The stereoptype is of the prudish Victorian laced-up on the beach, stiff to the point of rigor mortis. As the sun beats down, they put on their lids – bowler hat for him; flouncy bonnet for her – raise umbreallas and dare not sweat into their billowing tweed knickers lest is create a ‘stir’. So uptight were these fools that they relied on bathing machines to get them to the water. The timid tourist would enter the mobile snob shed though one door, change out of their lace and wool burka and emerge the other side into the refreshing waters with pretty much just the corset and sock braces removed.
Every stereoptype has a grain of truth. But the reality was a little different. The sands were about life, love, lust and fun.
People, Leisure/Holidays, pic: circa 1900’s, Four lady bathers dressed in bathing suits of the era, outside a bathing machine at the seaside
A large group of male bathers by a boardwalk at the ocean, United States circa 1885.
1890: Bather. France, about 1900.
1893: A large bather about to dive from a raft into the sea at Jersey. He is one of a party of three from Birmingham. (Photo by Paul Martin/George Eastman House/Getty Images)
1897: Young men and women wearing bathing suits sit in wet sand at the water’s edge, Far Rockaway Beach, New York City.
1898: Portrait of a bathing suit-clad woman and a swimming instructor lying close to the surf on Midland Beach, Staten Island, New York.
FRANCE – 1900: Lacanau
1900: Bathing suit, about 1900.
1900: Japanese women Swim in the Ocean at Seaside
1900: Bathing Suits can be Sterilized at Coney Island Beach in New York
A snapshot photograph of a young woman and a girl at the seaside taken by an unknown photographer in about 1900.
circa 1905: Three bathers walk into the sea for a paddle. A circular image in a square setting. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Charming bathers on the beach, postcard, Around 1900, France, Private collection. (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)
Bathers and bathing machines at Ostende.
Stereograph shows women in bathing suits striking poses on the beach at Coney Island. 1898
Theodor Horydczak and family. Fritzie Horydczak and Norma at the beach
Horsing around, Atlantic City, N.J.
New Jersey–Atlantic City.
Coney Island (New York, N.Y.)–1890-1900.
Bathing beauties–New York (State)–New York–1890-1900.
Bathing suits–Rhode Island–Jamestown–1890-1900.
Young boys play on a beach in Whitby, Yorkshire.An albumen print. (Photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/Getty Images)
Two women in swimwear amuse themselves by taking photographs. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Girls wearing tam o’shanters paddling at the seaside. (Photo by Paul Martin/Getty Images)
Two girls on the rocks by the sea. (Photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/Getty Images)
Couples getting to know each other on the beach at Yarmouth. (Photo by Paul Martin/Getty Images)
31st August 1913: Victorian bathing belles relax on the beach at Paris-Plage. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A woman in her bathing costume on the beach at Margate. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
1904: A German beach photographer plies his trade on Brighton beach. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1902: A French coloured postcard of two bathing belles posing by a bathing hut ‘on the beach’. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1895: A young girl taking a break from making sandcastles on the beach. (Photo by F J Mortimer/Getty Images)
circa 1905: London school children fishing during the holidays; the envy of the crowd has caught a gudgeon. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
circa 1899: A windswept woman strolls along a pebble beach. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
August 1891: Animals huddle in tiny cages on a cart. A mobile zoo, or menagerie, on the sands at Yarmouth has drawn a small crowd of children. (Photo by Paul Martin/General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
1895: A Victorian couple enjoying life on a crowded Yarmouth beach . (Photo by Paul Martin/General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
Holiday makers enjoy the beach, France. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
A musical troupe entertains the holidaymakers under Margate Pier, circa 1860. (Photo by London Stereoscopic Company/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)