Posted in History

Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine, Royal Osborne, Isle of Wight
Summer is now well and truly upon us.  If the thought of donning your swimsuit and heading for the beach fills you with utter dread, then perhaps you should take your cue from Queen Victoria.  Get yourself a bathing machine.  The perfect way to combat the pain of pebbles pressing into the arches of your feet as you make a quick dash to the sea, hoping against hope that no one has noticed your bikini diet, you began in January, has spectacularly failed. 
The bathing machine was invented in the 18th century so that invalids, who were unable to walk to the sea, could ‘take the waters’.   Salt water was believed to be the new miracle cure-all.  The machine also had a secondary function, the preservation of modesty when changing into bathing attire.   When Queen Victoria came to the throne, Brighton was one of the more popular sea-side resorts.  In 1847, at her summer retreat Royal Osborne on the Isle of Wight, Victoria took her first swim in the sea.   Her bathing machine was built by a Portsmouth coachbuilder, had a pitched roof, dressing rooms and plumbed-in WC.  The bathing machine became increasingly popular throughout the second half of the 19th century and even featured in advertisements for Bovril and Beecham’s Pills.   Companies then saw the perfect marketing opportunity and used the side of the bathing machines as advertising billboards.  Pears and Sunlight soap adopted this method of reaching a mass audience and their sales figures soared!
Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine


Social historian, based in the UK.

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