheels were used to protect a bather’s modesty with participants entering the hut in full costume on the shore, changing into a bathing costume within its limited confines before the entire contraption was pulled into the sea either by horse, by steam or by human muscle. Steps down allowed the bather to protect their modesty and enter the sea unseen.
The bathing machine was a device popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and was part of the proper etiquette for sea-bathing. Although more usually used by women, they were also used by gentlemen too on the UK’s segregated beaches so nobody of the opposite sex might catch sight of them in their bathing attire. Bathing machines would often be equipped with a small flag which could be raised by the bather as a signal to the driver that they were ready to return to shore.
By 1901, legal segregation of bathing areas ended in Britain and the use of the bathing machine declined rapidly. By the 1920’s, they were almost extinct or were used as stationary changing rooms.
Thank goodness that Osborne had the foresight to keep Her Majesty’s machine in clearly prime working order! This one was even plumbed in (ahem – I add delicately …)
Go visit Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s private beach and her summer residence at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, operated by English Heritage. Osborne House, York Avenue, East Cowes, Isle of Wight – PO32 6JX. Follow them on twitter: @EHOsborneHouse and on Facebook/Osborne House. Isle of Wight Tourism is also on twitter @IWTourism and on Facebook/Visit Isle of Wight.
Entrance is free to English Heritage members, adult entrance is from GBP13.90*, children (five to 15) GBP8.30* and a family ticket is price from GBP36.10*. *Excludes gift aid. I took HoverTravel over to the Isle of Wight and then hopped onto a bus which stops outside of Osborne House.
Contributor & Photographer: Sue Lowry
Follow A3Traveller on Twitter: @A3Traveller and Sue Lowry on Google +, YouTube, Linkedin, Flickr and Pinterest. I also operate another blog for my company, Magellan PR – http://www.magellanstraits.com. They can be followed on Twitter: @MagellanPR, on Google+, on YouTube, on Pinterest and on Facebook.