Cultural historian George Townsend leads us through his research into Parson’s Pleasure, a male-only nude bathing place on the outskirts of Oxford.

A unique site, Parson’s Pleasure offered exercise and repose to men from many walks of life, for at least 400 years. It formed a centre of muscular Christianity for the Victorians and a hub for the sunbathing craze between the wars. It was also a cruising spot and sanctuary for gay men until its demolition in 1992, and remains a part of the city’s collective imagination to this day.

Through poetry and stories from old regulars, we explore the river island where Parson’s Pleasure sits, and discover surprising echoes of its history among the younger generation of today.

Touching on social and landscape history and the history of sexuality, The Bathing Place offers an insight into the city of dreaming spires like no other.

Presenter: George Townsend
Producer: Hunter Charlton
Image: William Roberts
A Soundscape production for BBC Radio 4

2021 Charles Parker Prize Winner -

Described by BBC R4's Commissioning Editor, as "the most polished and complete production of the 10 [shortlisted], drawing me into its story with a great deal of patience and subtlety".