Very little is currently known about this establishment.
The baths seem to have opened some time in the
autumn of 1860, a display advertisement appearing on 7 September
claiming that the Oriental Baths were 'Now Open'.
There had been a hot air bath in Dublin at
Temple Street since the previous year, though it is not yet certain
whether this was built on the Barter pattern. And Barter's own
Place Turkish Baths had opened barely seven months earlier. So Mr J F
Alexander was being optimistic, if not foolhardy, in expecting a third
establishment to be successful so soon after the reintroduction of the
then unknown Turkish bath in 1856.
While his establishment does seem
to be based on Barter's heated dry air principle, Alexander would, of
course, have been aware of the
recent controversy as to whether the air in a Turkish bath should be
moist (as in a hammam) or as dry as possible (as Barter maintained). He
appeals to supporters on both sides, calling his establishment 'Oriental
Baths', but immediately describing them as 'Turkish Baths on the most
He mentions the issue even in his
first advertisement, and reiterates his position in another at the back
of Edward Haughton's The Uses and abuses of Turkish baths:
IN THESE BATHS
the heated air is never deprived of its due proportion of moisture; they
are never overheated; the system of ventilation is perfect. There is
ample dressing-closet accommodation: the attendance and superintendence
Alexander also made the most
of the fact that his establishment was in Rathmines, then a suburb to
the south of Dublin.
THE RATHMINES ORIENTAL
BATHS enjoy the benefit (not attainable in a central position in a large
city) of an unlimited supply of Pure Air, which is very essential to the
renovating and invigorating effects of the Bath.
All of which may be perfectly true but, such is
human nature, not necessarily enough to encourage a journey out of the
city centre. Alexander himself may even have accepted this reality since
he addressed his initial advertisement specifically 'To the inhabitants of
Rathmines, Rathgar, Ranelagh, and the south suburbs of Dublin'.
Apart from the Turkish bath itself, there were showers and
warm baths. All were available to men from 7.00-10.00 am
and from 5.00-9.00 pm at a cost of 1/6d. In the intervening period, from
11.00 till 4.00 in the afternoon, the baths were open to women. Unlike
most other establishments, women were charged 6d more
than men, Alexander realistically accepting, perhaps, that during women's hours
there would be fewer customers. But, as was generally the case
elsewhere, there was a reduction when a dozen tickets were purchased at
the same time. There was also a smaller private Turkish bath, available
at any time by appointment, for groups of up to four persons.
The following month, Alexander emphasised the
health benefits of the bath, heading an advertisement,
'HEALTH, CLEANLINESS, INVIGORATION,' and ending,
GOUT! RHEUMATISM! INFLUENZA! &c., &c.,
Adopt this safe, simple,
and delightful mode of cure, which has been efficacious in unnumbered
By the end of the month, after taking the actual
usage pattern of the baths into account, Alexander had restructured his
prices and tried to make a more efficient use of his resources. When the
establishment opened, a Turkish bath cost 1/6d with 'No extra charges';
he was now offering Turkish baths in the morning and evening at just one
shilling, with an optional shampoo at 6d extra, and with the prices
during the middle of the day remaining at 2/- inclusive.
But whereas previously this daytime period had been
available only to women bathers, he was now advertising that the baths
were open all day between 6.00 in the morning till 9.00 at night 'for
either ladies or gentlemen'. It seems most likely, therefore, that women
bathers were restricted to the smaller area originally intended only for
private groups, albeit at a reduced price.
A major disadvantage of the baths, despite the
cleaner out-of-the-city air, seems to have been that it was located in the
suburbs. The following year, Alexander tried to get over this by refunding the bathers' bus
fare from the city centre.
There was also 'clean
linen, and suitable Bath Costume provided for both Ladies and
It would be interesting to know what type of
person Alexander was trying to attract
to his establishment
abandoned his original choice of name
, Oriental Baths, for Turkish
Baths—but with a touch of the Roman (Thermć,
During this time he was also, briefly, running a
Turkish bath in Cecil Street, Limerick, a fair distance away. Even less
is known about this latter establishment or how long it survived,
but by the beginning of 1862, Alexander had decided to put the Rathmines
Turkish Baths up for sale.
It is not clear what happened next but, less than
a fortnight later, the Dublin Athenćum was
advertising reduced charges for the baths as one of its membership
Nor is it known whether
Alexander managed to let or sell the baths, whether he decided to keep
on with them, or even how long they remained open before finally
It does appear that the baths did close for at
least a short time because their re-opening was announced on 14 February
and, four days later, pronounced a 'great success'.
Further research is needed to determine how the
baths fared thereafter.
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