Lochhead Hydropathic Establishment
In 1851 the Reverend Alexander Munro bought the mansion and grounds at
Lochhead, about a mile to the north-east of Aberdeen, and opened a
there. At the same time, he was also Congregational minister of the small
chapel at Skene, some six miles away. He was widely known as Dr Munro
qualification came, in fact, from a hydropathic college in the United
States. Although previously he had successfully completed the required
course for medical students at the University of Aberdeen, he was not
allowed to graduate as he was already practising as a
started in a small way with fairly primitive facilities. Showers were
taken in a small hut near the house and 'the stronger patients were
expected to pump the water from a stream near by to a tank on the roof
the facilities were gradually improved and in 1857 Munro sold the
establishment to a new partner, Dr William Meikle, while continuing to
'conduct' its daily running as superintendent. Meikle died the following year but
in 1861 his executors sold the hydro to a younger brother, Dr Thomas Henry
Meikle, then aged only 27 years old.
He retained it for seven years, while Munro
himself left round about 1863.
is possible that when T H Meikle first built the Turkish baths at
Lochhead he intended them to be run as a separate (albeit related)
establishment; some of the first advertisements for the Turkish bath
made no mention of treatments available at the hydro and Munro's name
After a few months, however, a new set of advertisements showed more
clearly that they were part of the hydro, and Munro's name re-appeared.
The hydropathic establishment clearly benefitted from the addition of
the Turkish bath which aimed to be 'a model of
comfort and elegance'. Furthermore, as a result of
further investment by the
Meikle brothers, the house could now accommodate forty
patients at two guineas per week.
new Turkish baths were designed by the architect, Mr
William Hardie Hay, and Munro's unorthodox medical qualification did not
stop the well-known physician and classical scholar, Francis
Adams, from visiting them and describing them as 'elegant'.
at Lochhead used the Turkish baths in the mornings and then they were
opened at two and four o'clock each day to the general public, though
not of course, given Munro's other calling, on Sundays. The standard
charge was 2s.6d. and the baths were reserved for women on Tuesday and
Thursday afternoons. They were also available for two hours in the
evening 'For the Working Classes (who require to
provide themselves with a Sheet and Towel)' at the lower charge of one shilling, with two
evenings again being reserved for women. Shampooing was also available
at 6d and, for the working classes, at 3d,
though after a couple of months this latter charge was raised to 4d.
Externally, the Turkish baths were built in oriental style although Hays
himself would have preferred a more 'thoroughly English' approach. He was able to follow
this preference only in the interior of the building because, as he explained to members
of the Liverpool Architectural Society, he was employed to build Turkish baths
and Turkish baths they had to be. In practical terms this meant that so as not
to disappoint the expectations of the uninitiated, 'the bulbous domes and gilded
minarets must appear in all the cheapest and most showy style, so that the
Oriental character might be realised as freshly as from a perusal of Lalla
off the 18 foot square entrance hall, lit through pieces of coloured
glass set in a dome, were small alcoves for undressing, screened off with
curtains and furnished
with seats and couches. The cooling-room, also furnished with couches,
was the same size as the entrance hall, but without a dome. The two
hot rooms, kept at 100°F and 150°F,
with seats and shampooing tables. In the last room, together with a
variety of douches, there was a needle shower, 'a niche provided and completely surrounded with a coil of pipe,
perforated and made to play upon the bather like a horizontal shower of rain.'
to Hay, the baths 'give great satisfaction, and yield a large and
Durie, Senior Lecturer, Dept of Economic & Social History,
Glasgow University; Michelle Gait, Special Libraries and Archives,
University of Aberdeen
The original page
and thumbnail pictures which can be enlarged.
All the enlarged images, listed and linked below, can also be printed.
Thomas Henry Meikle
Top of the page