Shampooing in London in 1896:
transcripts of three interviews with Turkish bath proprietors

 © The London School of Economics and Political Science: The Booth Archive (B161)

The transcripts of the interview notes below are the right-hand pages only of each double page opening in a notebook. Some of the left hand pages of the interview with Mr Nevill, as in that reproduced above, have paragraph headings relating to the notes which face them. These have not been transcribed here since they are not considered to be materially significant in the present context.

In the notebooks, all the interviews were, of course, handwritten in the same colour ink.  Here, each transcript is individually coloured so that the different sources can more readily be identified in the article on shampooers to which this page is related.


April 20th [1896]

Interview with Mr E D Kenny

Mr Kenny is Manager of Bartholomew’s
Turkish Bath in Leicester Sq.

With the exception of money takers the
only employees in a Turkish Bath are the

Wages. The wage paid to a
Shampooer by his master varies from 20/-
to 30/-, according to their a/c and experience.
Mr Kenny has five of whom one gets 30/-,
two 25/-, and two 20/-. The earnings of
a Shampooer however come mainly from tips
every bather gives from 6d to 1/6d, and
each Shampooer makes from this source
from £2 to £3 a week throughout the
year. At Bartholomew’s all money given
as tips is pooled and shared equally
among the men. Mr Kenny thinks that
the same plan is followed at all baths.
At other West End Baths they keep a
larger staff of shampooers, and the
men do not earn so much from tips


but may get rather higher wages.
In second and third class baths the wage is
probably about 30/- but the tips certainly do
not amount to more than 10/- or 12/- per

Hours. are nominally from 7 a.m. to
10 p.m., but for the larger part of the
time the men are doing nothing, and
they dress and go out for each meal.
The bath is open on Sunday morning from
7 to 1.

Holidays. Each man is allowed a
fortnight in the year.

Men of all sorts become
Shampooers, but as a rule they are of a
low class, and unintelligent. 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 hands. The chief requirement for a
good Shampooer is muscular strength.

Men as a rule are very improvident,
and with a very long experience Mr
Kenny can only remember one man who
had really saved and kept anything.
It is very common for a man to save
about £10 and start in some small
business, but they nearly always fail and
want to come back again. A great
deal of money is spent on drink.

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


April 22th [1896]

Interview with Mr James Waugh

Mr Waugh is Manager of the Hammam
Turkish Bath in Jermyn St, the most
aristocratic in London.

Wages. Eight Sixteen Shampooers are employed
at the Hammam. The Foreman is paid
30/- a week; the others with few one exceptions
22/6; the youngest man gets 20/-.
Here again the tips are pooled, and Mr
Waugh showed me figures for many years
showing the amount returned to him by
the foreman as received from this source,
the amount received by each shampooer
amounted as nearly as possible to £80 a year.
But Mr Waugh doubts if the full
amount of the tips is returned to him.
In addition nearly all the men do outside
work as masseurs, for which they probably
receive about 5/- a time. The foreman
and four senior men are allowed the
privilege of working on Sunday, and keep


such tips as they receive on that day,
probably about 15/- a person each. Altogether
it appears probable that the men make
from £140 to £200 a year.

It would of course be easy to get
men to work without salary if each man was
allowed to keep his own tips, but for
the sake of discipline it is necessary to
give a salary. As it is the man who
does not tip comes off badly if he pays
another visit; but if there were no salaries
and the men depended on tips it would be
even more difficult to get them to attend
properly to the non-tipper. For the
Bath proprietor the tipping system is a
thoroughly bad one.

