Décembre 2022 | The Ritual of Sea-Bathing in Great Britain and in the North of France in the Nineteenth Century: Innovation and Decency

Hélène Weens


During the eighteenth century, a new leisure activity developed alongside the British coasts—sea-bathing, which reached its apex during the nineteenth century. More a moment of pleasure and entertainments, sea-bathing contributed to the health of those who practiced that activity. However, the Victorian society is known for its strict decorum and bathing in the sea could have jeopardised some of the basic rules of decency. Consequently, a set of measures was put in place to ensure that the etiquette was respected. A new ritual was born. This article aims to define the causes of the growing attraction for sea-bathing in Great Britain between the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries and the reasons for which this activity became ritualised in the Victorian society. It also highlights the massive influence of Great Britain on the development of sea-bathing in the North of France.


Au cours du dix-huitième siècle, une nouvelle activité de loisirs se développa le long des côtes britanniques : les bains de mer, qui connurent leur apogée au dix-neuvième siècle. Plus qu’un moment de plaisir et de divertissement, le bain de mer contribuait à la santé de ceux qui s’y adonnaient. Cependant, la société victorienne est connue pour son décorum strict et se baigner dans la mer aurait pu mettre en péril certaines des règles basiques de la décence. Par conséquent, un ensemble de mesures fut mis en place pour garantir le respect de l’étiquette. Un nouveau rituel était né. Cet article vise à définir les causes d’un attrait grandissant pour les bains de mer en Grande-Bretagne entre le dix-huitième et le dix-neuvième siècles et les raisons pour lesquelles cette activité devint ritualisée dans la société victorienne. Il met également en lumière l’influence massive de la Grande-Bretagne sur le développement des bains de mer dans le nord de la France.




        When summer is almost there and the first rays of sunshine come through the windows, coastal towns wake up from their yearly hibernation and thousands of tourists rush into their second homes. They have hardly arrived when they head directly to the shore, ready to plunge into the sea. The ritual of sea-bathing is deeply rooted in the twenty-first-century European society, notably in Great Britain. From the middle of the eighteenth century, the sea started to attract upper-class people and the British novelist Jane Austen even focused her final novel Sanditon on seaside tourism. One of her characters, Mr. Heywood, notices that the coastal towns were becoming more and more popular when he explains that “[e]very five years, one hears of some new place or other starting up by the sea and growing the fashion” (5). The country became an international reference for sea-bathing first as a health remedy, and later as a leisure activity. It developed and exported seaside tourism to the rest of the Old Continent during the Victorian era, and particularly to the Opal Coast. This French area on the English Channel going from the Belgian border to the border of the former Picardy region was massively influenced by British tourists and their fashion of being plunged into the sea for the good of their health. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the scientific breakthroughs concerning water in the eighteenth century, sea-bathing became a ritual which had to adapt to the concerns of the British Victorian society. Great Britain exported this new habit to the Opal Coast, where the French and British cultures mingled.
For as long as mankind has existed, water has always been at the centre of attention and scientific discoveries have contributed to the development of a new use of sea water. However, Victorian society is known for its concern for respecting high moral standards, which meant that sex was a forbidden word in public life. Consequently, innovations such as the bathing machine and the swimming costume flourished in both British and French seaside towns and laws were enacted to guarantee that morality was respected.

Men and Water throughout History

        To understand the growing attraction for sea water during the nineteenth century, it is essential to analyse the relationship between men and water throughout History. Even though the tradition of sea-bathing is often linked to the 19th century, the very first people who regularly bathed were the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The scientists of that time had already discovered the benefits of water in general for health. In the fifth century before Christ, Greek doctors advised their patients to plunge into freshwater to cure some diseases (Chamekh, 1). At that time, the advantages of seawater had not yet been studied. The Romans built several public baths in England and in France. For example, the city of Bath in Somerset—a major spa resort during the eighteenth century—began to be recognised during the Roman occupation for the healing powers of its spring water. John Feltham wrote in Guide to all the Watering and Sea Places: “The Romans give it the appropriate appellations of Thermæ Sudatæ, Aquæ Calidæ, Aquæ Solis, or simply Balnea” (22). The Britons had given the town two significant names emphasising the importance of water: Caer Badon, “the City of the Bath”, and Caer yn eunaint twymyn, “the City of the Hot Bath” (21).
The Middle-Ages marked a time in History where religion was prominent in the public and private domains. Thus, the Church encouraged the population to go on pilgrimages to religious sites where water was supposed to have spiritual powers to cure people from diseases and wash away their sins (Brodie 130). Nonetheless, after Henry VIII and the Reformation during the sixteenth century, those religious places which had usually been specifically Catholic evolved into “mineral springs for physical cures” (130). Up until the end of the seventeenth century, spring water was considered the only type of water to have medicinal benefits. At the time, the wealthiest classes of the society paid close attention to their health (Walton, English Seaside Resort 6). Therefore, towns like Bath, Tunbridge Wells or Harrogate became health resorts where aristocrats bathed to heal an injury or cure a disease (Chamekh, 1). At the dawn of the eighteenth century, bathing in the sea was not regarded as a sophisticated activity, unlike undergoing a course of treatment in a spa resort and plunging into spring water. Seawater was synonymous with danger for most of the population in Europe. Few people could swim and being immersed in the sea remained a shocking activity until the mid-eighteenth century (Savage). Notwithstanding, the Georgians overcame their fears of plunging into the sea to pursue their desire for healthiness.

