At the end of1890, Francis James fitted
out his Turkish baths in a building which was originally intended as a
Wesleyan Chapel but which was never used for that purpose. James, who
came from Wolverhampton, had previously
built Turkish baths in Halifax (1871-6) and Nottingham
(1876-1890), in each case selling them on and moving further
The building was on the west side of Priory Street,
had a 22 ft frontage, and extended back 70 ft from the street. It
comprised two floors and a basement. Inside the roof space were 600
gallon water tanks 'for use in case the town water should be turned
off', and accommodation for the caretakers occupied part of the first
floor. A fireproof basement housed
the boiler and laundry equipment.
The main central public entrance to the baths led into a
lobby where bathers paid for their tickets and removed their shoes.
After this, the first and second class bathers were separated, the
former passing from the lobby into a large 21 ft by 24 ft cooling-room.
In the centre were couches and tables, while round the periphery were
seventeen dressing cubicles, each with a couch, and a locker in which
the bather could safely keep valuables while bathing.
But when the second class bathers left the lobby
upstairs to their own changing area on a gallery 'supported by six
ntal iron pillars' and 'cut off by a
heavy curtain from the lower cooling-room'. This was designed to cater
for twenty bathers. Unusually, it seems that only the changing and
cooling facilities were separated, all classes of bather using the same
hot rooms, plunge bath, and massage room.
There were three hot rooms in an area surrounded by
hollow walls designed to keep their temperatures at the correct levels
in the most economical manner. The first hot room, measuring 20 ft by 14
ft, was maintained between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the second
between 160 and 190 degrees, and the hottest, measuring 7 ft by 14 ft,
between 200 and 240 degrees. After passing through one or more of the
hot rooms, the bather was shampooed, took a plunge bath, and retired to
In addition to the Turkish bath, there was also a
vapour bath and an electric bath, 'the latter being fitted with a
battery of one hundred cells'.
It was originally expected that the baths would be
open in time for Christmas 1890, just over four months after the tender
for building the baths was awarded to G Storer. In the event, the baths
were not officially opened until 1 January, when they 'were
visited by members of the Corporation and others, who expressed
themselves highly satisfied with all the arrangements.'
There is much that is not yet known about these
baths, such as why there was already a new proprietor, Mr E Grapel, so
soon after the baths opened. The only information we have about how the
baths were run comes from an advertisement published in 1904, possibly
in a local directory, which was framed and hangs on the wall of the
reception area at the York House Hotel in Royal Leamington Spa.
From this we learn that the baths were open daily
from eight in the morning to eight at night, that the admission charges
were 2/-, 1/6d, and 1/-, that Wednesdays were reserved for women
bathers, and that there was a chiropodist in attendance.
closed some time around 1920 when
the whole block was demolished (some time around 1920) to make room for
an extension to the Triumph works which were
on the opposite side of the road.
account should be treated as work in progress. Further research is needed
to fill in further information about how the baths were used, how long
they survived, and why their ownership changed so soon after they were
(Local Studies Section, Coventry Libraries & Information Services)
for help in identifying the building
The original page
and thumbnail pictures which can be enlarged.
The enlarged image, listed and
linked below, can also be printed.
External view of the Turkish
Top of the page