Brightly coloured beach huts are a quintessential part of the British seaside. Along with ice cream, sandcastles, fish and chips and the unpredictable weather they evoke childhood memories for many of us of summer by the sea.
Beach huts as a feature of our seaside date from the early years of the twentieth century. Before then, bathing was a complicated affair. People used bathing machines to change into their swimwear; the machines (small huts on wheels) were then towed out to see so that the bather could enter the water directly. Often, for extra modesty, men and women bathed on separate beaches.
When in the Edwardian period it became acceptable to bathe directly from the beach many of the old bathing machines were left abandoned on the beaches. But even then changing on the beach was frowned upon. It could result in a fine, even if decency was preserved under a mac or similar – known as ‘Macintosh bathing’. So local councils provided beach huts to change in, hired by the day, and an English institution was born! Some enterprising people repurposed the abandoned bathing machines, removing the wheels to turn them into beach huts.
Beach huts today
The beach huts of today can be bought or hired and are so popular that in some areas they can cost more than a small house! People use them as a base for a day by the beach: somewhere to boil a kettle for tea; eat a picnic if it’s damp or chilly (or both!); change for a swim and back into dry clothes; and in the evening enjoy a glass of wine watching the sunset.
Many are painted in cheerful colours and decorated with motifs that reflect the tastes of their owners. On a recent visit to Kent I became pretty much obsessed with photographing the brightest and most interesting of them. Here’s my selection of the colourful beach huts of Whitstable and Broadstairs.
The selection of my favourites above is posted in response to the Thursday Doors challenge.
I last visited Kent in 2020 – most of my photos were taken then, a few in 2015