Permission granted for Haeckels bathing machine sauna to move from main sands to Walpole Bay

The community sauna will move from the main sands to Walpole Bay

Permission has been granted for the ‘Victorian’ sea bathing machine commissioned by Dom Bridges – founder of Margate’s seaweed-based body care and perfumery business Haeckels – to be sited at Walpole Bay for the Summer.

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 Margate beach since September and was originally granted the right to stay for the duration of the Turner Prize. The licence was then extended to April but due to seasonal businesses and high footfall TDC said it could not remain in the spot throughout the Summer.

Photo John Horton

Agreement has now been reached for the community sauna to be sited at Walpole Bay.

A Thanet council statement says: “It has proven to be a popular attraction, drawing new visitors to Margate and giving swimmers a focal point over witer.

“We acknowledge there is an appetite for it to stay in Margate and have been working to identify a Summer location.

“Walpole Bay is home to a popular tidal bathing pool, already used year-round by a community of swimmers, We believe the sauna will be a welcome facility in this area and its placement there is in keeping with the nature of the bay and its current usage.”

A licence for the sauna to stay at Walpole Bay has been granted until November 17.

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.


  1. I can only hope the hut will be safe in the more secluded and less well trafficked environs of Walpole Bay. Additionally, much of Walpole Bay is under water at high tides – especially when Springs combine with north winds and/or low pressure.

    At least on the Margate Main Sands it is under more constant surveillance whereas at Walpole it will be more prone to the attention of the local, mindless vandals and arsonists.

    Beach huts in various bays are constantly targeted by the morons so I hope Mr Bridges has his £100,000 asset adequately insured.

    • I presume it is going to sited on the promenade. They will have to chain it down well, or it will soon be on the beach. If it is not burnt down before it end up in the sea. Why not just lock it away in a yard somewhere till the end of summer, then put back on Margate beach.

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