Wednesday 25 September 2019

In attendance.

This mug is in the likeness of Martha Gunn and dates from 1800. It's on display at the Ashmolean and I took a photo in passing last year thinking that she might be an interesting character to explore further. Naturally in the meantime I've forgotten all about her, but I came across her name again last week which has given me a prod.

This lady was a dipper or in modern day parlance a bathing machine attendant. Swimming in the sea became all the rage in the 1740s, but mixed bathing was not encouraged. Gunn was born and bred in Brighton and she was one of the dippers who allowed the ladies of the day to retain their modesty as they bathed on the ladies only beach. In time she became famous for her friendship with the Prince Regent. Some sources state that she was indeed the Prince's dipper, but this is disputed elsewhere. Whatever the truth she became a legend in her lifetime and was featured on many types of merchandise. She is buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas's.



  1. I was going to say that you can visit here Grave in St Nicholas church yard. My kids did a project on her when they were at school, the church is just a few streets away from where I live.

  2. "The Prince's dipper..", you say? Hence the 3 feathers adorning her hat? The notion that local celebrities were featured on souvenir merch in the late 18th C intrigues me: mugs and what else?

    1. You could be right about the feathers. There were lots of contemporary engravings of her and there is now a pub in Brighton named after her. Arilx


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