1. The original
Not much is currently known about the
original Turkish baths, built as part of the costly White Rock
complex which opened between the years 1878 and 1882. On a
site situated 'on
the parade at White Rock, and on a portion of the site of the
Submarine Forest', the
foundation stone was laid on 28 June 1876 by Thomas (later 1st
Earl) Brassey, MP.
The baths were designed by
Alfred Cross (Senior) whose son, Alfred William Stephens Cross,
and grandson, Kenneth Mervyn Baskerville Cross, also built
Turkish baths. (His son later wrote the standard British work
Public baths and wash-houses.)
The baths were built in several phases so
that the company could generate some income while the work was
still going on. The architect seems to have been remunerated by
being alotted 20 £10 shares in the company, payment which could
not have given him much long-term satisfaction.
The first phase, opened in 1878, comprised
the men's swimming pools and slipper baths. Similar facilities
for women were opened the following year. It was originally expected that
the Turkish baths would follow, but there seems at this stage to
have been a cutting back on the original, admittedly rather
The plan to include an
aquarium, implicit in the name
chosen by the proprietors
for their company—The Hastings and St Leonards Public Baths &
Aquarium Company Limited—was abandoned even before the initial
foundation stone was laid.
A major consideration was
the need to construct a 350 ft underground tunnel to convey the
smoke and fumes, emanating from the boiler which would heat the Turkish baths, away
from the baths and the seafront.
The plan was drawn up, and the
were concluded, in 1879, but it is not known when the tunnel and
the distant chimney were actually built.
Probably because of financial problems and a
lower than expected take up of the existing facilities, the
company now seemed to be having
second thoughts about the viability of adding Turkish baths. Instead
they started to build what they called 'Private Baths'.
The Private Baths were situated between the men's and
women's swimming baths. Here also was the site of the imposing
entrance to the baths—still being built when the private baths
were opened. Bathers descended to a large sunken
courtyard reached from a grand flight of stone steps fifteen
feet wide, and entered the building through an open portico
formed of three elaborately decorated stone arches.
Behind the roadside arches (and partly under the road)
were the women's baths, and behind the portico closer to the sea
were the men's baths.
One incidental result of
building the baths underground was that the local council was
provided, at minimal expense, with a 'magnificent promenade'
with ample space for a bandstand and several hundred seats
enabling the public to relax in comfort while enjoying the
popular music of the day.
There were five
first class and eight second class baths for men, and a similar
number for women. A local newspaper reported that, 'The water, hot and cold, is supplied to the
baths by means of pipes, and the temperature can be regulated
according to the bather's desire.' (In order to economise, in many older slipper baths
the water temperature could only be controlled by the attendant
using a special key.) Each first class bathroom also
included a toilet.
Meanwhile, it seems that public support
canvassed to prevent the Turkish baths proposal from following the
planned aquarium into oblivion. In response, or possibly
to offer general support, the East Sussex
Medico-Chirurgical Society discussed the matter at their meeting
held on 4 May 1880. Afterwards, the Chairman of the Society,
sent a memorial
to the company
in which he stressed the need for
Turkish baths in Hastings, asserting
the absence of any
such baths had in many individual instances obliged invalids to
leave the town in quest of such Baths, or has prevented their
coming to Hastings.
This appears to have had some
positive effect because when the private baths were opened on 16
August it was made clear that the company still planned to build
Turkish baths next to them, and it was even suggested that a
'complete hydropathic establishment' might be set up.
But the Turkish baths were
not built until four years after the first swimming pool was
They were used by the public for the first time on Saturday 30
Lacking detailed knowledge of how these
should be designed and operated, the company called upon the
services of Mr J H Faulkner who, among many other business
activities, operated a successful Turkish bath at Newgate Street
The company entered into an agreement with Faulkner to run a
Turkish bath, lavatories, and hairdressing salons, and he
started work immediately supervising the construction of the
necessary facilities within the building.
The baths were well fitted
out, and appropriately furnished and decorated. There were three
hot rooms, maintained at temperatures ranging from 120ºF
to 230ºF. All had tiled floors and
walls, with seats of marble. Several types of shower were
provided, together with a cold plunge pool. There were also two
large cooling-rooms and hair-dressing rooms for ladies and
Given the financial circumstances of the
company at that time it is hardly surprising that there were no
separate Turkish baths for men and women. Instead, the baths
were allocated to women on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Different classes of bather could choose
the time of day which most suited their pocket. According to
Faulkner's rate card, a Turkish bath cost 2/6d between 8.00 and
5.00 during the day, and 1/9d between 5.00 and 8.00 in the
evening, with reductions for booklets of tickets. But these
prices—more expensive than those charged by Faulkner in his
London baths—precluded the use of the baths by many of the less
well off in Hastings and a local directory, issued soon after
the baths opened,
shows that by then it was possible to 'have a Turkish' on
Wednesday evenings between 8.00 and 10.00 for only 1/-.
The Turkish baths cost £843.10.0. to build
and 'were a great addition' though they 'yielded only a very
small profit' during their first year. Faulkner was required to
pay all the working expenses, and then share the remaining
profit with the company. While his
London baths were open between 1879 and at least 1907, Faulkner
remained in Hastings for only eight years.
The new lessee, a Mr W R Smart, remained
for only half that time, after which the company appointed a
Superintendent and ran its own baths till they closed in June
This page slightly augmented 26 February 2016
2. The reconstructed