Bathing Machines

Photo: National Maritime Museum

Those curious tiny houses on wheels are bathing machines, a movable contraption popular in beach resorts in the 19th century:

... bathing machines allowed women to change their clothes in private, reach the waters without parading through open stretches of beach in their bathing suits, and then frolic about in relative privacy and without violating contemporary notions of modesty. Queen Victoria certainly had one, and like it, these caravans of propriety, of social mores too foreign for our contemporary eyes, were simple wooden structures. Lest they invite voyeurs, they were built without windows, otherwise there were little ones inaccessible to prying eyes. Some were made of canvas and still others were very luxurious affairs, but all of them were on wheels, pulled in and out of the surf by horses or brute human power.

Link (Compare that to King Alfonso XIII's bathing machine ...)

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From the bathing-machine came a din
As of jollification within;
It was heard far and wide
And the incoming tide
Had a definite flavor of gin.

-Edward Gorey

Once the machine had been pushed into the water, a woman could enter the water through doors on the seaward side, the body of the machine and the open doors forming a screen shielding her from the view of those on the beach.
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The concept of going to the beach and wading or swimming was new at the time. Something that a lot of people glaze over is that these are not the social norms for the past in general, but the Victorian period in particular. We got a lot more modest in the Victorian period than we were in centuries past, the pendulum of social modesty and permissiveness swings back and forth.
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"these caravans of propriety, of social mores too foreign for our contemporary eyes,"

Huh? Haven't this writer heard of the separate beaches for Muslim men and women and seen some of the Muslim bathing outfits for women?
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