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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Bathtubs in Regency England by Jenna Jaxon

 

At the end of the 18th century, attitudes toward bathing began to change. Beau Brummel, a Regency fashion plate, was an advocate of bathing often and he was a major Regency “influencer.” About that same time, in 1791, John Wesley gave a sermon “On Dress” in which he made the acclamation, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” People took these and other ideas on cleanliness into consideration, making the Regency period of transitioning into good bathing habits.


Basin and Ewer

Actual bathtubs seem to have been rare and in the lower classes--all but non-existent. Instead, they used a basin and  a ball of soap to clean themselves, rather than an immersion, although in summer lakes and ponds served as natural bathtubs. For the middle classes, the basin and ewer were also standard equipment, although the wealthier families who could afford a bathtub would likely have one of metal or wood.

The aristocracy would have certainly had bathtubs,

Shower-Bath at Scarborough

again of copper or wood, that could be set up in a chamber (often a bed chamber), filled by servants who would lug water from a well outside, into the kitchen to be heated, then lugged upstairs and poured into the bathtub. Little wonder none but the wealthiest could afford such a luxury. The tub was usually lined with linen fabric, to keep the bather from getting splinters from a wooden tub or keep from sticking to the surface of a metal tub. Water was often left near the fireplace to warm the water when it cooled or for rinsing off at the end of the bath.

Regency metal bathtub


Some members of the Regency upper classes actually possessed showers. The contraption was first noted around 1810, “around 12 feet high…a fancy bathing apparatus…[a] pump lifted water from tank

Regency Shower

at bottom through pipe to top tank, water could be used over and over again,” according to Life Magazine.

So during the Regency, people were beginning to take the business of cleanliness much more seriously and began to change their bathing habits accordingly.

 

RESOURCES:

Bourne, Joanna. “Keeping It Clean—Georgian and Regency Bathing Customs.” WordWenches Blog, August 3, 2011.

Chase, Loretta. “Taking a Shower in the 1800s.” Two Nerdy History Girls Blog, June 22, 2015.

Lahildin. “Staying Clean in Regency England.” October 17, 2014.

Life Magazine.

Vic. “A 19th Century Regency Era Shower.” Jane Austen’s World, November 11, 2010.

 

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