Metrotile and Beach Hut Roofing

shingle on beach houses

The History of Beach Hut Culture

The sight of beach huts along the shores of Brighton and Bournemouth have become an iconic seaside image, synonymous with beach culture. They seem so natural that you may not think to question why they are there. But if you dig a little deeper you will find a surprising history that is entwined with the stereotype of ‘Britishness’ – a modest tale hidden behind their flamboyant and colourful doors.


Bathing Machines

The beach hut story begins with the bathing machine, a device invented to allow people to slip into the sea without compromising their modesty. Prior to this invention the only people that used the beaches were fishermen and smugglers. In fact the only reason that pattern of behaviour was disrupted was due to some new medical advice. In the 1700s doctors began to prescribe sea water as a miracle cure for almost everything, which forced people to confront their discomfort with public nudity.

The bathing machines were wooden huts, much like a beach hut, or a wooden frame with canvas sides mounted on big wheels to take the hut down to the water. People would get changed inside the hut and then a horse pulled the bathing machine into the sea where it could shield the bather from view whilst they bathed. There were even people known as ‘dippers’ in the early days, who plunged people into the sea to ensure they got the correct amount of prescribed dips!

The Birth of Seaside Culture

The influx of ill people and their families is what brought about the seaside culture made popular in the Victorian era. As people waited for their family members to be ‘treated’, they all needed to be fed, housed and entertained, resulting in the Punch and Judy shows, promenades, fish, chips, cockles and whelks we still enjoy today.

This type of informal eating and revealing of bodies went against the grain of existing British culture, which prided itself on table manners and proper decorum. We were entering an era of relaxed rules and morals, which has arguably continued to shift since this moment.

Modern Beach Huts 

The beach huts we have today are derived from the early bathing machines and fishing huts, although very few originals remain. However Bournemouth Council, who own many of the huts on Bournemouth beach believe they still have some original beach buts, with the oldest – number 2359 – marked with a blue plaque.

Beach Huts have seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years as people have seen the potential of these charming seaside boltholes and have subsequently found themselves sitting on a waiting list for several years. They have passed hands for great sums of money, for instance Tracey Emin fetched £75,000 for her beach hut in Whitstable when she sold it on to art collector Charles Saatchi. Even the Queen has owned one! And they have found their way onto architectural programmes such as George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces where a family got inventive with their six foot real estate.

Architectural Updates to your Beach Hut

As the value of beach huts have risen, people are going to greater lengths to create a solid and useable space. We recently worked with Bournemouth Council to renovate their beach huts with Metrotile lightweight roof tiles to bring them back to their former glory and increase their security. Metrotile is a perfect roofing system for beach huts as it is very lightweight so doesn’t place undue strain on the wooden structure and is also highly weather proof. They have been certified and tested under extreme weather conditions to protect against harsh wind, rain and even cyclones, so we can confidently offer a 40 year weather-proof guarantee.

You can also introduce other elements into your beach hut roof, such as sky lights and sun tunnels to maximise the natural light. There is also an option to use our photovoltaic roof tiles to provide your hut with solar power, which can add a huge amount of functionality to your beach hut. With an electricity supply the fun doesn’t need to stop when the sun goes down, you can huddle inside for a nice cup of tea and a bacon sandwich. You can’t get much more British than that!

If you’d like to talk to somebody about revamping your beach hut roof, give us a call on 01249 658514, or take a look at our website to find out more about our lightweight roof tiles.