Glossop Road Baths
Sheffield Bath Co Ltd was set up on 24 February 1876, to purchase the
Glossop Road baths saloon and an adjoining triangular site bounded by
Victoria Street and Convent Walk.
The plot cost of £2,500, totalled about 1,620 sq yds
(1354m2) and was on a 760-year lease at a ground rent of £26.3.0.
per year (£26.15).
The company's aim was to retain the existing swimming pool as a second class pool,
build a new first class pool, a ladies' pool, and a Turkish bath suite.
The new building was designed by local architect Edward Mitchell Gibbs, of
Alliance Chambers, while the heating system was designed by Thomas Edward
Vickers and supplied by his own firm, Vickers Sons & Co.
The new building opened in November 1877
and was estimated to have cost around £33,000. The company's initial share
offer of 600 shares at £25 was, unlike many similar offerings, very
successful. This is particularly noteworthy as there were already
well-established Turkish baths in Norfolk Street owned by the
Sheffield Turkish and Public Baths Co Ltd, and two smaller establishments
owned by Thomas Garbuttt in Arundel Street and in Armstead Road,
Just over 530 shares were taken up
by around 130 shareholders. Even so that would have left the company with
£20,000 or so to raise from other sources, a crucial factor which often led
to a speedy demise of new Turkish baths companies.
Among the initial subscribers were a brewer and two
solicitors with 2 shares each, two brokers with 4 shares each, and the
architect with 15 shares. However, it seems most likely that Gibbs was
allocated these by the company in part payment for his services. Vickers,
the heating engineer, was one of the directors of the company.
While the outside of the new building was unexceptional—a
typical Victorian building similar to many others in Sheffield and
elsewhere—the interior was, in the words of the architect, 'built in Turkish
style of architecture'. While this was something of an exaggeration, it was
considered by Building news to be 'luxuriously fitted out with
tesselated pavements, white and coloured glazed brick walls, arched and
decorated ceilings, with easy chairs, marble and felt covered seats.'
Judging from the fact that each of the
toilets included a urinal, it seems that—most unusually—no provision was
made for women in the Turkish baths, although the company provided a
swimming pool and both first and second class slipper baths for their use.
The shapes of the main public areas were
basically determined by the triangular shape of the site: the galleried
dressing room and the large hot room were octagonal, the hotter room was a
pentagon with two additional triangular areas. The toilet, two shampooing
rooms, and the pantry which was part of the Bath Keeper's two storey house,
were all triangular. Even the entrance lobby where bathers left their
outdoor clothes was a rectangle with a triangular corner removed.
The main entrance lobby to the Turkish
baths and the ladies' slipper baths was originally in Convent Walk. The
present entrance, from Victoria Street, has 1898 cut into the door lintel
and seems to have been added when the baths were bought by Sheffield
Having divested themselves
of their outdoor garments, bathers passed into the main dressing/cooling-room. This was subdivided into individual changing and relaxation areas,
with a fountain playing in the centre. Stairs let up to a similarly divided
gallery where there were also separate dressing rooms for non-smokers.
A plunge pool, 16ft long by 4ft 6in wide,
connected the hot room with the dressing room. Bathers could go from one
room to the other either through plate glass doors on either side of the
pool, or swim underneath a plate glass screen built over the pool. Bathers
were also able to swim in the first class swimming bath which they reached
via an enclosed connecting bridge.
In addition to these public facilities, there was also a private Turkish
baths suite, though this was much smaller. This comprised two dressing
rooms, two hot rooms, shampooing room and a toilet.
Very soon after the baths
opened, if not from the outset, William Richards was appointed Managing
Director and in 1887, when the company disposed of the baths, it was
Richards who became the new proprietor. The exact circumstances of the
change in ownership are not yet known but a letter from Richards to the
Registrar of Companies, dated 28 February 1891, suggests that the property
was either taken by him as mortgagee, or bought by him from the mortgagee.
He continued as proprietor until at
least 1889 and possibly until the baths were purchased for £4,000 by Sheffield
Corporation in 1895.
