Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. This slatted wooden "machine" has a simple door for entering, a small window, and steps at the other end for descent into the water. Curtains would have shielded the Queen from anyone's eyes as she descended for her bathe. The projecting shade over this little verandah is very elegantly adorned with wrought iron scrolling, in typical Victorian seaside fashion. Michael Turner tells us that Prince Albert "was a firm believer in the benefits of sea bathing" (35), and had this in mind when choosing the site for the new royal retreat. The machine is displayed on segments of stone rails — the very rails on which it would originally have run down into the water., on Osborne Beach near
Queen Victoria wrote in her journal of 14 July 1847,
A very fine morning, & the day became again very hot.... drove down to the beach with my maids & went into the bathing machines, where I undressed & bathed in the sea, (for the 1st time in my life) a very nice bathing woman attending me. I thought it delightful till I put my head under water, when I tough [thought] I should be stifled.
Rather amusingly, the machine was used as a chicken coop after Queen Victoria died, but was restored in the 1950s and was finally returned to the beach in 2012.
Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee, with thanks to English Heritage for permitting photography at Osborne. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Queen Victoria's Journals. Web. 31 August 2017.
Turner, Michael. Osborne. Rev. reprint. London: English Heritage, 2016.
Created 31 August 2017