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‘Coloured drawers from waist to knees!’

When gentlemen bathing naked was discussed at a Weymouth Town Council meeting in May 1860, Alderman Ayling reckoned the culprits should be horsewhipped. The bathing machines, it was suggested, had been placed too close to the promenade creating this indecency. The machines were essentially mobile changing rooms. Locals paid six pence (2.5p) for their use but visitors were charged nine pence (4p).

Railway excursionists from Bath and Bristol were blamed for rendering this nuisance to be increasingly offensive. Apparently, both in France and in Brighton, male bathers were required to wear ‘coloured drawers from the waist to the knees’ so it was reckoned that this regulation should be introduced at Weymouth. 

It was proposed that the bathing machine proprietors should provide several coloured drawers and a fine of two shillings and sixpence (12.5p) imposed for each offence. As dresses were provided for women, it was reckoned that something broadly similar should  be provided for men. (Source: Poole & Dorset Herald  - 24th May 1860.)

Men were allowed to bathe nude before 8am but the bathing machines of men and women had to be kept 50 yards apart.

A few years later, a local newspaper reader complained that the men and ladies bathing machines were placed too close together. The reader continued that a similar set of nuisance existed some years earlier at Southsea where ‘the depth of water allowed ghastly specimens of humanity to expose themselves by bathing close to the shore.’ One bather was driven to a swift retreat by a cannonade of large pebbles thrown by the writer who added:

‘Sadly, Weymouth provides no supply of these handy and irresistible arguments.’


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