The Corporation rebuilt much of the
Victoria Street section of the baths, forming a new 'ladies entrance' and
building a new swimming bath for women. The entrance, dated 1898,includes an
early use of the new city coat of arms, Sheffield having become a city five
years earlier in 1893. The façade pays echoes the art noveau style and the
whole of the alteration scheme cost £10,000.
little is known about the Turkish baths until 1913 when information was
supplied to Agnes Campbell for her report to the Carnegie Trust. By now, and
probably since the new women's pool was opened in 1898, women were allowed
into the Turkish baths at specific times of the week and over one quarter of the
10,604 bathers using them during the year 1913-14 were women.
At this time the cost of a
Turkish bath was 1/6d or 1/- for male bathers, and 1/- for females, and it
is interesting to note that although the number of bathers using the
Turkish baths was less than 10% of those using the swimming pools, the
council's income from the Turkish baths was as high as 40% of that brought
in by the swimmers.
it still cost only 1/6 to take a Turkish bath and this included 'a choice
of four attendants to scour your body with scrubbing brushes before
packing you off for a thumping massage.' At some stage the Private Turkish
baths seem to have been converted to a Russian steam room, furnished with
deck chairs and with little alcoves leading off. The dry hot rooms were
maintained at 145ºF
and between 185-195ºF.
mid-1980s, the women had the use of the baths on Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays while the rest of the week was allocated to the men. They were
open from noon until nine in the evening during weekdays and from nine
till four in the afternoon at weekends. Admission now cost £2.70 although
there was a small reduction for 'Passport to Leisure' holders and
pensioners were charged half price.
When the baths were first
threatened with closure there were protests in the council chamber by
bubble blowing bathers dressed in turbans and towels, but by the beginning
of 1990 the die was cast. John Taylor, senior assistant recreation
director told the local paper that there had been a number of suggestions
for the future use of the baths building 'but they all want to keep the
When the building was put on
the open market, in April 1992, the council stated that it had three broad
objectives which needed to be encompassed in any redevelopment scheme: to
ensure that the primary usage of the building remained leisure based; that
the Turkish bath suite remain and be open to the public at times to be
agreed, with access to all sectors of the community, and on terms which
honour the council's leisure card conditions; and to secure the
retention of the existing building. But, ominously, the council refused
all requests to seek Listed Building status.
All proposals appeared to
honour these conditions, the most appealing being an unsuccessful bid from
a group of local women bathers who formed the Sheffield Turkish Bath
Company, later to become the Sheffield Turkish Bath Trust in order to run
the building as a non-profit making facility for the community. But there
were a number of false starts and much unfavourable comment in the local
press and in an internal council report about delays and the manner in
which negotiations were taking place.
Eventually matters were resolved and various parts of the Glossop Road
Baths were redeveloped to include a pub and 23 luxury apartments. The last
stage was the Turkish bath suite which was totally refurbished and
re-opened on 15 March 2004 by Conrad Blandford and Clare Hundall as SPA
1877, 'one of the country's top health and beauty facilities.'
Those who have seen the new
spa, and especially some of those who used to frequent the Turkish bath,
have been surprised at the beautiful manner in which the restoration has
been carried out. While the emphasis seems to be on beauty treatments and,
later, hair styling, the old Turkish baths have been replaced by more
modern facilities. These include steam rooms, a luxurious continental
sauna, an ice room, plunge pool and relaxation area. Some mosaic floors
have been restored and the old brickwork looks as it probably did on the
day the baths first opened.
The developers of the
Glossop Road Baths are to be praised for ensuring that the structure of
the Turkish bath suite remains more or less intact and that they have put
so much of their own money into restoring it. The people of Sheffield are
certainly fortunate to have access to such a beautiful facility. Yet one
cannot but regret that it was not considered economically viable to retain
even a small series of dry hot rooms in what is one of the few remaining
Victorian Turkish bath buildings to survive.
Slightly revised, 25 April
Richard Freestone, for the use of
his beautiful photographs of SPA1877
Steve Wilkinson, for a copy of
his plan of the original Turkish baths
The original page
and thumbnail pictures which can be enlarged.
All the enlarged images, listed and linked below, can also be printed.
façade of the baths c.1990
Plan of the
main Turkish baths area, 1876
rooms five years after closure
Corner of a
hot room five years after closure
room floor destroyed by twelve years of neglect
entrance to the Turkish baths
the hot room in the mid-1950s
long-standing regulars in the hot room, September 1986
galleried cooling-room in the mid 1950s
the hot room five years after closure
dressing areas on the gallery five years after closure
landscape, , SPA1877
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