Bold, bright and snaking down the coastline in perfect alignment, it’s hard not to be charmed by Brighton’s iconic beach boxes. Located a short drive south east of Melbourne’s central business district, the colourful cascade of symmetrically-pleasing wooden sheds provide today’s tourists an endless array of selfie backdrops. But a little research suggests their original function was rather more modest.
Over a century old
According to Brighton Historical Society member Dianne Reed, Brighton’s bathing boxes have been around in some form since the 1800s, and were likely erected as changing sheds for women.
Before the selfie
Modesty was a high priority for early Australian settlers arriving from Britain and Europe, and as such, bathing boxes were not unique to Brighton Beach. In fact, private bathing shed building permission requests to various councils across the Port Phillip Bay area have been recorded since 1883.
Exisiting for more than a century, it’s no surprise that Brighton’s beach boxes have weathered some foes. Following a swell of construction in the early 1900s, a 1918 cyclone scattered a number of boxes north and south of Green Point. In 1934 the surviving bathing boxes were removed or relocated to Dendy Street, where they exist today.
The survival of the iconic structures continued to be challenged throughout the late twentieth century, with a number of counsel and state authorities attempting removal. Luckily, residents of Brighton were both pro-beach boxes and full of political punch, leaving removal plans by the City of Brighton, and later Victorian coastal authorities, dead in the water.
How can I rent one?
There are 82 Brighton bathing boxes existing today, all of which are under the guardianship of the Bayside City Council. Can you rent a bathing box for the summer? Sadly no (unless you live in Brighton). Bathing box licenses are issued annually to Brighton residents – most are used for storage, shelter and as changing facilities.
To find out more . . .