Wednesday, September 2, 2009
MRS. WIGGINS' BATHING MACHINES
Box and Cox's Mrs. Wiggins made a fortune by running bathing machines in the seaside towns of Margate and Ramsgate. Bathing machines were small huts on wheels, drawn out by horses, and later by steam, into the water, where a visitor could descend into the waves with some privacy, as well as assistance from the attendants or "dippers". While beaches were segregated by gender till late in the century, observers (of both sexes) were known to stand on cliffs and balconies, using spyglasses. (This was especially intimidating in the early part of the century, when swimming was generally done in the nude.)
The bathing machine was perfected at Margate by Benjamin Beale, who added a hoop and canvas device to the exit for added seclusion. Here are some contemporary pictures of the machines:
Please read the articles here and
here to enjoy more about this this topic, and to see a delightful collection of pictures of machines and the people who used them.