Hours. Each man is on duty about
54 nominal hours a week. They spend alternat on
alternate days 8 and 10 hours in the bath,
but on the 10 hour days they often get away
before their proper hour if there are no
bathers in the bath, so that 54 hours


is really an outside estimate. Mr Waugh
has elaborate statistics for years showing
the number of hours which the men are
actually at work while in the bath. These
statistics are based on a calculation of the
number of bathers, and allows 20 minutes
(much more than the average time) for
each shampooing; on this basis the actual
work of each man varies each year from
2 hours and 40 minutes to 3 hours and
40 minutes per day, the rest of the
time they spend mostly in sleep. Altogether
Mr Waugh thinks it is about the easiest
life in the world.

Holidays. Each man gets about 16 days
holiday in the year with full pay.

Mr Waugh will not take on a man
who has been at any other bath; many
of the men begin as boys in the cooling-room. Mr Waugh
showed me a list of
the men with the length of their service


the Foreman has been there 31 years,
four and or five of the men over 20
years, and most of them for a considerable
time time

The men are not provident: Mr Waugh
has tried hard to induce them to lay by some
2d a week to add to a sum given by the
Directors many years ago as the nucleus of
a sick fund, but none of them would
consent to do so, and as soon as they
get into any trouble they usually want

With the exception of money takers the
only employees in a Turkish Bath are the

The Hammam has not been so prosperous
of late years as when first started
partly owing to the increase of Baths in
London, but still more from the fact
that people go out of town so much
more than they used to, especially on
Saturday and Sunday.

Note: [as] The interviewer has used the mathematical symbol for ‘as' or 'because’ in the pages which follow.


April 23rd 96 G.H.D.

D. T. Nevill [sic]* Turkish Bath Proprietor. Northumberland
Avenue. W.C.

Possesses 5 Establishments or 7 complete
    establishments [as] 2 are devoted to ladies.
        Charing X male & female     London Bridge
        Paddington                             Broad St City
        Whitechapel m & f

His smallest place at Padd. he has 3 bath men
& Charing X he has 11 which is the largest
staff of any bath in London.

Prefers to teach his own men.

Advertises & 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 educated

Have trained a few from boys, 3 in bath & 2 in
Office brought up in this way. But it is not very


* D. T. Nevill [sic] This is possibly a misreading by the interviewer of notes made during the interview. The only proprietors of the Turkish Bath in Northumberland Avenue at this date were Henry Nevill (a barrister) and James Forder (ie, J.F.) Nevill) and the interviewee must surely have been the latter.


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

Start 7.30 AM in all his places.
Someone on duty till 9.30 PM
Every man has 2 mornings a week off when
he does not come in till 12.30 & practically
the evening off too ie from 7 or 7.30 PM.
One hour dinner between 12 & 2.
Breakfast ½ hour at 9 am.
They are on duty 60 or 69 hours per wk.

The busiest hours in the day are 4 to 8 PM.
This is the time both in East & West.
In morning there may be a few retired merchants,
tradesmen etc but the bulk of the work
comes on after the business hours.

The curse of the shampooers life is being on duty &
having nothing to do. Young men fall to pieces
with the idleness.
Customers will have their own particular men \ all
must remain in on the chance of his men coming.


Some bathers come every day. Some every 3 months.
98% are shampooed.

Standard wage of a shampooer is 20/-. They pay
22/- simply to be able to say that ‘Nevills
pays more than anyone else.’
In one worse & dirty bath where few go &
tips are rare, a shampooer is given 28/-.
In the country tips are smaller & shampooers
get 30/- per week.

All tips are pooled & divided among the shampooers
only. There is only one exception (Jermyn street)
where tips are divided among whole staff.
Boys have their own pools (ie cooling-room staff)

Boys employed at 15 yrs of age at 1/- per week. Fair
average earning with tips cd be 12/- per week.
Few stay on more than 2 or 3 yrs. av.18 month.

The firm adjusts the boys takings, but the men
do it for themselves. Believes all tips are paid
up. A new man appointed each week to divide
them. Presents in kind may be kept by individuals
but if they become usual the man wd have to
pay over their money value to the pool.

