Southsea Bathing Hut
Think Portsmouth has a dirty and murky past? Well think again, as Charlotte Pearson reveals it is squeaky clean.
The words Portsmouth and heritage together usually conjures up images of the Navy, historic ships and King Henry VIII, but one word that doesn’t immediately spring to mind is soap.
But in the 1800s the seaside city had a booming industry with soap being made for national and international customers.
Up until the 1930s Portsmouth was home to major manufacturer Doudneys and a multitude of smaller makers.
The manufacture of the product was tied into naval activity born out of the need to keep uniforms pristine.
It was after researching this part of the city’s history that Samantha Worsey launched her business Southsea Bathing Hut.
“I have always been creative and interested in history,” she reveals. “And I have always made soap for friends and family. It was that old cliché of them saying ‘why don’t you sell it’.
“So when I found out about Portsmouth’s soap making past, I just thought ‘well I have to do it now’.”
And so the plan to revive the city’s Victorian soap history was born.
“I love that I can bring a bit of Portsmouth’s heritage back,” smiles Samantha, “and one that not many people are aware of.
“I spent three days in Portsmouth Central Library finding out as much as I could, researching old newspaper stories.”
In keeping with the old tradition the business is also a family affair.
The soap is made by Samantha and her mother, cut by her husband and then wrapped by her dad.
As a Southsea-based business Samantha was keen to keep the humour and quirkiness of the area by creating interesting names such as Aloe Sailor and Cod’s Gift.
The current soap range comes in eight variations from Ooh La Lavender to Rose Garden, Almonds Ahoy! and Sea Honey, with a number of unscented which are suitable for those with sensitive skin conditions.
“I don’t use parabens, sulphates, or artificial colourings or fragrances,” explains Samantha.
“Rose Garden has been really popular with people, it is very pretty and uses geranium, rose hip and rose clay.
“Lemon Soul is another great one as people love the fresh scent.
“Others we just experimented – Cod’s Gift has an aniseed smell with star anise and peppermint and it is bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it.”
Launching in April Samantha has already seen a number of repeat customers, and with big plans for the future of the business maybe Portsmouth will once again be a soap making hub.
The soaps can be bought online at www.southseabathinghut.co.uk where you can sign up for the newsletter and offers.
Southsea Bathing Hut will be at the Love Southsea: America’s Cup Market on Sunday, July 26 in Palmerston Road, Southsea.
Where did the name come from?
“The Victorians used to come to the south coast to ‘take in the water’,” reveals Samantha.
“The ladies would go into bathing huts and change. It would then be wheeled into the sea and a canopy would come down.
“The ladies would step into the water and then the canopy would come up and they would swim away so they wouldn’t be seen.
“I just liked the idea of the bathing huts and thought it would make a great name.”
Samantha’s brief history of soap…
“It came over to Britain in the dark ages from southern Iraq,” she says. “They have been using soap there since about 3000 BC so it took a while for it to work its way across to Britain.
“Initially soap was used as a household cleaner to scrub floors and was used by the upper classes to clean cloth.
“During the 17th century it became more accessible to everyone.
“In Britain the main places for soap manufacturing was Bristol, Manchester and London.
“Here in Portsmouth it was in the heart of Old Portsmouth.
“I believe it was because after being at sea for months the ships would come here and be a bit stinky and need a clean up.
“Tilleys was behind the cathedral in Old Portsmouth, and was a small family run business.
“Whereas Doudneys was in Commercial Road.
“John Doudney was very philanthropic in that he owned a lot of houses around Portsmouth where his workers lived. He also took part in campaigns for the soap industry to be regulated so that the staff were taken care of.
“It was during the 1900s that people started to use soap for personal hygiene and cleaning themselves.
“Tilleys shut in the late 1800s after 60-70 years of business and Doudneys closed its doors in the 1930s.”
June 24, 2015 Fashion and Beauty