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Picture that moment when you finally get to the beach after a long winter, excitedly peel off your clothes, run madly towards the water and crash into the salty waves without a care in the world…

This is not that.

If you were a beachgoer in Georgian or Victorian times, more specifically, a female beachgoer, your day at the seaside would’ve likely had all the fun sucked out of it by a little invention known as the bathing machine.

At its peak of popularity, the purpose of the bathing machine was all about those crazy rules of bathing etiquette that they upheld in the 18th and 19th century, which kept women and their beach bodies out of sight (while the men frollicked freely on the beach, of course). The wooden carts with two doors on either sides allowed bathers to change out of their clothes and into their bathing suits without having to be seen by the opposite sex walking across the beach in ‘improper clothing’, which in those days, on the gender-segregated beaches of Europe, would have been the modern-day equivalent of the walk of shame. The four-wheeled box would be rolled out to sea, usually by horse or sometimes human power and hauled back in when the beachgoer signalled to the driver by raising a small flag attached to the roof. Some machines were equipped with a canvas tent lowered from the seaside door, capable of being lowered to the water, giving the bather greater privacy.

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