        The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the rise of modern professions in England as well as a scientific revolution which shook up humanity’s relationship with water (Walton, “History” 148). As a matter of fact, the spa resorts took advantage of newly published works on this natural element, such as those by Sir John Floyer who promoted cold baths to strengthen the body (142). Buxton, Bath and Scarborough attracted people suffering from various medical conditions: chronically sick individuals, convalescents, women exhausted after pregnancy, or people who were affected by scurvy, gout, or psychological disorders (Brodie 128). Nevertheless, the fame of the spa resorts started to crumble after Doctor Richard Russel published in 1753 his work A Dissertation on the Use of Sea-Water in the Diseases of the Glands in which he argues that seawater could replace traditional treatments:

I have known many patients receive Damage by too large Doses of Mercury; who, perhaps, might have received Benefit from this Medicine sparingly given, and joined with Sea Water. But Sea Water will heal many Diseases where Mercury is of no Service. (12)

        Promoting seawater instead of conventional treatments brought major progress among the scientific breakthroughs of the time. Russel also advised his patients to walk along the beach to take the fresh air, and to drink seawater in order to improve their health (Chamekh, 3). Doctor Russel was not the only one to advocate the healing properties of the sea. Bozzi Granville identified two chemical elements which make seawater a powerful cure. Iodine and bromine act “first on the skin, and secondly on the nervous, lymphatic, and glandulous systems, as well as on the organs of secretion” (5-8). At the same time, people had more trust in science than in the Middle-Ages and the aristocracy was highly concerned by their health and beauty (Walton, “The Seaside Resort”).
As a consequence of those changes, the nobles left spa resorts to cure their illnesses in the sea. The town of Scarborough illustrates the passage from bathing in spa resorts to bathing in seawater. Pimlott defines the town as being a “hybrid resort,” because in the eighteenth century, Scarborough promoted the advantages of its spa resort as well as those of its seaside resort (Walton, English Seaside Resort 51). The nobility rushed to its spring waters, but in 1735 John Setterington made a print of the town, “Perspective Draught of the Ancient Town, Castle, Harbour and Spaw of Scarborough” showing naked people swimming in the sea. This print is one of the first testimonies to sea-bathing in Great Britain. Plunging into the sea slowly replaced spa resorts. The Lancastrian and Welsh coasts grew in popularity among the wealthiest members of society who did not hesitate to dive into the Irish Sea (Walton, English Seaside Resort 10). Infrastructures for sea-bathing flourished all over the country. In 1791, in Margate, a Sea Bathing Hospital opened to cure people suffering from tuberculosis (Spurrier 94). In Scotland, hydropathic hotels flourished all over the country during the nineteenth century. One of those hotels was established in 1846 at Dunoon. Patients drank seawater and bathed in the sea, following their doctors’ prescriptions (Richardson). Gradually, this activity established itself as the new fashion in nineteenth-century Britain. The British exported this trend to the rest of Europe, and notably, the Opal Coast.
In France, the tradition of sea-bathing was also preceded by the use of spring waters to treat illnesses. In 1605, Henry IV of France launched an institution for balneology with the creation of the Surintendance générale des bains et fontaines du royaume—the General Superintendency of the Baths and Fountains of the Kingdom. More than a century later, during Louis XV’s reign, a Commission to examine secret remedies and mineral waters was established to ensure the efficacy of thermal resorts for health (Jazé-Charvolin 2). Unlike in Great Britain, interest in seawater and sea-bathing emerged in France almost a century later. From 1825, in Dieppe, the Duchess of Berry, Marie-Caroline of Bourbon Two-Sicilies, regularly bathed in the English Channel in public (Deherly). In her book Mes Souvenirs, Marie d’Agoult, using the pen-name Daniel Stern, narrates her encounter with the Duchess of Berry in Dieppe: “Enfin, elle prit gout à la plage de Dieppe. Elle y vint chaque année pour la saison des bains. Elle y attira beaucoup de monde” (281). The Duchess is regarded as a pioneer in the development of sea-bathing in France.
On the Opal Coast, particularly around Boulogne-sur-Mer, only locals bathed in the Channel during the eighteenth century. Doctor Rouxel explains that the fashion for sea-bathing took off in France after the Napoleonic wars, when the French and the British maintained a cordial relationship, and after the publication of Doctor Russel’s translated work in 1812 (Rouxel 4). In the foreword to his translation of Doctor Buchan’s book, he glorifies sea-bathing to heal the body: “C’est un des agents les plus étendus, les plus puissants qui existent, et dont l’application prudente et continue a produit et produit encore chaque jour des effets merveilleux dans une foule d’affections et de maladies” (5).
In addition to the influence of science, the region was invaded by British tourists who immediately took up residence there to bathe regularly in the sea. Around 1830, between one thousand and one thousand five hundred British people lived in Boulogne-sur-Mer. This number was doubled during the July Monarchy (Hilaire 323). In “Our French Watering-Place,” Charles Dickens mentions the mixing of British and French population in the town when he observes children from each nationality walking in Boulogne-sur-Mer:

