Turkish baths in Provincial England

Folkestone: 1-3 Ingles Road

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

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The Turkish Bath, Folkestone

The site of the baths, at the corner of Ingles Road and Christchurch Road, was bought by The Folkestone Turkish & General Baths Company Limited from John Lacey Davies, a retired civil engineer, for £5,ooo. Of this sum, £3,000 was paid in cash and the remainder in £2 Preference Shares, Davies becoming a director of the company. The building was designed by Andrew Bromley, a local architect with offices in Folkestone and Canterbury. Like Davies, he too became a director of the company, probably with a similar type of financial arrangement.

The Turkish baths occupied the ground floor of what was basically a single storey building, with a first floor gable at each end. Six slipper baths and a toilet were provided in each gable, those on the right for men, and those on the left, with a separate entrance, for women.

Initially, the Turkish baths were open for men only, although there were separate hot and cold slipper baths for women. But after a while, the Turkish baths were reserved for women on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings, the separate women's entrance allowing them to reach the upstairs slipper baths during the rest of the week when the Turkish baths were being used by men.

On the left of the entrance hall, bathers purchased their tickets and passed into the large thirty-foot square cooling-room around which were ten curtained dressing cubicles with couches. Because these rooms were in the right hand third of the building, they were some distance from the hot rooms, and so the cooling-room was gently warmed from a centrally positioned stove, seen in the centre of the photograph below.

Set into one of the walls were two keyhole windows overlooking the twenty-foot long plunge pool. This had steps at each end so that it could be entered either from the cooling-room or from the shampooing room with its circular needle shower.

A small lobby led from the cooling-room into the hot rooms where the temperatures ranged from 140 degrees to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The three hot rooms were large, and comprised a 24'0" square tepidarium, a 24'0"x15'0" calidarium, and beyond it, through an insulating airlock, a 9'0"x14'0" laconicum. At the rear of the building, a set of steps and a coal chute led to a small cellar which housed the furnace and a fuel store located beneath the laconicum and part of the adjoining area.

Shortly after the baths opened, a Turkish bath cost 3/- (or 31/6 for twelve tickets) between nine in the morning and six in the afternoon; after that it cost 2/- (or £1.0.0. for twelve), though this was without a shampoo. Upstairs, hot and cold baths cost 1/6 from 7.30 in the morning , or 1/- after 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

As noted on another page, the original directors, who had greatly overestimated the facilities needed to satisfy bathers' needs, were soon replaced.

Business was not as good as they had hoped. But then, as one of the early company reports noted, 'If the Shareholders would only patronize the Baths themselves, and induce their friends to do the same, there might be some hope of the undertaking paying…'.

In 1898 alterations were made to the building to try to improve the company's finances. The conversion of four of the six men's slipper baths into a barber's shop brought in an additional 12/6 rent each week, and the conversion of part of the women's baths into accommodation for the head shampooer and his wife saved 11/- per week.

At about the same time, John James Lewis became shampooer (on his own account) and in 1900, he took a twenty-one year lease on the baths at a rent of £120 per year. At this time he was employing four men, two boys, and a girl, at a total weekly wage cost of around £7.0.0.8

For a while business improved 'and was for a time a financial success.' By 1904, after investing around £700 of his own money—adding a gymnasium (£550) and a variety of electrical appliances (£100)—Lewis was offering,

'Mustard packs, wet sheet packs, lamp baths, vapour, Sitz and running Sitz baths, sulphur and vapour sulphur baths, spinal baths, Nauheim baths and movements, medicated baths, massage, Grevelle system and hot air treatment, electric baths, and Dean's high frequency machines.'

He was still running the baths in 1915, by which time he was also providing a 'Physical Culture School for delicate children.'

By 1918, William A Reynolds had become the lessee of the baths. But the baths were no longer as successful as they had been, either because Reynolds was not as experienced as Lewis or because business generally was more difficult after the end of the war. Most likely, it was a combination of both factors.

The change from the bath company's regular annual profit of just under £300 per year to a loss of £90.2.4. in 1919, and of £77.18.11 in each of the following two years, suggests that Reynolds had not been able to afford to pay any rent during this period and at the end of 1921 the company decided the baths should close.

The building remains, externally little changed from when it was built. At some stage it was converted into a couple of houses, the central window being removed to enable a garage to be built for the house on the left, and a porch built in front of the main baths doorway which now forms the entrance to the house on the right.


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Front elevation

Exterior view, c.1900

Cooling-room

Ground floor plan

Exterior view, 1990s

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