Haeckels’ seabathing machine and sauna given permission to remain on Margate sands

The seatbathing and sauna machine Photo Haeckels

The ‘Victorian’ sea bathing machine commissioned by Dom Bridges – founder of Margate’s seaweed-based body care and perfumery business Haeckels – has been granted an extended licence to stay on Margate Main Sands.

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.

It had been on the beach since September and was originally granted the right to stay for the duration of the Turner Prize.

Photo John Horton

Fears were raised that it would now have to be removed but Thanet council has now confirmed it is willing to extend the licence until April.

A council spokesperson said: “Haeckels Limited was given a one-off licence for a community sauna to be on Margate Main Sands from September 27, 2019 – January 12, 2020. The license was agreed by all parties on September 26, 2019 to run alongside the Turner Prize.

Photo Jools Moore

“It’s been fantastic to see the sauna so well used by the community. On Monday (January 13), Haeckels informed us that they would like to extend the license – which we are willing to grant until Friday, April 17.”

Dom said he was “over the moon” at the news.

He said: “This is an ongoing project and it is really nice to see Thanet council understand that. It has been so well used by people from Russia, China, the States and, of course, locals.

“The idea was for it to bring people together and have people on the beach through the colder months.

“We have had queues and it has been wonderful to see.”

Photo Jools Moore

The machine, which 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 finally the bathing machine and sauna, which featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on Channel Four back in 2015, made its appearance on the main sands and has been embraced by residents and visitors.

Photo John Horton

Bathing machines were used at Margate from around 1750 onwards, and possibly earlier. They 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.

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