Is this a purely British concept? The idea of paying thousands of pounds for what is basically a small shed, which, most of the time, is only used for a few hours on a few days of the year and which, mostly, can’t even be overnighted in?
|Eastbourne 'bathing machine', August 2014|
Apparently not, as huts can now be found in countries like France and Norway, though the idea does seem to have evolved from the bathing huts that prudish Victorians would have wheeled into the sea so they could enter and leave the water in relative privacy.
The brightly striped ‘bathing machine’ outside the Langham Hotel in Eastbourne is a wonderful example, this one lovingly restored by a former owner of the hotel, Julian Martyr.
From those humble beginnings, the hut evolved into a fixed beachside structure and the concept didn’t only become popular in Britain, but also travelled with the Brits to their colonies abroad – particularly noteworthy are the vibrantly coloured ‘bathing boxes’ in the Brighton of the south, in Melbourne, Australia.
|Beach huts in Lyme Regis, December 2017|
According to Wikipedia, there are now around 20,000 beach huts in Britain. In recent years, there has even been a competition, sponsored by insurance company Towergate, to find Britain’s best beach hut of the year – see here and the 2015 finalists here. One particularly luxurious ‘hut’, in a ‘desirable’ location in Dorset, that had a fully-fitted kitchen and the capacity to sleep six people, was for sale in 2018 for £270,000!
|Beach huts in Seaford, March 2019|
The practical purpose of a beach hut is, of course, to have somewhere to change into and out of your bathing costume; to store the buckets and spades, deck chairs and sun umbrella; to make a cup of tea and perhaps prepare your picnic lunch, maybe have a barbeque; and, of course, this being Britain, to shelter from the ubiquitous rain. Personally, I like a bit more privacy than these huts provide, jammed as they are cheek by jowl with a host of other huts, and my ideal beach experience is more about long, empty spaces to walk, but I know people hold treasured memories of spending their summer days at huts like these.
|Those same Seaford beach huts in summer, July 2018|
My eye is drawn to the design of the different huts and their wonderful vibrant colours, and the way they sit in the land- or town-scape. They are very photogenic, and I hope to find more to photograph.
|Beach huts on Barry Island, in south Wales, February 2019|