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Behind the Scenes


Historical accuracy is a big part of this project, and Matt and the team researched the subject matter in detail. Here’s a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes showing some of the things we did to make it happen.

Mary Old & New side by side

Photo credits:

(Left) National Archives, Catalogue ref: Copy 1/465

(Right) Fiona Elizabeth Photography

Making Mary’s Costume

The most important thing to get right was our interpretation of the Mary Wheatland character. We feel incredibly lucky to have local actor Vick Edwards play the part, and we hope you will agree she does an excellent job.

We needed someone who was of a similar height to Mary, who from historical accounts was quite a petite woman, particularly considering how many drowning swimmers she pulled out of the sea.

This photo at the top left of the page of Mary was found in the National Archives and was taken by local photographer William Marsh in 1903. It became the main comparison photo that was used to recreate Mary in modern times. 

Mr Marsh had a photographic studio near to the beach and took a number of portraits of Mary, making early postcards, and giving her celebrity status.

Fabric Samples for Mary Wheatland's costume

Photo credit: Laura Boseley

“When researching Mary’s hat, I looked into the construction of historical sailors’ hats and asked online costume forums for advice on how to recreate the lettering on the hatband.”

Painting Mary Wheatland's name on headband

Photo credit: Laura Boseley

My main reference was Mary herself, analysing photos and reading articles about her life and career“

Laura Boseley, costume maker.

Matt wanted the costume to be as accurate as possible so enlisted the help of costume maker Laura Boseley. Laura works in the film, television, and theatre industry, and has worked for Glyndebourne Opera House, Disney, and Netflix. She has a particular interest in Historical Costume so was happy to accept the challenge.

To research the project Laura spent a long time looking at reference photographs of working-class women in the 1800’s. 

“My main reference was Mary herself, analysing photos and reading articles about her life and career. I looked at various books, particularly ‘Making Working Women’s Costume’ by Elizabeth Friendship for its photographs of fisherwomen in the 1800s, historical patterns and details like under-garments, fabrics, and shoes. I also looked at historical clothing patterns to ensure I created the correct silhouette. 

Completed Mary Wheatland uniform

Photo credit: Laura Boseley

Replicas of Mary Wheatland's medals

Replicas of Mary Wheatland's medals, 2024.

Mary received the bronze medal for gallantry

Mary received medals for her heroic actions and to be true to our source image we wanted to create ones like those in the photograph from 1903. After doing our research we found out that Mary received two bronze medals for gallantry from the Royal Humane Society, as well as a silver medal for gallantry by the publishers of the magazine ‘Golden Penny.’ Mary’s bravery and selflessness in saving over thirty lives from drowning earned her these prestigious accolades. 

Matt was able to find a replica of the RHS bronze medal online, but the silver Golden Penny award proved more difficult. The original medal has an image of Britannia on it, so he created a similar looking prop medal by finding an old penny and painting it silver.

Making the ‘hologram’

Technically in the real-world holograms do not exist, but it is possible to create them virtually, in augmented reality, using a state-of-the-art technique called ‘Volumetric Video.’

Volumetric Capture or ‘VolCap’ is a new kind video that records objects in three dimensions. With volumetric video, you can look at an object from different angles, as if you were there in person. This makes the experience more immersive and interactive. We used a green-screen stage containing multiple sensor cameras that record at the same time.

The technology is still very new, and there are only a handful of studios in Europe that can create this type of video. To capture Mary’s avatar, we used the fantastic world-leading set-up over at the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Reality (CCIXR).

Actress Mary Wheatland standing on a green screen in the Volumetric Studio

Photo credit: Matt Reed

Replaying footage from the volumetric video

Photo credit: Matt Reed

Multiple camera shots of Mary Wheatland actress in volumetric studio

Photo credit: Matt Reed

Here is an example of the 3D effect of the volumetric video taken from just one frame of video. (Click on the model to interact.)

MAVRiC checking Leica laser scanner

MAVRiC working with the laser scanner at the Seaford Museum in 2021.

