Lord Rokeby, a Man Who was Fond of Water
Matthew Robinson, 2nd Baron Rokeby was an English eccentric nobleman who grew rather fond of water.
Rokeby became an enthusiastic supporter of baths during a holiday in the spa town of Aix-la-Chapelle. When he returned to Kent, he began to make daily trips to the seashore to swim in salt water, regardless of the weather. His servant often had to persuade him to come home and sometimes he fainted from exhaustion and had to be rescued.
He had a hut built for him on the sands at Hythe and drinking fountains along his route to the beach. If he found people drinking from a fountain, he gave them a half-crown coin.
He also let his beard grow, which was against the contemporary fashion. Eventually it was so thick that it stuck out under his arms and could be seen from behind. He decided to build a swimming pool in his mansion - it was built under glass and was heated by sun. There he spent hours at the time, preferably alone. He refused to have a fire in his house even in the coldest weather.
His increased isolation bred rumours, including one that he was a cannibal or ate only raw meat - when he ate mainly beef tea and nibbled at venison. He also refused to see any doctors. As for church service, he claimed that God was best worshipped at natural altars of the earth, the sea and the sky - not to mention that the sermons were boring.
When Lord Rokeby did indeed agree to accept visitors, he might “entertain” them with lengthy, boring poems. He very rarely visited the court and then was an embarrassment to his socialite sister, Mrs Elizabeth Montagu. When he stayed at the Chequers Inn at Lenham in 1796, curious locals took him for a Turk.
He died in December 1800; peacefully in his bed on dry land.