Turkish and Warm Baths
The Turkish and Warm Baths
at 11 Leinster Street, Dublin, are probably the most famous Turkish
baths in modern English literature, arising from three
well-known references to them in James Joyce's novel Ulysses.
The action of the novel follows a
Dubliner, Leopold Bloom, throughout a single day of his life (16 June 1904),
now celebrated worldwide by Joyceans as Bloomsday. Unfortunately, Bloom did not have time to
take a Turkish bath on that day so we are left wondering how he might
have described them.
commentators have suggested that Bloom did take a Turkish bath, or
that he did so at the Moorish-looking Turkish baths in Lincoln Place,
which he saw on his way to the Leinster Street Baths. However both these
suggestions are incorrect, as indicated
on this site.
had left Dublin by the time he wrote Ulysses, he took great pains to ensure
the accuracy of his references to places in the city, writing to friends
and relatives to check details for him. So we
may be fairly certain that in 1904 a warm bath in this establishment
actually did cost 1s.6d.
The Leinster Street Baths were
opened at the beginning of March 1882 by William and James Sloane. It is
not yet known where this father and son team gained its expertise in the
construction of Turkish baths, but in 1878 they 'erected the whole of
the heating apparatus' for Messrs Millar & Jury who had just built a
Turkish bath next to their hotel in Stephen's Green West. The Sloanes
seem to have owned a bath and sponge warehouse at that time, also
located in Stephen's Green.
From a description we have of
the heating system at the
Stephen's Green Turkish Bath,
they seem to have adopted the method favoured in England of using a
furnace—typically a Constantine's Convoluted Stove—to heat fresh air
directed around the stove, before
being channelled through the hot rooms. Fresh hot air was, therefore,
continually being passed through the rooms. This ensured better
ventilation than earlier systems using a hypocaust, or flues under or
around the hot rooms, which only heated the air which was already inside
The Stephen's Green Turkish Baths were situated close to the Royal College
of Surgeons and it was hoped that they would be popular not only with
hotel patrons but also with members of the medical profession. Prices
for the men's Turkish baths (which varied according to the time of day) were
2/-, 1/6, and 1/-.
Having built the crucially
important heating and ventilation system so successfully for clients, the
Sloanes must have seen an opportunity for themselves to open a similar
establishment at a lower price affordable by a greater number of people.
The Irish times reported the
opening of the new Leinster Street baths 'by our enterprising
fellow-citizens the Messrs Sloane of Stephen's Green, whose skill and
success as Turkish bath engineers has made Dublin celebrated for its
Beyond the entrance hall was the
cooling-room, at the far end of which was a plunge bath. The walls of
the hot rooms and shampooing rooms were lined with specially
manufactured china-faced bricks giving 'an appearance of purity and
beauty not to be surpassed'. Continental sprays had been installed in
the shampooing rooms 'at the request of gentlemen who visit the Vichy
baths.' While on the housekeeping side, there was also a laundry and drying
The baths were designed, the writer
concluded, 'to supply a high-class Turkish bath at a moderate price, by
so doing bringing this great aid to health within the means of all.'
The Sloanes concentrated on two
selling points: the moderate charge and the excellent ventilation
system. 'TRY THE SHILLING TURKISH BATH' headed the first of a regular
series of advertisements in the Irish times. A shilling was the lowest
price for a first class Turkish bath at the Stephen's Green
establishment; but between 6.00 and 9.00 in the
evening, the Sloanes charged only 9d.
These baths only ever catered for
male bathers, though in 1889 the Sloanes opened a second Dublin establishment,
the New Central Turkish Baths for Ladies and Gentlemen, at No.3
The Leinster Turkish Baths
maintained its charges at 1/- during the day and 9d in the evening from
the day it opened until 1890. In the late 1880s, while still actually
emphasising its low price, it purported to show that this was not the
main reason for its popularity. In March 1888, for example, it
The superiority of this Bath is
proved by an increasing business, caused by the perfection of heating
(at 290 degrees) and ventilation, more than by the moderate price
In 1889, it was 'famous for heat,
ventilation, and shampooing.' But the following year, it went into upper
case letters, rather dubiously, with LARGEST PLUNGE BATH.
Some time around 1890, before the last-quoted
advertisement, the name
Sloane ceased to appear in connection with the
Leinster Turkish Baths, and also from that of the second establishment in Stephen's Green.
At the beginning of 1911, the
Leinster Turkish Baths re-opened under a new management and after being
'thoroughly renovated'. It is not known whether this closure was
just a normal redecoration closure, or whether it had been closed for
some time and then reopened later by a new proprietor.
[To be concluded after further
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