Martha Gunn (1726-1815), Brighton 'dipper'

Martha Gunn – Brighton Celebrity

We’re not quite sure that Martha’s claim to fame would work in today’s celebrity culture, for Martha, who was born Martha Killick daughter of Friend and Anne Killick in 1726 (baptized 19 September 1731) , was a ‘dipper‘. Much has been written about her already, but we thought we would add a few extra bits.

'A Calm' by James Gillray (1810).
‘A Calm’ by James Gillray (1810). Courtesy of Princeton University Library

What was a ‘dipper’? Well, in the 1700 and early 1800s doctors would recommend that people bath in sea water to restore their health. Needless to say this concept was terrifying for many, so in places such as Brighton people were employed as ‘dippers‘.

Huts on wheels, like the one below were used to allow the bather to protect their modesty, the bather would climb into the hut, change into their swimming attire, the machine was then pulled by dippers into the sea. Dippers were also expected to ensure that people were not swept away by the current, arguably like a modern day lifeguard, so they would need to be very strong.

Bathing machine at Weymouth
Weymouth

This occupation in itself was never going to give Martha celebrity status, but her royal connection to the Prince of Wales, later George IV, did. She was a favourite of his and apparently enjoyed special privileges including free access to the kitchen at the Royal Pavilion.

The portrait of her below, is reputed to show Martha holding the Prince of Wales as a small child, however, this is not feasible as  the Prince did not visit Brighton until September 7th, 1783, he was 21. So despite the annotation at the top of the painting this must have been added at a later stage.

Todd’s print catalogue of 1799 simply described the painting as being with an unnamed child

There was also another copy of the piece produced by William Nutter which is now held by The Met, dated 1797. It does not state that the child was the Prince of Wales, but that the original was in his possession and this one was dedicated to the Prince of Wales.

V0017100 Martha Gunn, a Brighton bather holding a small child that she has just saved from drowning.
Coloured engraving by W. Nutter, 1797, after J. Russell.
1797 By: John Russellafter: William NutterPublished: 1 June 1797

It also appeared in the following catalogue which confirmed the artist to be John Russell – ‘A catalogue of all the capital and valuable finished and unfinished original works of the distinguished artist, John Russell, Esq. R.A where it was to be sold along with other paintings by Mr. Christie on February 14th, 1807.

Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell
Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries
The Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV born 1762 and Mrs Gunn

Martha was a large and strong woman and was well respected by the town and she even featured in the caricature below.

A scene at Brighton; some Frenchmen have landed on the beach; others are in broad clumsy boats which have left French men-of-war. In the foreground old women and yokels are dealing with the invaders. A woman resembling Martha Gunn, the bathing-woman, trampling on prostrate bodies, holds out at arm's length a kicking French soldier. Courtesy of British Museum
A scene at Brighton; some Frenchmen have landed on the beach; others are in broad clumsy boats which have left French men-of-war. In the foreground old women and yokels are dealing with the invaders. A woman resembling Martha Gunn, the bathing-woman, trampling on prostrate bodies, holds out at arm’s length a kicking French soldier. Courtesy of British Museum

She died in May 1815 and was buried in the local churchyard.

Hampshire Chronicle, 15th May 1815

Long after her death a plaque was added to the house where she and her family lived.

Plaque on the Brighton house where Martha Gunn lived. It says: Martha Gunn 1727-1815, the original bathing woman lived here.

Featured Image

British School; Martha Gunn (1726-1815); Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

All Things History – Round up for May 2017

Well, it’s hard to know where to begin with such an incredibly diverse range of wonderful blog posts yet again, everything from ‘The Prince of Pickpockets‘ to ‘A Fake Vicar at Bow Street‘, plus a couple you may prefer not to read (ouch!),  so we have manged to round up quite  collection for you to enjoy as you relax with a cuppa on your Sunday morning.

The Workhouse & I

The boy who got his wick stuck in a candlestick

Painful Operations: Removing Bladder Stones before Anesthesia

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

Nude Male Races on Kersal Moor, 1777-1811

York V’s York: Changing Attitudes in Regency England

The American Habit of Spitting Tobacco Juice

The Eruption of La Soufrière on the West Indian island of St Vincent

Fashions for May 1844

A Fake Vicar at Bow Street

The Wealth of an Early 18th Century Butcher

A Jane Austen Ball in Pictures

Grace Dalrymple Elliott and the French Revolution

Writer’s Travel Guide: The British Tourist and Napoleonic Milan

Local polls and general elections: a Victorian perspective

The Etiquette of the Victorian Ballroom: Twenty Tips for Single Gentlemen

The Watch Dogs of Georgian England

Let Them Eat Stale Bread

‘The Prince of Pickpockets’: George Barrington (1755-1804)

Out in the Georgian Country Garden

When America had an Emperor

Jacobite Women

Early 19th Century Fashions from the Corriere delle dame, Milan

Smuggling in Late 18th-Century England

 

All Things History – Round up for April 2017

Sir Thomas Lawrence and the Romantic Portrait 

Pitched upon a pitchfork [this one should really come with a warning… not for the faint-hearted!]

