Channel Shore

Channel Shore by Tom Fort Page A

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Authors: Tom Fort
from gout to heart disease. Dr Russell had thereby established Brighton’s reputation as the resort of choice for the well-to-do in search of a cure. Initially the ‘original medicated shampooing’ offered by the Indian surgeon at Mahomed’s Baths was just one more in the portfolio of therapeutic treatments available to Brighton’s transient population of invalids and hypochondriacs. But its exoticism and originality, and the suave and soothing manner of its dusky practitioner, soon made it a favourite.
    Mahomet’s ‘shampooing’ had little or nothing to do with thehair or scalp. The patient, having been encouraged to perspire freely in the vapour bath, was placed in a flannel tent. Medicated oils were applied, followed by pummelling of the muscles, ligaments and tendons by strong arms inserted through flaps in the side of the tent.
    Extraordinary cures were claimed. Dean Mahomet built up a collection of crutches, spine-stretchers, club-foot reformers, leg-irons and other correctives which his patients had discarded as a result of his treatments. The Prince Regent himself came, and appointed Mahomet Shampooing Surgeon to the Royal Family. Where the Prince led everyone else followed. Testimonials flowed in. Mrs Kent, of Wimpole Street in London, was inspired to verse. She came to Mahomed’s Baths
    Worn out by anguish and excess of pain
    Hope seemed delusive and assistance vain.
    But after a good pummelling, she was a new woman –
    To thee, Mahomed, let a grateful heart
    Its warmest thanks in gratitude impart,
    By thy great skill and unremitting care,
    One has been saved who might have perished there.
    Who while she feels a pulse within her veins
    Will bless the name if memory remains.
    The Baths prospered, so much so that a sister branch opened in London. Its founder retired in 1843 – aged either eighty-four or ninety-four – handing over to one of his sons, Arthur. According to his obituary in the
Gentleman’s Magazine
, Mahomet ‘enjoyed uninterrupted good health and retained all his faculties unimpaired almost to the last hour of his life’. The
Brighton Herald
attributed his wellbeing to ‘temperate habits and a cheerful and contented mind . . . he was highly respected as a man of benevolence, candour and sincerity.’
    One of his grandsons subsequently wrote to the paper to clear up the matter of his name – it should have been Deen Mahomed, the ‘Sake’ being a title which should have been rendered as ‘Sheikh’, meaning ‘elderly respected person’. The family remained in Brighton long after the fashion for medical shampooing had passed and Mahomed’s Baths had been pulled down to make way for a hotel. One of the grandsons is recorded as having died in Hove in 1935; he was the Reverend James Deen Kerriman Mahomed, which must be one of the more unusual names on the Church of England’s roll.
    Brighton in the era of Mahomed’s Baths knew its business thoroughly. Its adoption by the Prince Regent in 1783 as his favoured playground added the dimension of pleasure to the round of water treatments advocated by Dr Russell and his followers. Under the Prince’s patronage, Brighton rapidly learned to offer a wide range of diversions and facilities. George’s notion of amusement encompassed bathing, shooting at chimneys, cards, masques, balls, hunting a stag down the Steine, philandering, gossip-mongering and much besides. Crucially, it also sanctioned the participation of social ranks outside the old aristocracy hitherto considered suitable as royal companions. In Brighton extravagance of dress, behaviour and spending were the norm. Money rubbed shoulders with quality, the flash with the elegant, the seamy with the smart.
    In 1827 George IV – as he had become after a long wait – paid his last visit to his Oriental pleasure palace, the Royal Pavilion. His successor, William IV, loved Brighton as well, but he did not last long. Queen Victoria did not share the enthusiasm of her uncles. She and

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