Who were the shampooers? Generalisations are often unwisely made and can
sometimes tell us more about the person making the judgement than
about those being judged. Kenny's view was forthright and dismissive:
Men of all sorts become Shampooers, but as a rule they are of a low
class, and unintelligent.
Yet more than one shampooer has written a book about his experiences,
others have become managers and then proprietors of their own baths, and
yet others have become famous for work quite different from that in
which they started. The type of person who is appointed to a job
frequently matches the stereotype which has been sought by the employer.
David Urquhart, first Manager of the Hammam, employed an Armenian, Youssouf
Hieronymus, as Chief Shampooer, and then had him train the others, and their successors.
Following in that tradition of avoiding bad practice,
Mr Waugh will not take on a man who has been at any other
both Waugh and Nevill prefer to train their shampooers themselves. Nevill
& tries to get a man who has been in the retail counter trade.
Grocery men are usually the best. Quick,
active with a notion of how to talk to more
employers can disagree quite strongly on the characteristics that make for a
good shampooer. According to Kenny,
The chief requirement for a good Shampooer is muscular strength.
Nevill feels that,
must be of sound constitution & wiry but great
strength is unnecessary…
strong men are
no use to them as they cant stand the heat…
Small men are always the best. 5 ft 6 to 5 ft 8 is the proper height.
Waugh and Nevill appear to have taken on staff while they were still boys. At the Hammam,
of the men begin as boys in the cooling-room,
at Nevill's they,
trained a few from boys, 3 in bath & 2 in Office
brought up in this way. But it is not very feasible
training boys as there is an ugly interregnum between
boyhood & manhood. Don’t like to have young men of 18 & 20 in
bathroom. Men must be over 25 to understand the ‘solidity of their
However, amongst the gentry and upper classes at the end of the
19th century, the term 'boy' would not have meant someone who
was not yet an adult. The first meaning for the term 'boy' in
the Oxford English dictionary is 'A male servant, slave,
assistant, junior employee, etc.' exemplified by quotations
ranging from the fourteenth century to 2002. However, the third
(2008) edition also notes: 'In general use. Now rare except in
some former British colonies.' This meaning of 'boys' as
employed at the Hammam receives additional support since the
only employed boy mentioned in the company Minute Book is an
at the Hammam would have been very thorough, though we don't know how long it
took. Kenny said that,
It is very easily learnt and any man ought to
be able to do it after six lessons. At Bartholomew’s a new man is
taught either by Mr Kenny or by one of the old
Nevill made a clear distinction between knowing the routines and being at the top.
fortnight a man can learn to take the ordinary run of cases. But 2 or 3
yrs for proper experience…
three interviewees, Nevill
had most experience in running Turkish baths for women. The Hammam had given up providing
for them many years earlier; the Leicester Square baths had two floors for
their women bathers; but the Nevill brothers owned two separate Turkish baths for women's
use only. James Forder Nevill's remarks comparing female shampooers with male shampooers
will have had, therefore, a
certain validity, at least for that particular period at the end of the
can do from 15 to 20 bathers per day…Women
don’t stand heat as well as men. By the time she
has done 8 bathers she wd have done a days work. By 12 bathers she wd be completely knocked up.
agreed with the earliest Turkish bath proprietors that work as a shampooer was
healthy work and that the shampooers benefited from
The work is generally considered healthy and men keep at it for
years. Mr Kenny knows one man who had been at it for 50 years. Men
nearly always lose weight on their holiday, and put it on again when
they get back to the Bath.
Mr Waugh showed me a list
of the men with the length of their service the Foreman has been there
31 years, four or five of the men over 20 years,
and most of them for a considerable time
seldom is there a case of illness among the men. The life is very healthy. During influenza
epidemic (3 yrs) they had only one case that
cd have been called influenza. They sweat out every microbe as soon as it enters.
Hours and holidays