Monday, May 11, 2009


The experts tell us it's going to be a hot summer in England this year. I wonder if that prediction, combined with the effects of the recession, will see a resurgence in the popularity of the British seaside resort.
Wars with France and other European countries over the Colonies, followed by the French Reveolution, made for dangerous and unsettled times during the 1790's. The ensuing Napoleonic Wars combined to put an end to the English upper class fashion for the European Grand Tour and holidays at continental spas, which offered mineral-rich water to drink and even mud-baths, (a bit like Glastonbury today then!).
In England inland spas such as Bath were long established on the Continental model of health spas like Lourdes. George 11's old Prime Minister, Pitt the Elder, retreated to Bath in 1768 suffering from flying gout - the polite label for mental health problems. The English seaside resorts came into popularity during the heyday of the up-and-coming Prince Regent in the years between the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 and Waterloo in 1815, which effectively ended the French threat.
George 111 suffered from mental health probelms and went into seclusion. His reappearance at Weymouth in the summer of 1789 to take the waters was a welcome sight, for the situation in France prompted a fear the English monarcy could also collapse. Watched by a puzzled crowd, the Kind entered the sea from a bathing machine for his royal dip whilst a band played God Save the King! It was the king's regular public dips at Weymouth through the 1790's that helped popularize the new spa idea that salt water sea-bathing had curative properties. Perhaps it was the king's example that made Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice so enthusiastic for the idea of going to Brighton. She was sure a little sea-bathing would set her up for good.
So if you are obliged to clamber over packed rows of scorched bodies in order to bag a few square feet of sand this year, you could be excused for thinking that George 111, (and Mrs Bennet), have a lot to answer for.

1 comment:

kate tremayne said...

Interesting post Wendy. At least we do not have to fight for space with all those bathing machines. They say they were invented for modesty but living in Worthing which has an equally pebbly beach as Brighton I wonder if they were to spare the bathers from the torture and indignity of hobbling over all those stones.