It is a place wonderfully populous in children; English children, with governesses reading novels as they walk down the shady lanes of trees, or nursemaids interchanging gossip on the seats; French children with their smiling bonnes in snow-white caps, and themselves—if little boys—in straw head-gear like bee-hives, work-baskets and church hassocks. (45)

        He even later adds that “[t]he English form a considerable part of the population of our French watering-place” (56). Through the course of the nineteenth century, the town played a key role in the popularization of sea-bathing. Scientists there, such as doctors Bertrand, Renaud and Hervé Cazin, wrote several articles and books to promote seawater. In 1894, the town hosted the first International Congress of Sea-bathing and Water Therapy (Hilaire 325). Boulogne-sur-Mer had become a reference for the tradition of sea-bathing.
The inflow of British tourists in Boulogne and on the Opal Coast in the mid-nineteenth century was also the result of the emergence of mass tourism in Great Britain with the arrival of middle-class—and later working-class—people in the British seaside resorts. With the development of the railways, the coastal towns became easily accessible, quicker to reach and train tickets were cheaper than other means of transport (Walton, English Seaside Resort 22). Day trips and package tours contributed to the rise of seaside tourism and therefore, of the development of sea-bathing. Because of mass tourism, the working class flocked to some resorts in the second half of the nineteenth century leading to a huge urbanisation of coastal towns (Urry 22). Consequently, upper- and middle-class people started looking for more natural and authentic landscapes and for exoticism (Walton, English Seaside Resort 24). To achieve their quest for a change of scene, the upper- and middle-class British went sea-bathing abroad, on the French Riviera or on the Opal Coast.

Decency and Respectability in Victorian Society

        With the different scientific discoveries and the development of sea-bathing as a new fashion, Victorian society established a ritual in which social ideology and decorum had to be respected. Daily life was controlled by the principle of respectability which relied on different institutions. Middle-class Victorian women were supposed to be examples of modesty. This status as the previously called “weaker sex” in patriarchal society is depicted in Coventry Patmore’s famous poem “The Angel in the House” published for the first time in 1854 (see Furneaux). In “The Changed Allegiance,” he underlines the status of husband and wife: “To him she’ll cleave, for him forsake/Father’s and mother’s fond command!/He is her lord, for he can take/Hold of her faint heart with his hand.”
Women remained legally inferior to men and had to obey their husbands. In the section “Beauty,” Patmore highlights several qualities of the ideal woman of the time—discretion, grace and innocence. Consequently, bathing in the sea in front of everyone would have made women depart from their duty of discretion. A stratagem later explained in this paper enabled them to stick to the rules imposed by society.

Figure 1: Summer Amusement at Margate, or a Peep at the Mermaids, Thomas Rowlandson, 1813.

