On August 16 2012 I appeared on Channel 4’s Restoration Man as an expert on the eighteenth-century vogue for cold bathing as a healthy activity with George Clarke. One of the defining features of contemporary western society is its obsession with health fads, whether in the form of macrobiotic diets or ‘sweating it out’ in the gym. However, this is an age-old concern and in 18th-century Britain the health craze of the day resulted in the creation of plunge pools and cold baths in houses and gardens across the land. These containers filled with cold water could be located within the main house or within a purpose-built structure set in the landscape, such as a grotto, where they often formed part of a circuit of garden features to be inspected. Although they were often aesthetically pleasing, their main purpose was to help facilitate a healthy way of life, and their placement, particularly when they formed part of a designed landscape, was as important in terms of encouraging good health as a dip in the cold water itself.
The invitation came from an article I wrote for Cathedral Publications on eighteenth-century bath houses and plunge pools.