In the 19th century, sea bathing in Torquay was strictly segregated with men and women having separate beaches designated to them. From the early years of the century, Torquay Council kept a strict watch over the propriety of sea bathing and drew up a number of byelaws which were frequently added to.
Four beaches were allocated to ladies:
a) From Livermead Cliff to Corbyn Head
b) From NE of Corby to the Old Toll House
c) Between the public baths and the Imperial Hotel
d) At Meadfoot.
Five beaches were allocated to men:
a) From south of Corbyn Head to the Old Toll House
b) At Livermead but near the west side of Corbyn
c) On Tor Abbey sands
d) At Peaked Tor
e) At Meadfoot but several yards from the bathing machines.
Other byelaws included "No bathing with or without drawers is allowed between the Belgrave and the Imperial" (1887) and "No person of the male sex shall at any time bathe within 50 yards of a ladies' bathing machine (1899).
Men would have engaged in actual swimming but women were so hampered by the voluminous clothing they had to wear in the sea that they could do little but hold on to a rope and wait to be dunked under the water by the waves or by the attendants who were, of course, female.