        Nineteenth-century British society is also known for its fascination for sexuality while, at the same time, it attempted to reject it from the public sphere (Furneaux). During the Industrial Revolution, Great Britain went through a process of urbanisation which threatened the social order (Thompson 189). Various institutions were created to guarantee that social life would not be endangered. Between 1815 and 1818, the number of organisations to maintain respectability in the public sphere increased, with for example the creation of the Guardian Society to protect public morals, the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline or the Society for the Suppression of Mendicity (Roberts 164). The Society for the Suppression of Vice, founded in 1806, focused its actions in the second half of the nineteenth century on the respect of morality by supporting Lord Campbell’s Obscene Publications Act in 1857 (Roberts 157). Yet, once at the seaside, Victorians were in quest of relaxation and of a place to escape from the constraints imposed in their daily lives. Mike Huggins admits that being at the seaside and sea-bathing was a chance for tourists to free themselves from respectability and that the environment enabled them to show “the more frivolous side of even the mid-Victorian middle classes” (Huggins 592-93). Some middle-class visitors even looked for anonymity in the coastal towns so they could abandon social conventions without being reprimanded or rejected by their community (Huggins 593). Others slaked their sexual desire by “peer[ing] through telescopes at the women descending into the sea from their machines and the women let their hair hang wild and loose after their bathe” (Anderson and Swinglehurst 10). This activity was often practised in the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Thomas Rowlandson captured this moment in his caricature Summer Amusement at Margate, or a Peep at the Mermaids in 1813 (see figure 1).
Despite creating a breach in accepted social codes, sea-bathing succeeded in becoming a fashion both in Great Britain and in France. France and its bourgeoisie were also concerned with the importance of respectability and prudery. Like the British, the French associated nudity with danger because it could lead to sexual or even bestial behaviour (Carol 25). Bestial behaviour could mean a disordered community in which those holding the reins of power would be overthrown. Overt sexuality threatened the bourgeoisie and its economic dominance (Berlière 268). However, nudity was accepted in some fields. Artistically, the representation of naked bodies was authorised. Because art works were displayed in public spaces, everyone observed each other’s behaviour, which limited any insistent contemplation (Carol 26). For life in high society, things were slightly different. Between 1830 and 1914, in the middle of the day, British and French women from high society wore bodices to highlight their waistline. In contrast with their tight corsets, their skirts were wide, and they wore a crinoline underneath them. Sleeves were usually long (“Introduction to 19th-Century Fashion”). In the evening, dresses differed from the day outfits. Sleeves were short and puffed, women’s hair was decorated with floral wreaths, butterflies or ostrich feathers (“History of Fashion 1840—1900”). Indeed, married women served as a social exhibits and they usually wore low-cut necklines at public events. They helped their husbands by showing the wealth they possessed (Carol 26-27). Male fashion, on the other hand, differed from the ostentatious dresses of Victorian women. During the Victorian era, men adopted an elegant simplistic behaviour in the choice of their outfits. George Bryan Brummel, one of the most influential men of the first half of the nineteenth century in Britain, advocated simplicity, structure and monochrome fabrics for his clothing. Elegance was a question of quality and cut while ornaments were in bad taste and were to be banned from the wardrobe (Peyró). Arthur Martine wrote Hand-book of Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness in 1866 in which he mentions men’s dressing style:

The dress of a gentleman should be such as not to excite any special observation, unless it be for neatness and propriety. The utmost care should be exercised to avoid even the appearance of desiring to attract attention by the peculiar formation of any article of attire, or the display of an immoderate quantity of jewelry, both being a positive evidence of vulgarity. (48)

In this context of elegance and respectability, British seaside resorts and those on the Opal Coast equipped themselves with innovations and rules.

Morality and Decorum at the Seaside

        Because of that constant obsession with morality and decorum, some innovations spread all around the British and French coasts and rules were implemented to respect high moral standards. As modesty and respect for social propriety defined every instance of public life, showing your legs by walking from the beach to the sea in a swimming costume was inappropriate (Spurrier 94). To avoid that inconvenience, a major device, which was developed everywhere in Great Britain, was invented in the eighteenth century—the bathing machine. It consisted of a small room made of wood, about one metre off the ground on four cartwheels and it was pulled either by horses or by manpower from the beach down to the sea (Spurrier 95). Bathers went into it to change into their bathing costumes. Tobias Smollett describes tourists using bathing machines in Scarborough in his epistolary novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker:

The bather, ascending into this apartment by wooden steps, shuts himself in, and begins to undress, while the attendant yokes a horse to the end next the sea, and draws the carriage forwards, till the surface of the water is on a level with the floor of the dressing-room, then he moves and fixes the horse to the other end—The person within, being stripped, opens the door to the sea-ward, where he finds the guide ready, and plunges headlong into the water.

