Part of a letter from Samuel Seal to James Enraght Scriven, 15 July 1857

Samuel Seal's letter, page 3/4
< Letter in the Wellcome Collection (Ms.6236 item 10 als 4 pages)

Samuel Seal was a member of the Wakefield Foreign Affairs Committee. Scriven had been present at the ceremony marking the laying of the foundation stone for the Turkish bath at St Ann's the previous year. He was later to boast, probably correctly, that he had been the first person to treat a horse in the Turkish bath, and in 1868 he took out a provisional patent for an improved air heating system for Turkish baths.

But at the time of this letter, Scriven had been concerned (with many others who did not know the family well) about newspaper reports that Urquhart experimented on his children by keeping them deprived of clothes in order to see how they reacted to differing air temperatures—both high and low.

In fact, the Urquharts' homes were always warm, since they benefited from the ambient heat of their Turkish bath, and they sensibly saw no reason why toddlers should have to wear clothes in a warm house if they were happy enough not to do so. All their children, like Finnish children in the family sauna today, wandered in and out of the Turkish bath at will.

That part of the letter which is not reproduced above appears in black type.

                   Lytham                15 July / 57
    Mrs Urquhart has just read to me a
passage from a letter of yours and
requested me, as an impartial witness to
give you my testimony on the matter to
which it relates. I arrived here last
night & for the first time saw the two
children, the objects of the commiseration
of your friends & I can with a free
conscience assure them that they may
dry up their tears. I never saw such
striking specimens of health, vigour
and loveliness, but I did not see either

chamois leather or French cotton &
their clothing was such as to afford
no room for concealment, nor did I
hear of any diseases by which either
has been afflicted.

    I was in the Bath this morning
with Mr Urquhart and the eldest boy. The
reason of my coming here was to get
the plan for a Bath which I
intend to construct at Wakefield,
in consequence of the effects I have seen
produced in my daughter, who has been
under the charge of Mr Urquhart for a
month, after her case was considered
hopeless by physicians. It is contemplation [?].
I go to-night to Manchester to examine

   the Turkish bath constructed there by
Mr Urquhart of which I hear wonderful
accounts. I need not add I shall be
pleased with any suggestions which you
may afford me; it is now a race [?] of
competition which shall get baths soonest
& cheapest.

   I have just got a letter, a copy of one
you sent to the Manchester Examiner.
  I am
    Yr obt. servant
     Sam Seal

J.E.Scriven Esq

   I should have observed that the
eldest boy appears a perfect specimen of
happiness as well as health. Perhaps the younger
is the more vigorous and noble of the

two—Such results will be highly satisfactory
to the well-wishers of the “dear children”

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The first Victorian Turkish bath in England to open to the public

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

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 1. David Urquhart introduced the Turkish bath into the British Isles in 1856 [return]
 2. Harriet also wrote political articles under the name Caritas [return]
 3. See list of directors in companies section [return]