Prudish New Brighton

A gem from the NZ Truth in 1928 – New Brighton was apparently inundated with “pagans from the city”. The photograph below from 1918  shows a group of these “pagans” displaying neck to knee swimwear.


A wowser council

N.B According to the Oxford English Dictionary a wowser is “A Puritanical enthusiast or fanatic; esp. a fanatical or determined opponent of intoxicating drink.”

New Brighton, a beautiful marine suburb … is a painfully pious settlement which produces two religious publications and regards it as sinful to marry the sister of a defunct missus. In the summer months pagans from the city swarm to the seaside to breathe the health-giving ozone and parade the beach in scanty attire. New Brighton is shocked periodically and, last year, made itself the laughing stock of the Dominion by prosecuting the wearers of ordinary swimming costumes. It lost … but is still in the frame of mind which prevents it from seeing that prudishness which sees harm in a swimming costume is mere evidence of prurience. New Brighton was particularly scandalised by the conduct of some shameless ladies with good figures who entered the water in fetching, tight-fitting costumes which are worn on continental beaches and in Australia ….  Notwithstanding the magistrate’s decision, new by-laws have been drawn up to prevent the public enjoying themselves at the seaside

[Both sexes were to wear neck-to-knee costumes and women’s costumes were to be shapeless.]

No bathing costume in any part of the world reaches to the knee …. Girls are to make themselves look as unbeautiful as possible in baggy garments that are a hindrance and vexatious in the water.

NZ truth, 19 January 1928

The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies.

This information came from Richard Greenaway – an expert on the local history of Christchurch. Some of you might have been on one of his fascinating cemetery tours. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories.

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