Mary Wheatland

Our Class names explained – Wheatland Class

Mary Wheatland was born in 1835 in nearby Aldingbourne. When she moved to Bognor with her husband George, she taught herself to swim, and then began to teach others, both locals and visitors to the area. Mary soon began operating the bathing machines along the seafront. You could hire a swimming costume and towel from Mary before entering the bathing machine to get changed. Once you had finished, you would return your things to Mary and she would wash them and lay them out ready for the next swimmer!

Mary became quite famous for amongst beach goers and even ended up being pictured on many postcards from the time. Mary eventually retired in 1909 at the age of 74. During her time working at the bathing machines, Mary was attributed to having saved over 30 lives and even boasted that she ‘never lost a life’.

She was still a popular face on the beach even after her retirement, until her death at the age of 89 in 1924. Mary was laid to rest in South Bersted Churchyard and was honoured with a very impressive funeral ceremony from her home to the church.

This year, to celebrate Mary, a blue plaque will be placed on the side of Bognor Regis Pier, overlooking her site on the beach at the end of waterloo square.

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