Gerald Wellesley’s secret family

Tricky Surnames and How to Pronounce Them

What Did Napoleon Like to Read?

Animal Fads and Fashions in the 18th and 19th Century

The Murky Recesses of the Georgian Post Office

Lancelot “Capability” Brown and the Landscape Park

Six Reasons Why You Should Take Part at a Jane Austen Ball

Reusable Condoms

St. James’s Square: A Fashionable Regency Era Address

18th-Century Barbers at the Old Bailey

Pattens in the 18th Century – a sensible way of keeping dresses off the filthy streets

Georgian Era Commerce ~ Part IV: The St Katherine Docks and the Custom House

 

 

 

 

 

All Things History – Roundup for March 2017

We simply can’t believe how quickly the months are flying by, but here we are at the end of the first quarter of 2017, so as always we have a super selection of blogs to share with you. Enjoy!

Forthergil’s Chymical Nervous Drops

‘Wicked’ William and Catherine: Society Wedding of the Regency Era

Dog Funerals in the Late Victorian Era

Child Dropping in the Regency 

Frederica of Baden

Birth of the ‘Forensic Kit’ or ‘Murder Bag’

A Little House that Survived a Major Battle, 1777

Revisiting the Remarkable Emilie du Châtelet

The First Texas Novel

Model of the Perfect Woman, Georgian Style

Robert Adam’s Bumpy Career Start

A Prank too far

HMS Guardian 1789 – An Epic Battle for Survival 

Brief History of the Giraffe: the Mammal Formerly know as the Cameleopard

The Trouble with Bustles: Victorian Fashion In The 19th Century News

 

 

All Things History – Roundup for February 2017

Well, February might have been a short month, but once again we’re spoilt with some many fascinating blogs, once again we have a really eclectic mix for you, so, put your feet up and enjoy.

Georgian ‘Madness’ and Melancholy

Who knows their Nathaniel Hone? Please help solve a mystery

Learning to be ‘The Lady of the Manor’

A Skeleton in the Priest hole

Word of the Week – Cinder Garbler

Regency Women of Character – ‘unbecoming’ lady drivers

Amusements of Old London: London al fresco: Vauxhall

Georgian Deism and Other  ‘- isms’

Making Ink 

The Evolution of Men’s Fashion in the 18th Century

Murder in Walthamstow! – Elizabeth Jeffries: Killer or Victim?

The Celebrated Pig-Faced Lady

The Dangers of Walking in Vienna in the 1820s

The Places we visit in Jane Austen’s Novels

A Source of Trouble and Expense

Is This a forgotten portrait of Angelica Schuyler Church?

 

 

All Things History – Monthly Roundup for January 2017

We trust that you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and so we kick off this years monthly roundup with some blogs we came across during January. As we didn’t have a December roundup we have a bumper roundup for January covering an incredibly eclectic mix of subjects – we hope you enjoy our selection as much as do.

Victorian Monopoly – From ‘Go’ to ‘Just Visiting’ Prison

A Proposed 18th Century Tax Bill Targets 27-Year-Old Spinsters…And Their Cats!

The Salon Hostess Sophie de Condorcet

18th and 19th Century Marking of Linen

The Capture of the Chevrette, 1801

WOW – Word of the Week – Pig Running

Ambroise Garneray, artist and corsair

The Georgian Apothecary

The Neglected Daughter

Charades with the Duke of Wellington

Bedlam:The hospital and the word it gave us

Was Madame de Genlis Napoleon’s spy?

Sick Servants of Early Modern Britain

An “African Princess” at Queen Victoria’s Court

Amusements of Old London: The Tea Gardens

Let us remember Sir Hans Sloane once more – he died on 11th January 1753

Paying the Correct Fare – Hackney Carriages and Watermen

Unequal Duel, 1758: HMS Monmouth vs. Foudroyant

Day’s Submarine 1774 (first fatal submarine accident)

 

 

 

 

 

All Things History – Monthly Roundup for October

Well, here we are at the beginning of another month, so here’s a roundup of the history blogs that grabbed our attention last month. As always we really hope you find them as interesting as we have.

The Regency Chino

On being over-fond of animals

Word of the Week – Victualling Office

Things Named For People

Henri de Rigny: turning adversity into opportunity

Letters Patent in 1803 and the privileges they carried

A Beautiful Needle Lace Sampler for 1795

Fleuron: A Database of Eighteenth-Century Printers’ Ornaments

Victorian Era Medicine Laudanum

Maria Edgeworth’s (Deleted) Thoughts on Frances Burney’s Evelina

Cleanliness and Class

Keeping the Secret (the Seasalter Company of Smugglers)

The Dutch explorer and africanist Alexandrine Petronella Francina Tinne

Emblems of the Soul: Butterflies in Victorian Fashion and Folklore

John Trew and an Elizabethan Tank

The Killer Coroner and the Pesky Peacock

Historic Painting: Maslenitsa by Boris Kustodiev, 1919