known about these Turkish baths beyond the first
few months after their opening.
There is even some confusion about who owned the
establishment. There are three possible name
s, but none is clearly
indicated as proprietor. The most likely owner would seem to be a Mr J
Wilson whose name
appears at the foot of an advertisement in the
Downpatrick Recorder and in editorial comment elsewhere in the
The other possibility is Jane Ruthven. She is
entered in the local valuation register for 1863 as being the occupier of
the Turkish bath and the office behind, for which the rateable value is
given as £5 per annum.2
Additionally, there seems to have been a Mr Ruthven entered in
the earlier record for 1861.
A possible scenario is that Wilson was the
proprietor and Ruthven the original bath attendant or manager, with his
wife Jane taking over soon after the opening, due perhaps to her
It should be noted, however, that all of this is
But whoever actually owned the
bath, s/he could hardly have complained at the glowing editorial comment
in the local paper.
We are really going fast ahead in
Downpatrick, for we venture to say that in the three kingdoms there is
not another place of the same size has so far advanced in the arts of
civilization and luxury as to be able to boast the possession of a
veritable Turkish bath.
advertisement announcing the forthcoming opening of the bath
on 9 November 1861 we know that there were three classes of
bather, differentiated only by the time of the day they were
admitted. The prices of single tickets were 1/3d between
10.00 am and 4.00 pm, 9d between 6.00 and 8.00 in the
morning, and 6d between 5.00 and 8.00 in the evening.
Batches of tickets bought a dozen at a time brought
a small reduction and were available at 12/-, 6/6d, and 4/-, while
shampoos were charged extra at 3/-, 2/6d, and 2/- each.
Unusually, children under ten years old were
admitted in each class at half price while children under four were even
admitted free, presumably on the theory that a Turkish bath taken as a
child makes another client when the child becomes an adult.
We do not know, of course, how many children were
able to take advantage of being allowed in, nor whether they enjoyed it.
Certainly some have later written about how they enjoyed such an
experience elsewhere; others have told how they were taken regularly by a
mother or father and hated it every time.
bath was closed on Sundays and reserved for women bathers on Mondays and Thursdays.
It was reported that the bath was already being 'liberally patronised by
ladies as well as gentlemen' though this may merely have been pour
encourager les autres.
The facilities seem to have been
made available in stages because, just a couple of months after the
opening, the Recorder noted that 'the enterprising lessee
of this bath' has built a new 24ftx12ft cooling-room with separate
curtained changing cubicles.
The Recorder continued for
several months giving editorial support to the baths, no doubt in return
for their advertisements, and on occasion reprinted half column
quotations from the writings of Erasmus Wilson and Sir John Fife, those
well-known stalwarts of Turkish bath publicity.
David McKry and
Mary Rice at Downpatrick Library
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