        The first bathing machines in Margate and Scarborough were basic but new inventions such as the one made by Benjamin Beale brought more comfort and luxury to the machines. He created the modest hood in 1750 which consisted of “an awning . . . that could be lowered in front of the machines down to the water, providing a totally private bathing area” (Spurrier 94). Beale’s machine enabled women to enjoy sea-bathing without being observed by voyeurs (Borsay 197). This concern for the etiquette is stressed in Smollett’s book:

[about the bathing machines] they are provided with other conveniences for the support of decorum. A certain number of the machines are fitted with tilts, that project from the sea-ward ends of them, so as to screen the bathers from the view of all persons whatsoever.

        Although sea-bathing attracted many upper-class people, William Savage describes this new ritual as a duty to their health, even a form of torture, rather than as a moment of pleasure.  Bathers were advised to go to the seaside at five in the morning because cold water would improve their health and beauty (Savage). Most of the time, some local women called “dippers” and local men named “bathers” helped the bathers to go down from the machine into the sea. Those guides made sure that their customers were sufficiently immersed (Richards). Sometimes, they would push the bathers in a wave to make the bath used as a remedy more efficient as it is represented in the following engraving (figure 2).
A dipper in the background is on the point of pushing one of her two customers in a wave. Not only were dippers and bathers in charge of dipping their customers into the sea several times, but they also checked if the patients were correctly following their doctors’ instructions (Savage). In Brighton, Martha Gunn was a famous dipper and in an article from The Morning Herald in 1806, she was nicknamed “The Venerable Priestess of the Bath” (Midgley).

Figure 2: The Frolicsome Bathers, J.S &C. 

        More than a century later, another invention saw the light of day in Folkestone in 1888. Walter Fagg created a railway going from the beach to the sea on which there were two carriages. In each carriage, bathers could find nine dressing rooms and a waiting room for those who did not dare to plunge (Spurrier 95). All sea-bathing places wanted to be equipped with bathing machines. Augustus Bozzi Granville describes that on the shore of New Brighton, “[b]athing machines are arranged in order on the delightful sands, which . . . extend five miles as at Hartlepool, on the eastern coast of England” (13). This trend lasted until the beginning of the twentieth century, when people were less worried about etiquette and when beach huts and bathing tents grew in popularity (Spurrier 95).
In addition to this technological innovation, swimming costumes contributed to encourage modesty among female bathers. The first swimming costumes prevented women from moving freely because the bathing dresses “were generally loose, shapeless garments of dark flannel which covered the legs to just below the knees” (Murphy 63). They were quite austere, with no decoration. Nonetheless, from the 1850s onwards, some became more daring and started to wear bath dresses that showed small bits of flesh (63). In Punch Magazine published on the 27th September 1857, a lady is shown in the sea with a bathing dress showing a slight part of her chest (64). In the 1870s, influenced by French fashion and because the first swimming costumes were too cumbersome, women’s bathing dresses turned into costumes of one or two pieces, blue or red outfits with white trim which were more practical and more decorative (64-67).
Bathing costumes for men emerged later than those for women. During the eighteenth century and in the first half of the nineteenth century, men were naked when they swam in the sea. By 1860, it was forbidden in all Great Britain to bathe naked and men had to wear bathing costumes or bathing drawers (Simkin). This new custom did not satisfy everyone. At Shanklin, in 1874, the Reverend Francis Kilvert expresses his aversion for wearing drawers:

At Shanklin one has to adapt the detestable custom of bathing in drawers. If ladies don’t like to see men naked why don’t they keep away from the sight? To-day I had a pair of drawers given me which I could not keep on. The rough waves stripped them off and tore them down round my ankles. (Kilvert 287)

