Turkish baths in fiction:
notes on some of the baths that are imaginary,
and on some of the ones that are real

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline
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Original page
   
Adams, Nene - The Madonna of the Sorrows     Saki - The Chronicles of Clovis
Bartlett, Neil - Mr Clive and Mr Page     Thorne, Guy - When it was dark
Galsworthy, John - In Chancery     Waugh, Alec - Kept
You are here     Wentworth-James, G - A Mental marriage
Moore, George - Esther Waters     Wilson, AN - Daughters of Albion
Rita - The mystery of a Turkish bath    
Doyle, Arthur Conan - Sherlock Holmes     Trollope, Anthony - The Turkish bath
Hornung, EW - The chest of silver     Woodhouse, PG - Psmith in the City
Joyce, James - Ulysses    

Introduction

 

The morning gift  

The morning giftEva Ibbotson's novel The Morning gift is especially interesting because it appears to describe part of an important London Turkish bath which was stated to have been completely demolished. This is the one at number 23 Leicester Square, one of those owned—though  in this case not started by—Charles Bartholomew, an early member of the Bristol Foreign Affairs Committee.  According to Peter Jackson,

…in 1936 [the Alhambra in Leicester Square] was completely demolished, together with the house adjoining on the north, and replaced by the present Odeon Cinema.

But this information came from Volume 34 of the London Survey, which states that, 'The site was later incorporated into the Odeon.' However, this seems unlikely. It would be natural for the cinema to be built on the site of the Alhambra, especially since the site, with rear access extensible to Charing Cross Road, would be large enough for all possible requirements without the need to spend additional funds on the purchase of a relatively small additional area. Possibly a re-numbering has confused the authors. A look at the exterior of the present-day No.22 shows remarkable similarities to photographs of No.23 as it was re-built after the 1882 fire.

And additional support for this view is found in a passage in Morning gift where the author describes a meeting which took place around 1938:

In trying to think of a place where they would meet no one of his acquaintance, Quin had hit on The Tea Pavilion in Leicester Square...He had not, however, expected to score such a hit with Ruth who looked with delight at the Turkish Bath mosaics, the potted palms and black-skirted waitresses, obviously convinced that she was at the nerve centre of British social life.

This seems to indicate that there may still be partial remains in a currently inaccessible space. Research is still in progress, and it is hoped that it may be possible to investigate the site further.

The morning gift Eva Ibbotson (Century, 1993)

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Comments and queries are most welcome and can be sent to: 
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