The Beach Hut has to be one of the Great British Seaside icons, along with ice creams (99’s), sandcastles and cheekily rude postcards. Today, there are reportedly over 20,000 private beach huts in the UK, with nearly 2000 of them along the beaches of Bournemouth alone – 70% of them privately owned.
The beach huts come into their own in Summer (or what normally passes for an English Summer – last one of course being the exception), with families exploding out of these tiny wooden boxes onto the concrete promenade, whilst in Winter, they’re almost all locked up for the season, forlorn little coloured boxes lined up against the chilly elements, longing for warmer sunnier days.
Historically, beach huts were fisherman’s huts and boatsheds but in the late Victorian era, no trip to the seaside was complete without a dip into the sea from one of the new-fangled bathing machines – essentially a hut on wheels that could be drawn by horse down the beach towards the sea, allowing the person within to step directly into the water, dressed from head to toe of course. Queen Victoria even had her own personal bathing machine at her residence on the Isle of Wight – the white cliffs of the island just visible out there on the horizon. Some of the earliest purpose-built beach huts were actually erected in Bournemouth, either side of the Pier in 1909, where most of them remain to this day. The oldest one still standing (after 113 years) is just along here, sporting a blue plaque ‘Bournemouth Beach Bungalow Constructed 1909. First municipal beach hut in the UK.’
The 2000 or so huts that line the seven miles of Bournemouth beaches are fiercely fought for and sought after with some selling for more than most UK houses – huts in prime locations go for hundreds of thousands, the highest price paid in the region recently exceeding £350,000! And you can’t even stay overnight in your hut, it’s forbidden by the local council. And, even more staggering, many are leasehold. There’s one tiny hut for sale along the Boscombe beachfront, close to the Fisherman’s Cliff lift: Communal freshwater tap. Includes 2 tables and 6 chairs, a kettle, small gas stove. Oh, and 9.5 years left on a 25-year lease – expiring 2032. Public loo and shower 50m’s away. Yours for £38,000.
BTW, as gloriously sunny as this all looks, it was actually -2.
Bournemouth Beach c 1890 with bathing huts and horses on the beach