Tips wd average 40/- to 50/- per wk. 50/- or 60/- in the



End and at Paddington 40/-

In a fortnight a man can learn to take the or-
-dinary run of cases. But 2 or 3 yrs for proper
It is a very soft place for men.
Are not a saving race. All men that get their
money so uncertainly spend quickly & don’t save.

In August there is very slack time.
Men get a fortnight’s holiday each year (in either July
August & September).

All Shampooers wherever employed in their houses get
22/-. Never shift a man from one bath to
The Paddington men are worst off of all: the
customers there are much less self indulgent
& also more parsimonious. Things are cheaper at
Paddington than elsewhere. eg butter 1d a lb
cheaper. plaster of Paris ½d per bag. Wanted
to know the reason why.

Women shampooers make much less, ie 14/- per week
and gratuities come to about another 10/-.
Tried to open ladies bath at Paddington but
‘Paddington women wont take Turkish bath.’


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.

Men can do from 15 to 20 bathers per day.
You must be of sound constitution & wiry but
great strength is unnecessary. But 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.

There used to be a Trade Society. He thinks it has
been dead for 3 or 4 years.
The organ of the Shampooers Society is a
small Islington local paper with offices
within 100 yds of the Angel. Called the
‘Islington Gazette’.
He was at daggers drawn with the Soc when it
did exist.

November to Easter is the busiest season of all [as]
Turkish baths is a specific for colds & rheumatism.

Every bath he knows is called
1. The Largest
2. The best ventilated
3. The most luxurious (he and they don’t put this now)


The moneytaker at each bath. He is the Super-
-intendent & the whole place is under his control.
He is paid from 30/- to 40/- per week
& a share in the cooling-room attendants gratuities
which amount to about 10/- per week.

Says his men make better money than at any other
baths in London, but all shampooers make good money.
‘Turkish bathing is a rich man’s luxury & not
a poor man’s necessity.’
No man takes a turkish bath unless he is
earning £200 per year: naturally there are
some exceptions, sick working men, etc.

Shampooers still have a name for drink. All take
a large quantity of beer. Thirsty work. But
drunkenness is less common than it was. He
sacks a drunk man at once.
The reason for the decline of drunkenness is both
Pressure from above & Education of men from below.
Customers are less willing now than formerly to be
shampooed by a drunkard.

Men are good workers until late in life.
Baths have all been started since 1856. Introduced
by Urquhart. He has 6 men over 50, but cant



say they have saved a penny.

Coming in contact with rich men for the most part is
not conducive to saving. Customers talk a good deal
& suggest new wants (though indirectly) to shampooers.
Besides they have to live well themselves to
keep going.

Baths are open on Sundays with ½ staff (one week
on & one off for attendants). Only men on
duty share tips. Shampooers share out every day
& cooling-room staff once a week.
Sunday bathing is decreasing. Bicycles & Golf have
accounted for a good deal of this decrease which
is still going on. 50% in last ten years. & still

Very 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.

None of their boys work more than 74 hours including
meal times.

Certainly under 100 male shampooers in London &
12 wd cover the Female shampooers.

There are a good many masseuses; about 20)



wd say round about Piccadilly. Has never been to
one but many of his customers have spoken
to him about them from experience. Customers
who have gone in expecting medical treat-
-ment [?] are put in a bath & then electricity
is applied by the masseuse. Most of them
he hears are procuresses, They have
sleeping rooms upstairs. It is a new form of
the business & has not been in vogue for
more than two or 3 years. Probably the police
could give a good deal of information about

The notebooks from Charles Booth's survey into the life and labour of London are in the Booth Archive, located at The British Library of Political and Economic Sciences at the London School of Economics.

This page enlarges an image or adds to the information found below:

Shampooers' wages and conditions. Part 6: tips, tipping and total income

Top of the page


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

Home pageSite mapSearch the site

Comments and queries are most welcome and can be sent to:
The right of Malcolm Shifrin to be identified as the author of this work
has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988