Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Queen Victoria's Osborne House beach to open to public

Queen Victoria beach
Image caption Queen Victoria used to sketch the sea from the private beach

A section of beach on the Isle of Wight once reserved exclusively for Queen Victoria is to open to the public for the first time.

The section of beach at Osborne House, Queen Victoria's former private home, will fully open to visitors on 27 July.

Queen Victoria regularly bathed at the site near East Cowes while many of her children also learned to swim there.

In 1845 she wrote: "We have quite a charming beach to ourselves, it is impossible to imagine a prettier spot."

The beach was said to be the deciding factor behind Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's decision to buy Osborne House, which is now under the care of English Heritage.

It has returned an original wooden bathing machine to the beach which ran down a ramp into the sea.

'Seaside retreat'

From there, Queen Victoria would emerge in her swimming suit with her modesty preserved.

It is more ornate than most of those used by aristocratic women in the 19th Century and even has a plumbed-in toilet as well as a changing room and a veranda with curtains.

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Media captionA wooden bathing machine has been restored to its former glory

After Victoria's death at Osborne House in January 1901, the bathing machine was removed from the beach and was later used as a chicken shed.

A small covered seat, named The Queen's Alcove, has also been restored. This is where Victoria sat and sketched coastal views.

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "Queen Victoria is fixed in many people's minds as the grandmother of Europe, a queen who spent most of her reign in mourning for her husband.

"Opening her beach at Osborne lets us show another side to her. This was a queen who collected sea-shells with her children, who sketched the changing sea and who swam sometimes twice a day.

"Osborne was her seaside retreat from the formalities of Buckingham Palace and now people can visit that seaside."

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