NOTE: In the late Victorian period there was an increasing desire to regulate public bathing, prompted mainly by a prudishness about the indecency of the long-standing practice of men and boys bathing naked together, especially in view of ladies. The newspapers took a mildly amused attitude in their publication of many Letters to the Editor expressing moral outrage. "No one objects to bathing itself, but the presence on the banks at all hours of the day of a crowd of lads and youths who are absolutely unclothed, and who seem to like disporting themselves on the banks quite as much as in the water, is decidedly objectionable, and tends to make many ladies give the riverside a wide berth."
25 May 1890
7 June 1890
Surely those who use the pond and those who use the Heath for recreation are entitled to call upon the London County Council to take this matter up, and to so arrange that bathing can be carried on with comfort to bathers and without annoyance to others.
Yours, &c. PRO BONO PUBLICO. (Hampstead & Highgate Express)
14 June 1890
20 June 1890
28 June 1890
28 June 1890
THE BATHING NUISANCE. James Barsby and Joseph Orton (boys), were summoned at the instance of the Coventry Canal Company for bathing in the Coventry Canal at Atherstone, on the 25th ult. Defendants pleaded guity. P.C. Street stated that on the date named he saw the defendants bathing in the canal, and a number of other boys who had been in the water, were dressing. About fifty persons boh male and female, were passing along at the time, and the boys walked along close to them, stripped. Notices were posted along the canal side, stating that bathing was not allowed, except during certain hours, and the defendants had been previously cautioned. Mr. Lakin remarked that there was no place for the boys to bathe. Superintendent Hannah said that had this bathing taken place in the early morning, or at a time when there were few people about, nothing would have been said, but it was in the afternoon, which was the time when the bathing chiefly took place, and numerous complaints had been made by persons living near. Mr. Greenwood (Coventry) who prosecuted at the instance of the Coventry Canal Company, said there was no desire to press for a penalty, but there was no doubt bathing had become a nuisance. The men in the employ of the Company had been instructed to speak to any youths found bathing, but whenever they did so they were abused. Mr. Lakin: Is this the first time these youths have been here? Supt. Hannah: It is the first time for bathing, sir. Mr. Armishaw (Magistrates' Clerk) said there would be no complaint if boys bathed in the canal at proper times, but they had no right to expose themselves to a number of people, and to remain exposed to pubic view was an indictable offence, and was punishable by imprisonment. Mr. Greenwood said there was no desire to unduly press the case, but he did not think a caution wuld be sufficient. The defendants were ordered to pay 1s. each, the costs being borne by the Company. (Tamworth Herald)
16 July 1890
22 July 1890
I have heard that below the Drawbridge the police do not permit bathing before 9 p.m., but apparently above Bristol Bridge, bathing may be indulged in at any place or time, without the slightest regard for the decencies of life.
I have on several occasions rowed up the river, and on each have been disgusted, but Sunday afternoon surpassed all the others.
On this occasion I took a lady with me, and at every point of the river were to be seen brutes they are not men in perfect nudity, in the water and on the banks. And this was not all. To add to their pleasures, as my boat passed a certain group, they must needs indulge in offensive language and action. This occurred just below the Great Western Railway, about 5 o'clock.
