1864; Weymouth as a nudist resort…

It’s quite weird really, you always have this perception of Victorians as being prudes and covered from head to toe, less some signs of sinful bare flesh should reveal itself.

It wasn’t quite like that though…well at least for for the gentlemen!

In 1864 a letter was sent to the Times, part of which was printed in the local papers.

F.S. (who ever they were) wrote of their absolute disgust at the sights they witnessed while staying in Weymouth.

They comment upon the fact that at high tide the sea reaches right up to the promenade wall (not any more!) slap bang in front of the guest houses and the esplanade. What made it so intolerable was that men without a ‘rag of covering’ were permitted to wander around at any time of the day. It was no better than if they were permitted to wander the streets of the town stark naked!

Even when it was low tide, the men in all their natural glory had to wade for yards before they could enter their bathing machine.

I think what incensed the writer most was that despite this display of masculine nudity (or maybe because of it) the Esplanade appeared to be a favoured promenade for people of both sexes…and cuttingly remarks that ‘nor do the windows of the adjoining houses appear to me to be entirely deserted.’

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As the author of the letter was writing this very missive, they bemoaned the fact that another train was pulling in filled with ‘country people of all ages and sexes’ Asking that surely it wasn’t right that they should witness such debauched scenes.

What was interesting was that the year after this article appeared in the Times and the local papers, the very same very matter was brought before the members of the town council.

Mr Bartlett, who was the keeper of the bathing machines requested an amendment to the bylaws concerning the matter of men and nudity. They were politely requested to dress modestly after eight 0’clock in the morning. He said that despite there  already being a poster of the by laws in every bathing machine, and him having an ample supply of bathing drawers for the men to don before leaving the shelter of those machines, most men simply refused to wear a stitch when taking the waters, despite the fact that they could be prosecuted for not doing so.

This delicate matter seemed to bring a great deal of hilarity to the council committee, no end of quips shouted forth during the debate.

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Things didn’t seem to have changed much over the following years as further letters were written to the press on the matter in 1870, one from ‘an outraged spinster’ which was followed by a rather humorous and cutting reply in the form of a poem penned by ‘a blue eyed bachelor.’

I wonder what they would have made of today’s females in their bits of fabric just about held together with string.

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