        Furthermore, rules were put in place in some seaside resorts to ensure that respectability was maintained. For example, it was reported that in the 1860s in a seaside resort, it was forbidden to bath from the rocks or beach and that a bathing machine should be used, otherwise it was an outrage to “the laws of decency,” unless the bathe took place during the night, far from the promenades (Borsay 197). Most of the time during the Victorian era, men and women bathed separately to fight against voyeurism. In 1847, local councils received powers from Parliament to decide the distance that should be settled between men’s and women’s zones. Men above twelve years old were not allowed to bath in the same place as women and children (Williamson). In Torquay, the area for female bathers was called the “Ladies’ Bathing Cove” (Finneran 551).
Regarding the equipment for sea-bathing, the Opal Coast welcomed British aristocrats who brought with them the bathing machine. The first machines appeared at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In Boulogne-sur-Mer, there were around thirty bathing machines in 1839 and this number increased to reach one hundred machines in 1850. It was not enough to satisfy the demand of the tourists (Hilaire 325). Charles Dickens acknowledges the popularity of sea-bathing and bathing machines in the town:

The sea-bathing—which may rank as the most favoured daylight entertainment, inasmuch as the French visitors bathe all day long, and seldom appear to think of remaining less than an hour at a time in the water—is astoundingly cheap. . . . you have a clean and comfortable bathing-machine, dress, linen, and all appliances; and the charge for the whole is half-a-franc, or fivepence. (Dickens 54)

        Although the British influenced the Opal Coast and the French for the ritual of sea-bathing with those machines, France, as the country of fashion, designed new bathing costumes. To cover their hair from the public, women wore on their head a hat made of oilcloth or rubber (“Histoire de la Trempette”). To protect their feet and because there were still fewer bathing machines in the country than in Great Britain, bathing shoes and slippers were added to the bathing outfit. French people were the first to wear them and exported this fashion accessory to Great Britain (Murphy 68). On a 1900 poster representing Wimereux, a lady is wearing the typical swimming costume of the time. More skin is visible than with the costumes of the mid-nineteenth century and she is wearing bathing shoes. In the background, a child’s head is covered by a swimming cap (Gray). Nevertheless, most bathing dresses were made of wool or flannel and once wet, they stuck to the skin and let the shape of the women appear. Some mayors took the decision that, to avoid any scandal, men should stay at least at twenty metres from women. As in Great Britain, the seaside was organised into different zones—one zone restricted to women and children and another to men. Sometimes, a third zone was dedicated to men who only wore trunks (Hilaire 326). In Great Britain and in France, the sea-bathing ritual in the nineteenth century implied a respect for decorum through the use of bathing machines, decent swimming costumes and the implementation of strict rules.
Great Britain created a new leisure activity through the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Without the works of British scientists such as those of Doctor Russel promoting seawater as a new treatment for diseases, bathing in the sea would not have emerged as a fashion in the eighteenth century. Rapidly replacing the traditional use of spring waters in spa resorts, sea-bathing was almost a necessity for any upper-class individual in the nineteenth century. British tourists often sojourned on the Opal Coast and brought with them this new trend. This French area became a secondary home for British people looking for exoticism, such as Charles Dickens. Known for their prudery but also their elegance, Victorians indulged in the pleasures of that ritual by respecting as much as possible the decorum imposed in the second half of the nineteenth century. Bathing machines, cumbersome bathing dresses and rules segregating men and women in the sea made sure that decency was respected.
On the Opal Coast, those innovations came later in the century and on a smaller scale as sea-bathing was not as popular as in Great Britain. Although British exported bathing machines to this part of France, French people influenced their English Channel neighbours in the design of bathing costumes, for men and women. Some of the sea-bathing innovations of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries left a mark on the British and French coasts which is still visible today. The sea-bathing machines have been replaced by beach huts, like in Torbay and Wimereux. In Weymouth, the sanitorium built in 1848 is now a block of holiday flats (Brodie et al. 17). Although twenty-first-century tourists do not drink seawater anymore, they still enjoy the seaside for its health benefits and they practice new activities—sunbathing, paddling etc…. Additionally, thalassotherapy centres offer sea-bathing treatments but also exfoliation scrubs with seaweed for example (Smith and Puczkó 90). The ritual of sea-bathing is constantly evolving.


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Hélène Weens finished her MA at the Université Catholique de Lille in 2021 with a dissertation on “The Development of Seaside Resorts in Great Britain and its influence on the Opal Coast between 1840 and 1914.” She is currently a doctoral student with co-supervision from Liverpool Hope University and the Université Catholique de Lille.


Hélène Weens est titulaire d’un Master recherche en anglais, soutenu à l’Université Catholique de Lille en 2021. Son mémoire portait le titre: “The Development of Seaside Resorts in Great Britain and its influence on the Opal Coast between 1840 and 1914.” Elle est actuellement inscrite en doctorat (Liverpool Hope University et l’Université Catholique de Lille.