Turkish baths in Ireland

 

Dublin: 127 Stephen's Green West

          

                           
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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

        

Original illustrated page with chronology and notes
 

List of other Turkish baths in Ireland
                           

 

 
Stephen's Green Turkish Baths

This establishment adjoining Jury's Hotel, and owned by them, was opened on 5 August 1878.

The building was designed by a local architect, Mr Alfred G Jones of 45 Stephen's Green East and built by Thomas Tighe of Hamilton Row. The floors and walls were tiled by Mansell & Mitchell and the painting and decoration carried out by Gibson & Son of Mary Street. The drains, plumbing and gas-fittings were by Curtis & Son of Middle Abbey Street, while another local firm, Sloane & Son, of Stephen's Green North (who were later to open their own Turkish baths both there and in Leinster Street) were responsible for the heating of the baths.

Much of what we know about the baths is taken from two articles published when the baths opened. The first of these appeared in the Irish times, and the second, probably published in return for advertisements, appeared in the Dublin journal of medical science.

The baths were situated close to the Royal College of Surgeons and it was hoped that they would be popular not only with the patrons of Jury's Hotel, but also with members of the medical profession; the latter article seems to have been aimed at persuading its readers to become patrons of the Turkish baths, and to recommend them to their patients.

The building stretched back about 300ft and was fronted by 'a gently sloping piazza' with separate entrances to the men's baths on the left, and to the women's on the right.

The men's baths were on the ground floor and arranged in three sections with a set of slipper baths and showers leading off the entrance corridor. There were six baths, each with a patent shower which could be used with hot or cold water at differing pressures. Also to be found were sitz baths, foot sprays, and seat sprays which could be 'regulated by the patient' and were recommended for the treatment of piles.

This wet area also included a Russian vapour bath, individual vapour bath cabinets, shower, and needle bath and two 'magneto-electric' baths.

At the end of the baths corridor was a padroom—in which were stored pad slippers (pattens), towels, and sheets—and a small private Turkish bath. Beyond this lay the restaurant and bar, neatly separating the wet and dry bathing areas, and usable by patrons of both.

On the farther side of the restaurant was the cooling-room, which led on to the Turkish baths and to smaller rooms where patrons could obtain the services of a chiropodist or a hairdresser. At the far end of the cooling-room was a 4'6" deep plunge pool with constantly running water and next to this the attendant's room, complete with lift for taking soiled linen down to the laundry in the basement.

Around the room were dressing rooms entered through red and white striped curtains, with a second set running round a gallery. The cooling-room, in common with the rest of the Turkish baths, was decorated in 'Turkish style'.

The shampooing room was fitted with marble slabs, 'five spray shower baths and tilt-over basins for douching'. Through a curtained doorway was the first, circular, hot room heated to between 130 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. At the end of this room, three steps led up to the second room kept at around 180 degrees, while further on was the hottest room, called the oven, where the temperature was between 240 and 260 degrees.

The floors and walls of the hot rooms were covered in orname ntal tiles and the circular screen at the end of the second hot room and the oven was 'formed by orname ntal terra-cotta panels of Oriental design, perforated and glazed so as to allow the purer air to pass through.'

Fresh air entered the premises from 40 feet above ground level, was conducted through two large pipes to a furnace,  around which it passed and was heated. The hot air continued through perforated porcelain walls into the hottest room, becoming a gentle current as it flowed into the other rooms, escaping downwards through pipes set in the floor.

The cooling-room and hot rooms were furnished with 'spring wire-woven couches' covered with felt for easy washing.

Charges for a Turkish bath varied according to the time of day. From nine in the morning till six in the evening it cost 2/-. But this was reduced to 1/6d between six and nine in the morning, and to 1/- from six in the evening till the baths closed at nine. Surprisingly, all these prices included shampooing.

The separate women's baths were unfinished at the time these articles were written, but it appears that they were to be similar to the men's baths but smaller, with a drawing room and a small select library in place of a bar and, though this was not stated, probably to be located on an upper floor of the building.

Indeed, it is not known when the women's baths actually opened. But it certainly seems that they were either smaller than originally announced, or that women bathers had to make do with temporary baths for the first year or so.

This was rectified towards the end of 1879 when an advertisement announced that the proprietors had 'at a very considerable outlay…entirely remodelled and enlarged the Ladies' Bath' which would open on 29 December. There was now a 'special hot chamber for ladies requiring a very high temperature'. Notice also seems to have been taken of a generally recognised women's preference for separate shower rooms, rather than a communal shower area. As a final blandishment, it was announced that the women's baths now included 'a handsome marble shampooing room.'

It would, of course, be interesting to know why these facilities were not provided when the baths first opened. Was the number of women bathers underestimated? Or did women complain about their second class treatment?

It is not known how successful Millar & Jury, the proprietors, were in attracting the medical profession, but they must have been doing reasonably well because by 1881 they had purchased their main rivals south of the River Liffey, the baths built by Richard Barter at Lincoln Place (though he had ceased to be connected with them nearly fifteen years earlier). Thereafter, both baths were frequently advertised together until Lincoln Place was closed in 1900.

A year after the purchase of Lincoln Place, William and James Sloane (who had been responsible for installing the heating at both of the Jury and Millar baths) opened their own Turkish and Warm Baths in Leinster Street, almost immediately opposite the Lincoln Place Baths. Competition was strong and soon Jury's were advertising that their second class Turkish bath in Stephen's Green was 'the Cheapest Bath in Dublin, the charge being only 6d at all hours of the day.'

The Sloanes were to increase competition further when they opened a second establishment, the Central Turkish Baths at 3 Stephen's Green at the top of Grafton Street. There were now five Turkish baths in Dublin and all were advertising regularly in the local newspapers. Millar & Jury concentrated on popularising their second class baths offering reduced rates if multiple tickets were purchased so that, for example, 1/6d mid-day tickets were available for 15/- per dozen, and shilling evening tickets at 9/- per dozen.

Neither were they averse to advertising their baths as a way of warding off influenza when an outbreak was threatened in 1892 and three years later the public was advised that 'If you want to ward off the Influenza take to the Turkish bath. If you feel that you are Taking the influenza take to the Turkish bath And check its getting hold of you, and so escape it altogether'.

Some time around 1925, the baths were bought by George Lovell Ltd, a firm of caterers who ran them until at least 1927, when Benjamin Boloshauer, won an action against the company for burns suffered while using the baths. Boloshauer claimed that while sitting close to the wall in the hot room he accidentally touched some of the hot tiles and was badly burned on the shoulder. He won his claim, the judge awarding him £10 and expenses because there was no warning regarding the temperature of the walls, and no protection from them.

The baths remained open, though whether they changed hands after the court case is not known. Small classified ads occasionally appeared in the press in the years following, and in 1931 a series of advertisements indicated that a Madame Sircana was offering Weltmar massage there.

It is not known when the baths closed, though they were still open on St Patrick's Day in 1933. The building was demolished in 1934 shortly after the auction by Jackson Stops & Joyce of the fixtures and fittings on 24 and 25 May.


Ken Finlay, for permission to use his image of the 1927 advertisement
Aida Yared, for permission to use her image of the 1895 guidebook advertisement

                                                     

 
 


The original page includes thumbnail pictures which can be enlarged.
Enlargements can also be found at:

1927 advertisement for the baths

Guidebook advertisement for Miller & Jury establishments

Demolition sale advertisement
                  

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

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