Yesterday I was contacted by a colleague asking if I had ever heard of an occupation he had located in the 1861 census:
Charles and Andrew White, father and son, both BATH CHAIRMAN in Winchester in 1861 [RG9/692/76/21]
Searching around on the internet and in other nineteenth century censuses, the term ‘Bath Chairman’, as written by the enumerator above, rarely appears but ‘Bath chair man’ and ‘Bath-chair man’ are a little more prevalent. Wikipedia states that a bath chair, or Bath chair is ‘a rolling chaise or light carriage with a folding hood….. used especially by invalids…. mounted on three or four wheels and drawn or pushed by hand.’ It is perhaps unsurprising that it is named after its origin in Bath but also after the similarity in its appearance to an old-fashioned bathtub.
Invented by James Heath of Bath in around 1750, the Bath chair gained in popularity and by 1830, had replaced the sedan chair as a conventional means of transport.
Later versions were a type of wheelchair which was pushed by an attendant rather than pulled by an animal. In the nineteenth century, they were often seen at spa resorts such as Buxton and Tunbridge Wells. Some versions incorporated a steering device for use by the invalid. There is a superb account of Leamington’s ‘Last Bath-Chair Man: Thomas Timms (1855-1934)’ on the Leamington History Group website.
Something new to learn every day….