The sea water bathing movement favoured early morning immersion before the waters could warm up. Floyer’s essay to prove cold bathing safe and usfeul ran to five editions in c1702. Settrington’s engraving of the Scarborough sea front in 1725 has women bathing near the spa with one bathing machine and men swimming from a boat. Peter Shaw, a regular Scarborough visitor, and a resident from 1733 wrote detailed advice on sea bathing. Viator put it in verse:
“The elegant may blister and purge and bleed and plague with pill and lotion. but jump into the sea, you’ll need, I’m sure no other lotion”
By 1733 it was “the custom for not only gentlemen, but ladies also to bathe in the sea” ; the gents jumped in naked from boats. “The ladies have gowns and guides, and two little houses on shore to return to for dressing”. It was claimed in 1734 that “no spaw in England can add salt to the cold bath but Scarborough”. That year the Duchess of Manchester went into the sea every day during her stay.
There were 26 large bathing machines, drawn out onto the sands daily by 1787. Three proprietors, two of them women, kept these horses-drawn box rooms and charged a shilling a time for their use, plus the tip (Prescott 443). In a later day and age, Herbert Rawling had large machines, fifty of them on the south side, in some of which six men or five women could share the facility. They had cost £25 each to build using Hackness wood.
The arrival of holiday visitors by rail during and after 1845 altered the use of the beaches. The corporation had a “bathing machines and hackney carriages committee” by 1846 to deal with nuisances on the south sands. They decreed in 1848 that cobles were not to appear south of Terry’s raff yard, and gentlemen were not to bathe south of the millbeck, due to recent indecencies (SG 8. 6.1848). Beach Rules for 1852 for bad boats going within fifty yards of a bathing machine. Men’s drawers or women' s gowns had to be worn from 7am to 9pm by all, except boys under twelve. The cost of such things made bathing impossible for many and this made paddling the poor mans substitute. Soon pleasure boats had to keep hundred yards from the bathing beaches.
The Bathing byelaws of c1861 included a ban on naked bathing. No bathing at all was allowed from within 260 yards of west pier as far as the spa, except from a machine. Areas were set aside for men’s and women’s machines. The men’s machines were opposite the Grand Hotel, the females opposite the Aquarium in 1889. Later bylaws required bathers to stay 25 yards from a bather of the opposite sex. No “female person" was to go within 25 yards of a male machine. Machines were to be pulled in to a depth of water and into a position to make indecent exposure impossible. All males over 12 were to wear suitable drawers, all females gowns. Boats were to stay 100 yards distant from bathers Bathing machines cost 6d a half hour with loan of two clean towels, and bathing drawers or a gown.
Things would change. WPG of Salford said that “the question of mixed bathing must be approached with a clean mind and a heart clear of all the stupid mock modesty of present day prudery”. Some bathing tents were erected beyond the spa and on the north sands. By 1908, Scarborough along with Blackpool and Margate had “special facilities” for mixed bathing. The newest bathing costumes had frills on the shoulders and white stripes (YWP July 1898). The Edwardians still avoided the sun under parasols, straw hats and newspapers. After the first world war, the bright young things bathed in the suns rays. The deck chair replaced the sun shelters. Swimming costumes revealed rather than concealed. Open air sports became possible. By 1935 George Horrocks the Corporation entertainments manager ran 21 tennis courts, 3 putting greens, 2 boating lakes, archery butts, miniature speed boats and a water chute.