A ‘Victorian’ sea bathing machine commissioned by Dom Bridges – founder of Margate’s seaweed-based body care and perfumery business Haeckels – has finally gained its licence for public use.
The creation, designed by Chloe Young of Re-Works Studio and built by Moosejaw Woodworks, contains a sauna for people to use before cooling off with a dip in the sea.
The machine, which has cost a whopping £100,000 to develop, build and store, began life following a crowdfunder campaign in 2014.
Some £30,000 was raised but complications saw the cost more than treble, resulting in Dom making a decision to sell part of his business to continue funding the venture.
But now, finally, the bathing machine and sauna, which featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on Channel Four back in 2015, has made its appearance on the main sands.
Posting to facebook Dom said: “It feels like it’s taken forever to get to this moment; in reality, it’s taken three years to obtain the license for the bathing machine.
“I’m amazed it’s here and here’s the thing, most of the nay-sayers thought it was something exclusive, but they were wrong. The bathing machine was always meant to be free – free for all unless booked for a private session or medical reason – it was meant to force communion, bring everyone together, force everyone to sit close and discuss, no phones, no social media, just a seat in a sauna and a sprint to the cold water.
“ It was always intended as a gift to the town, a gift for everyone and hopefully a way to craft a winter beach economy, a way to get people out during the colder months.
“Thank you everyone and who made this happen, it is time for a big party for all involved and a big thanks to the man himself, Mr JMW Turner; in a roundabout way it’s because of you that she’s on the beach today, so thank you, thanks a lot.”
Quaker Benjamin Beale invented the first bathing machine to take bathers right out to the sea. His invention, which was in use at Margate from around 1750 onwards and possibly earlier, had at its rear end a hooped and hinged canvas screen which, once the machine had been driven into position, could be let down by the driver operating a pulley so that it formed a tent on the water, allowing the occupant to descend the steps of the machine to bathe in complete privacy from onlookers.
The machines were exported to almost every resort in Britain and were also seen as far away as the East and West Indies, everywhere in fact where the British had a presence. In a modified form they survived in use up until the First World War, after which changing fashion saw their demise.
Beale himself became penniless after successive storms wrecked his machines and bathing rooms and a public subscription was organised for his benefit. He died aged 58 years in 1775 and was buried at Draper’s Hospital on St.Peter’ Road.
Historical information with thanks to Margate Mayor and Charter Trustees