Turkish baths in asylums

The Holloway Sanatorium, Virginia Water, Surrey

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

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The Holloway Sanatorium was 'a hospital for the insane' designed for paying middle class patients of both sexes. The sanatorium (converted in the late 1990s into up-market housing units) and nearby Holloway College (now Royal Holloway, University of London) are two magnificent Victorian gothic buildings built as a gift to the nation by Thomas Holloway from the profits of his eponymous pills.

The buildings were designed by architect William Henry Crossland who, with John Philpot Jones and Edward Salomons, won the competition held on the advice of the Commissioners in Lunacy. Among the judges who were able to advise on technical aspects of the building was Dr Charles Lockhart Robertson who, in 1861, had installed a Turkish bath designed by David Urquhart at the Sussex County Lunatic Asylum at Hayward's Heath.

In August 1872, the plans were placed on exhibition in the Regent Street Gallery. There were to be baths for men and women and 'there is provided in the basement, central on both sides, a series of rooms for a Turkish bath, hot-air and vapour bath.'

When the sanatorium opened in 1885, however, the vapour baths had been omitted. But the Turkish baths, in common with the lavish style of the whole edifice, were built to a high standard, having 'marble seats and wall linings, while a shampooing room had a marble basin and pedestal.'

The sanatorium continued in use, latterly within the National Health Service, until 1981, but the use of the Turkish bath almost certainly ended many years before then.


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Hannah Thomas, Archives Assistant, Royal Holloway, University of London

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Exterior of the asylum

The shampooing room

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

 
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