MAVRiC checking LiDAR scan

MAVRiC checking the LiDAR scan.

Recreating the Bathing Machines

Another challenge we faced was recreating the wooden bathing machines that once lined the beaches.

We searched for original examples of bathing machines and made a 3D laser scan or “Digital Twin” of the object. The laser scanner was able to pick up minute details of texture so we can be extremely accurate. 

We scanned machines in both the Seaford Museum in East Sussex and the fabulous example they have in the Bognor Regis Museum. Their example did not actually belong to Mary Wheatland, but her competitor Frederick Jenkins who operated his machines on the other side of the pier. Why not you give the Bognor Regis Museum a visit and check it out for yourself. 

Once we had captured the data from the scanners the team at MAVRiC could then begin work on creating the models to be placed on the beach. 

Although the laser scan was incredibly detailed there was still a lot of work to do to create the finished model. Part of this process was done using virtual reality. 

In this clip you can see or technician working on the model in virtual space. Mary’s machines were painted in red and yellow stripes so, using old photographs for reference, the models were coloured to look the same as they would have been. Then, extra details were added for added realism such as making the floors inside the machines dirty as if bathers had used them. We even added a mirror and a towel hanging on a hook inside one of the machines. 

Here is the finished 3D model of one of our virtual bathing machines. (Click on the model to interact.)

Making the Portal

The time portal itself was constructed by East Sussex charity Making It Out, and what a fantastic job they did! Their charity helps people get back into work by teaching them occupational skills, and their primary focus is on people who are moving on from prison, homelessness, or addiction. It was a real pleasure to work with them on this project.

The structure's design has been created to look a bit futuristic, but with a kind of mysterious, ancient feel to it. It has been painted red to make it stand out, but also as a nod to the colouring of Mary's bathing machines, which had red and yellow stripes. 

Made of stainless steel, the portal has been designed to withstand the weather that we get on the beach.

Steal frame of the Time portal

Photo credit: Matt Reed

Behind the scenes image of shooting the promotional video. Mary is standing infront of the videographer and camera on Bognor Regis Promonade

Photo credit: Matt Reed

Mary’s Back

For our promotional video (watch here) we took our actor Vicky Edwards down to the seafront and had a lot of fun filming with our modern-day Mary. 

We wondered what kind of things she might get up to if she had just travelled through time finding herself in 21st Century Bognor Regis. 

Maybe Mary would enjoy an ice cream and a visit to the amusement arcades. Even a stick of Bognor rock and a drink in the pub too!

She will probably be quite parched after all that time-travelling!


Creative Director and Producer


Actress (Mary Wheatland)

Historical Advisor 

Technical Experts

Volumetric Video Capture

Portal Build

Costume Designer

Graphic Designer and Web Designer

Still photography

Promotional Video Director and Online editor

Motion graphics

Additional dialogue recording

Matt Reed would like to personally thank the following people for their help and support.


Matt Reed

Katie Bennett

Vicky Edwards

Sylvia Endacott

MAVRiC (Mixed, Augmented, Virtual Reality Inter-connected)
Alex Judd
Simon Boseley
Poorang Piroozfar

Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Reality (CCIXR) The University of Portsmouth 
Toby Beale
Alex Counsell
Samuel Birmingham

Making it Out
Mark Whaley 
Lucy Grubb

Laura Boseley

Georgia Collins

Fiona Elizabeth

Anthony Willis 

Damian Hale 

Duncan Barkes

Sarah Stevens
Rachel Stringer
Phillipa Lowe
Jenny Hazlehurst
Rob Parton

We would like to thank Arts Council England for the project grant that made this project possible. We are also very grateful for the support of Arun’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund panel and the officers from Arun District Council and the Bognor Regis BID that have helped turn the funding into reality. Thanks also to Bognor Regis Town Council who agreed to the use of their platform, making the experience accessible.

Last but not least, thank you to Avril Palmer for all your help and support.

Photo credit: Matt Reed

Modern day Mary Wheatland sitting next to lobster pots and ropes on with the photographer
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