Thomas Gibson Bowles

Thomas Gibson BowlesThomas Gibson Bowles, pictured in one of several caricatures of him by Spy, originally published in Bowles's own paper, Vanity Fair, on 13July 1889, seven years after he became a Director of the London & Provincial Turkish Bath Company Limited.

The title of the plate is 'Tommy', the name by which he was usually known. He was the maternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters.

With the death of Urquhart, standards at The Hammam declined. Bowles, a regular bather, bought himself a single share, had himself elected to the Board, and then took it upon himself to become a one-man ginger group.

While he certainly did improve standards, his skills and energy were not always combined with tact and modesty. By the old guard, Bowles was regarded as a critic of their own unwillingness to put things right. Another single shareholder, the son of Francis Francis, reported to a friend:

I was in at the Turkish bath the other day. They tell me that the new Director, 'Vanity Fair' Bowles had rather upset the formerly placid order of things there. He swaggers about in the bath advertising himself as a Director, & 'means to have things done properly' etc, bullies the servants & so forth. 1

This was unfair, and a rather jaundiced view from one of the directors who clearly resented such criticism. Bowles may have lacked modesty but his criticism was positive and he did, very effectively, remind the somewhat complacent board of directors of their responsibilities.

This page last updated 02 January 2020

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Some Turkish bath personalities

Sexual activities in the Jermyn Street Hammam. 4: Perhaps after all?

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  Malcolm Shifrin, 1991-2021

 1. Wellcome Library Western Ms.6236: Correspondence on Turkish baths 28, Francis Francis (the younger). Letter to E B Neill, [Mid-] Dec [1883] [return]