Thursday, 8 April 2021

Bathing Machine

Public Domain,

I was reading Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, about Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, renowned nineteenth century fossil-finders / palaentologists from Lyme Regis. 

There is a scene where Elizabeth's younger sister, Margaret, uses a bathing machine to swim in the ocean. 

"The bathing machine, a little closet on a cart, had been pulled far out into the water to give her privacy, and Margaret swam with it between her and the shore, preserving her modesty. Once or twice we caught a glimpse of an arm or a plume of water as she kicked." (page 48)

That got me wondering about any other references to these modesty-preserving contraptions, and their history. There's a pretty good write-up in Wikipedia

Above: Mermaids at Brighton swim behind their bathing machines in this engraving by William Heath, c. 1829. 

Queen Victoria used a bathing machine at Osborne Beach on the Isle of Wight, where it can be viewed. 

There is even a children's picture book entitled
Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine. Read more about it here.

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine | Book by Gloria Whelan, Nancy Carpenter |  Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster AU