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The practise of immersing the body in some substance, usually water, but also mud and milk, for the purposes of cleanliness and health. As a practice it has existed since the earliest times.

In ancient Crete, cleansing of the skin was achieved by rubbing it with olive oil which had been scented with aromatic herbs. The oil, together with dirt and dead skin, was then scraped from the skin with a scythe-shaped implement.

Excavations at the palace of Knossos have revealed that it, at least, was supplied with both hot and cold water.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans regarded bathing as a central part of social life and it was the Romans who developed bathing into a height of luxury. The system which they employed consisted of public baths first entering a hot bath with the water heated using wood fires or [geothermal springs as at Bath in the West Country. The bather would then enter a heated room where the body would perspire frofusely before plunging into a cold bath or swimming pool. Some Roman baths were equipped with gardens and lecture and other meeting rooms and were open to both sexes. As well as bathing, they performed a function akin to that of modern social clubs.

Bathing was abandoned in Britain, as in most of the European continent when the Romans withdrew from the province in AD 410 and Britain slipped into what is now known as the "Dark Ages". There is evidence that the Saxons made use of the hot springs at Bath althugh bathing, were it was practised, was undertaken for the curative properties of the water rather than for cleanliness.

The crusaders who fought and lived for long periods in the Middle East became accustomed to many of the local luxuries and public baths was one of the ideas which they returned with. The exposure of the body which bathing by its nature involved was contrary to the notions of modesty of the medieval church which banned the practice on the grounds that it was supposed to tend to immorality.

Most people got married in June after they had taken annual bath in May although they must have started to smell again by the time of the wedding - thus the tradition of brides carrying a bouquet of flowers to disguise the odour.

With all water drawn from a pond, river, moat or well, baths were taken in a big tub filled with water heated in pots over the domestic fire. The head of the household held the privelege of taking the first bath in the clean water and was followed by his sons and the other men of the household. Then the women took their turn followed by the children and, last of all the babies in the warm water which had become quite foul - hence the expression "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Eighteen Turkish baths, known as `stews', were built in Southwark (beyond the precincts of the City of London) during the Tudor period. Unfortunately, these soon came to be used as brothels leading to their suppression during the reign of King Henry VIII (1509-1547) when it was proclaimed that . . .

If there be any house wherein is kept and holden any hot-house or sweating-house, for ease and health of men, to which be resorting or conversant any strumpets or women of evil name or fame . . .

. . . the house must be closed.

Although the spas, such as those at Bath continued, and bathing became popular with the gentry, they were attended by those seeking to a cure to their ailments not dirt. Bathing was a rarity and even considered to cause illness - even palaces had no provision for the ready supply or disposal of water until the nineteenth century. In the early nineteenth century it would well advised to stand up-wind of anyone one was speaking to - only the hands, neck, and arms were washed with any regularity!

In Russia and Finland, probably in imitation of Constantinople, vaour baths have been popular throughout society for a long time. The bathhouse is provided with a stove to produce heavy perspiration and there is either provision for a cold shower or swim afterwards. In some parts of Russia the body is also beaten with birch twigs.

A visit to the spa at Bath at the beginning of the eighteenth century by Queen Anne launched the city to become the premier English resort for the wealthy.

Beau Brummel is creditted with having introduced the taking of cold bathing in England at the end of the eighteenth century. When the practice was taken up by the Prince of Wales and his entourage as leaders of fashion, the practice perculated down through society.

Houses continued to be built without bathrooms. From the middle of the nineteenth century public baths and washhouses started to be built in the larger towns. Later on, public swimming baths (first indoor, later outdoor) started to be built.

bathrooms started to be included in houses builtduring the early twentieth century and much engineering skill and financial investment made in the provision of clean, piped water supplies and the disposal of waste water.

The fad for sea bathing which led to the rise of the seaside resort was started by King George III who stayed at Weymouth in Dorset with the whole of the royal court for ten weeks. The Prince of Wales, later to become King George IV, made his first visit to Brighton in East Sussex, assuring its popularity as a resort, in 1788.

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1788The Prince of Wales (later George IV) makes his first visit to Brighton in East Sussex, assuring its popularity as a resort
1789King George III stays at Weymouth in Dorset with the whole of the royal court for 10 weeks starting the fad for sea bathing which led to the rise of the seaside resort
1836Sir George Tapps-Gervis appoints architect Ben Ferrey to build a resort at Bournemouth
1842Death of Sir George Tapps-Gervis who developed Bournemouth into a resort from a hamlet
1870A doctor buys land in Southbourne to develop it as , a rival resort to Bournemouth

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