Victorian Turkish bath at Wightwick Manor is one of only two which
are known to have survived in a privately built country house. The
other—like Wightwick, now owned by the National Trust—is at Cragside,
Lord Armstrong's home in Northumberland.
(pronounced wit-wick) was built in 1887 for Theodore Mander who, with his
brother Charles, was joint owner of the family paint and varnish
firm, Mander Brothers. Theodore was also a local councillor, alderman,
magistrate and, briefly, Mayor of Wolverhampton.
Within six years Mander was already having the house altered and
Ould, of the Chester and Liverpool firm of Grayson and Ould, was the
architect of both the original house (1887) and its extension (1893). It
is not known if he had any previous experience of designing Turkish baths,
but his ground floor plan of the original building clearly shows (in
the enlarged version) a three-room Turkish bath suite, typical
of its period.
not typical is the designation of the middle room as a bathroom and the
inclusion in the plan of a bath. In fact, there seems to be no evidence to
show conclusively that a bath was ever installed, and a recent examination
of the room showed no remains of any water feed or outlet drain. Neither
is any mention made of it in a description of the Turkish bath which
appeared in The Architect shortly after the original house
rather, the description is of an ordinary Victorian Turkish bath with three
rooms designed to be maintained at increasingly hot temperatures:
The building, which is of brick,
consists of three rooms—two hot-rooms and a cooling-room. The centre one answers as
'tepidarium' and shampooing-room. Three rooms are sufficient, and answer all purposes for a private bath. The cavity in the walls is made use of for ventilating the bath, and is useful as a
non-conductor from the cold air outside. The inside walls are of glazed bricks in various colours, designed in good taste. These walls form the best surface for hot-rooms; they are easily washed. The ceilings are concrete, and the floor neatly tiled.
The bath is effectually heated by Messrs J Constantine & Son's (Manchester) Convoluted Stove. The size of warm-air flue is 2 feet 9 inches. The air to be heated is drawn from outside through flues of equal dimensions. With such provision for ventilation a rapid and constant change of air takes place, and all vitiated air and effluvia thrown off by the bather is speedily carried away, and one of the chief desiderata of bathers secured much to their
mention is made of a shampooing-room, it should be remembered that in the
context of a Victorian Turkish bath, shampooing usually retained its
original meaning of massaging rather than washing, although usage of the
latter meaning does appear in the Oxford English dictionary in a
quotation dated 1860.
Constantine was the owner of his own public Turkish bath
and a man with some 27 years' experience in heating and operating them. It
seems highly likely, therefore, that when he was commissioned to
instal one of his Convoluted stoves at Wightwick, he advised the architect that having
a hot water bath in one of the rooms would preclude the provision of the
very dry air which is required in a Turkish bath.
of the Turkish bath (above right), which
Constantine reproduced in a book
published three years before the 1893 extension was built, differs
from the architect's original drawing in a number of respects—although it
still includes a bath. Such a plan may well have been provided to enable
him to calculate the heat required for the three rooms and,
consequently, the heating capacity and size of the stove to be supplied.
As one would expect
in a Turkish bath, this plan shows no doors across the openings between
the three rooms so
as to allow hot air to pass into each room in turn, cooling as it goes.
Unfortunately no firm conclusions can be drawn from this since the main
door into the Turkish bath suite and that from the corridor have also been
omitted. Another difference is that each of the rooms has a window
which is not included in the original plan. All we know for certain is
that Constantine's Convoluted Stove was installed in the basement below
the bath and that clean heated air was fed into the hot room by means of a
tiled duct, topped with a grille about 3'6'' above floor level.
unlikely that we shall ever know exactly how the Turkish bath was
originally built since, as Patricia Pegg points out,
is a noticeable gap in the [Mander] archive papers relating to the period
between 1887 and 1893 when Theodore Mander was involved in planning,
building and extending Wightwick Manor. There are none of the letters one
might expect to find from Edward Ould, with suggestions and inquiries
about the design of the new house… The records of Grayson and Ould were
destroyed in an air raid during the last war.
extension, as large as the original house, was added to the east side of
the building. It was during this work that the original billiard room was
demolished and the Turkish bath cooling-room removed to make room for a
larger back corridor leading from the kitchen to a new dining room.
Mander died, aged only 47, in 1900, less than a decade after the
completion of the extension. In 1937 the National Trust acquired the
house, though Lady Mander continued to live at Wightwick until her death
remaining rooms in the Turkish bath have been 'restored' and are now
open to the public, but it is difficult to determine how authentic the
restoration has been, and a number of questions remain unanswered:
appear on either the architect's original plan or on Constantine's. So at
some stage the floor levels of the cooling-room and hot room seem to have
been lowered (unlikely), or the levels of the cooling-room and corridor
raised (less unlikely). It would seem most plausible that the levels had
to be changed in 1893 when the corridor from the kitchen to the new dining
room was built. But all three steps are of bare concrete; one would
surely expect in a house of
such quality that if steps to be used by the master of the house were
absolutely unavoidable, they would at least be tiled to match the floor.
was indeed a bath, such as that recently added to the restored cooling-room, then it would be important for the floor tiles to continue
underneath it, right up to the wall. Yet the area under the bath is
concrete, suggesting that it was not a bath which occupied that area at
all but a marble topped plinth for the bather to lie on while being massaged, or shampooed,
or when cooling down.
in the hot room was also tiled and it would have been normal, specially in
Turkish baths which were not heated by a hypocaust, for bathers to
walk directly on such a floor, or possibly on such a floor covered by
matting. The slatted duckboards which currently cover the floor would not
have been used at such a time and the restoration seems to have been
influenced by modern practice in saunas.
slatted wooden seating would have been most unusual in a Victorian Turkish
bath, and a two-tier slatted seat placed as it is at present would also
have been almost unheard of. This part of the restoration seems also to
have been influenced by modern sauna practice. The seating in the original
hot room was L-shaped and in a house of such distinction would almost
certainly have been a marble bench.
seems to be no conclusive evidence as to when the windows were added.
While the addition of external windows to the rooms of a Turkish bath is
not unknown, it would have been unusual and, if they were of the type
which are in situ today, they would have added considerably to the
heating costs. Furthermore, the building of the extension does not in
itself seem to have required any windows to be moved, yet the one in the
hot room is not positioned as shown in Constantine's plan.
the arched opening between the hot room and the cooling-room has been
fitted with a polished wooden framed door similar to that fitted between
the new cooling-room and the enlarged corridor. Such a door would be an
unlikely fitting in any Turkish bath which was in regular use.
with all these inconsistencies, we are fortunate to be able still
to see any of the Turkish baths which wealthier Victorians
built in their country homes.
remains of Constantine's Convoluted Stove
still stand in the basement and were not scrapped when a modern
boiler was installed to heat the house.
we must thank both Lady Mander and the National Trust.
Smith, recently retired National Trust Property Manager at
Robert Reid, House Steward, Wightwick)
expressing these thanks I should like to emphasize that neither Monty
Smith nor Robert Reid necessarily shares my views on the restoration of
the Turkish bath at Wightwick Manor, nor do they necessarily agree with my
reasoning behind these views. I am, however, most grateful to both of them
for their kind help.
The original page
and thumbnail pictures which can be enlarged.
All the enlarged images, listed and linked below, can also be printed.
drawing of the original house
of the ground floor and Turkish bath
grille in the hot room
corner of the 'Bathroom' in the mid-1990s
Original tiled hot-air
view of the bath/cooling-room
View of the hot room
Remains of Constantine's Convoluted Stove
Mander in 1899
Top of the page