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FA100842 – John ‘Smoaker’ Miles, John Russell, 1791

Published by: Andrew Bradstreet
FA100842 – John 'Smoaker' Miles, John Russell, 1791. A portrait of a man in a white shirt with a red scarf tied around his neck. He tilts his top hat from his head with his right arm.
FA100842 – John 'Smoaker' Miles, John Russell, 1791

Part of the One Minute Wonders trail, a story written by one of our volunteers, inspired by objects on display.

By Andrew Bradstreet

Who is this man lifting his hat in greeting? For a clue, look carefully at what is shown on the beach below his elbow.

In the 1790s, it was usually only the rich and famous that had their portrait painted. Although not a Gentleman of the time, someone certainly wanted this man captured for posterity.

John “Smoaker” Miles was one of the first ‘Bathers’ in Brighton, bathing his clients safe in the sea. He was able to swim “quite as well as a mackerel” and was known to be blunt, and apt to speak his mind when provoked.

One time, fearing for the Prince of Wales’s life, “Smoaker” swam up to him, and, seizing him by the ear, lugged him, to the shore. “Smoaker shouted”, “I ar’nt a goen’ to let the King hang me for letten’ the Prince of Wales drown hisself; not I, to please nobody, I can tell’e.”

When the Prince became King, he commissioned John Russell to paint this portrait of his friend. Nearby there is a picture of “Smoaker’s” Bathing Machines.

FA100842 – John 'Smoaker' Miles, John Russell, 1791. A portrait of a man in a white shirt with a red scarf tied around his neck. He tilts his top hat from his head with his right arm.
FA100842 – John 'Smoaker' Miles, John Russell, 1791