This thing might be easily stopped by placing an extra police boat on the river (at any rate on Sunday afternoons),and I hope that it will be done. SCRIBENDI. (Western Daily Press)
2 August 1890
I was glad to notice, the other day, that an attempt had been made by the city authorities to suppress the bathing nuisance at Diglis. Action was taken none too soon, for I have heard complaints respecting it on several Sundays when the weather was fine. No one objects to bathing itself, but the presence on the banks at all hours of the day of a crowd of lads and youths who are absolutely unclothed, and who seem to like disporting themselves on the banks quite as much as in the water, is decidedly objectionable, and tends to make many ladies give the riverside a wide berth. The use of bathing drawers by all bathers should be made compulsory. The same kind of nuisance as at Diglis is to be met with at Hallow Ford, outside the city boundary, as I personally noticed last Sunday, when, the weather being exceptionally pleasant, no less than three heavily laden steamers, besides numerous rowing boats, passed up on their way to Holt. Seeing that the County Council are about to make bye-laws for the administration of the county, some regulatios as to bathing should not be lost sight of, if sufficient powers are not already possessed. (Worcester Chronicle)
14 August 1890
It sometimes seems hard that small boys who bathe in the canal adjacent to public thoroughfares should be punished, but such a result is inevitable in the cause of public decency. It is, however, the opinion of many people that some stop should be put to the gambolings of the young ragamuffins who follow the trams along the various routes and disport themselves by turning somersaults. Now that ladies frequent the tops of omnibuses and trams it is a gross indecency for these boys, whose ragged clothing shows, to say the least, the necessity for needle and cotton. There can be no objection to lads, whose attire is not so well ventilated as those described, from earning on the busy days of the week a few coppers by amusing the passengers who ride outside the trams, but before the police prosecute any more boys for bathing in the canal, let them see that the clothing of the gamins of Aston Road is in a decent state. (Birmingham Mail)
11 September 1890
11 September 1890
A CAUTION TO BATHERS IN THE CANAL. Richard Archer and John Cooper, labourers, Banbury, were brought up in custody charged with unlawfully bathing in the Oxford Canal without the permission of the proprietors or other agent of the Company on Aug. 31st. Prisoners pleaded guilty. P.C. Pratt stated that at a quarter to three on Sunday afternoon, Aug 31, he saw the two defendants on the towing-path of the canal near the Golden Lion. They were stripped, and afterwards jumped into the canal. Cooper ran down the towing-path, and witness told Archer they had no right to bathe in the canal, and he said he knew all about it. Archer dressed himself in the field, near the towing-path, and Cooper went into a hovel. Supt. Preston remarked that bathing in the middle of a Sunday afternoon was a great nuisance. Archer said he was sorry they had done it, but it was done without thinking. Cooper said he was not exposed; he was wearing drawers and a shirt, but he was sorry it had occurred. P.C. Pratt, in reply to a question, said that neither of the men had on any drawers. Mr. C. Neighbour, who appeared to prosecute on behalf of the Canal Company, said the Company were very desirous and anxious to put a stop to bathing in the canal. Complaints of the practice were made from both north and south of Banbury, and the bathers did the Company a deal of injury. Notices forbidding bathing were posted up along the canal, but they were torn down. It was known far and wide that the Company would not allow bathing, and he hoped the present case, which was a test case, would result as a warning to other offenders. Supt. Preston said the police had power to take into custody forthwith any persons bathing in the canal. The Clerk: Or to apprehend them on a warrant. A warrant was issued in this case. The Bench having consulted in private, the Mayor said the Bench had carefully considered the case, and thought that a very proper course indeed had been taken in bringing it to that Court. The offence was a very serious one, committed as it was on a Sunday, in broad daylight, and near to the town in fact the circumstances could not have been worse. The defendants were not children, or even boys, and must have known better. The baths were open to all people who chose to avail themselves of them for six days in the week. Bathing in the canal was an offence against public decency and morals, and was open to a very heavy fine or imprisonment. The Bench wished the public to understand that it was a very serious offence, and was against all good government, and would be dealt with most severely. The Bench had to take care of the interests of the public, and they would do it. Defendants would be fined 5s. and the costs, 8s. 6d., between them, or seven days' imprisonment. Allowed a week for payment. (Banbury Advertiser)
12 September 1890
Bailie WILLOCK did not think that there was any harm in bathing there after eleven o'clock. He could not understand why people should take exception to gentlemen bathing there after eleven o'clock if in proper costume when only a few Saturdays ago more than a thousand ladies attended the swimming gala held at the dock. He thought it all fairness that gentlemen should be allowed to bathe at these places after eleven o'clock for another year. The change suggested by the committee was in effect saying that gentlemen there made a perfect pandemonium of indecency up to eleven o'clock and that ladies could not go on the pier before that hour because of the indecency. Why could ladies not go there in the morning to see all the surrounding beauties (laughter) and if they did not choose to look at the bathers they could look beyond them.
Capt. GALLOWAY thought they should go back to the old regulation and have no bathing after eleven o'clock.
The PROVOST thought the matter lay more in the hands of the Harbour Trustees.
Mr. IRVINE said ever since bathing had been allowed after eleven o'clock there had been a number of complaints about it, and he thought they should agree to the suggestion of the committee. Bathing after eleven o'clock simply deprived people of the use of the pier. Gentlemen who wished to bathe could turn out well enough before eleven o'clock.
The minute was approved of. (Ayrshire Post)
10 October 1890
SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.
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