The exact opening date and early ownership of
these baths, like the early history of the company which for many years
owned them, are unclear due to lack of specific evidence.
The baths were designed, as were all Dr Barter's
Turkish baths, by his name
sake Mr Richard Barter. Robert Wollaston called
them 'handsome' and described them as being 'on a large scale'. On 2 September 1863, a year after the opening of the London
Hammam, they were considered worthy of a visit by David Urquhart's close
friend and political follower Major Poore.
Soon after they were completed, probably late in
1859, they were owned by the Waterford Turkish Bath(s) Company Limited
and remained so until around 1912. Initially the company was responsible
for running them with T L Harvey—presumably related to the Company
Secretary, Thomas Smith Harvey—as Manager.
In common with all Barter's baths, the Waterford
establishment was advertised as 'The improved Turkish or Irish bath,
under Doctor Barter's Patent'. This was not intended to denigrate a
Turkish institution, as some modern commentators seem to suggest.
The phrase was not a claim that (what would later come to be called) an orientalist
European realisation was better (ie, had to be better) than its
Urquhart initially regarded the Turkish bath
primarily as an example of high Turkish culture with an enjoyable ritual which grew
out of its Islamic cleansing function; Barter's view, as a physician and
hydropathist, was primarily concerned with the therapeutic aspects of
the bath. Urquhart discovered the therapeutic value of the bath
incidentally—though he increasingly came to depend on it to relieve his painful
neuralgia; Barter started from the therapeutic view, soon realising that the
bath was most effective when the hot air was dry, unlike that in the
traditional hammam where washing in the hot areas made the bath humid,
not to say steamy.
Barter's 'improvement' was, therefore, to increase
the effectiveness of the bath in performing a function quite different
from that envisaged by bathers in the Islamic hammam. No direct
comparison was intended, nor would it have been sensible, between the effectiveness of two different
In his Bradford lecture on 8 July 1858,
Barter summarised the differences between his curative baths at St Ann's
and those following Urquhart's concept of the Eastern Bath.
...I have deviated from the Bath in the
East, first, by excluding free steam from the hot rooms. Secondly, by
invigorating the person after the hot room by the application of cold
water, or cold air. And thirdly, by not allowing the dreamy relaxing
custom of coffee and tobacco, with warm covering and long-continued rest
in the Frigidarium--all of which I conceive to be unsuitable to the
invalid, and incompatible with a curative process, however much it may
enhance the enjoyment of the healthy.
In effect, Barter's bath became more like the Roman
bath (from which the Islamic version developed). Hence the present-day
European references to the Irish-Roman bath.
Initial advertisements for the Waterford baths
showed a pattern of usage which was to become the norm for most of the
nineteenth century. There were separate classes of bather to allow a
relatively inexpensive admission charge at certain fixed times—here, early
evening on Saturdays and early morning on Sundays. To 'meet the
requirements of the million' the charge at these times was 6d compared
with other timed charges of two shillings, one and sixpence, and one
shilling. Shampooing was also available, but at an extra charge of sixpence
and, unusually, children under ten years of age were admitted at half
Some time before 1888—almost certainly around 1886
when the baths were renovated and refurbished—the company, in a major
change of policy, decided to lessen its day to day connection with the
baths and leased them to Denis Dunlea who ran them successfully for many
years before his retirement some time between 1910 and 1912.
Under the new management an attempt was made to
make the prices more realistic. A newspaper advertisement after the
renovation makes no mention of meeting 'the requirements of the million'
or of half price tickets for children. Instead, the Turkish baths 'For
HEALTH, CLEANLINESS, & HAPPINESS' were open from 6.00 am to 8.00 pm on
weekdays (and Sunday mornings) at charges ranging from three shillings
down to one shilling per bath.
In the spring of 1910 the ladies' baths were closed
for re-modelling and women were limited to the use of the men's baths on
Wednesdays and Fridays. By this time also, Sunday morning opening
had been abandoned during winter months.
After Dunlea retired, the baths were taken over by
a new, unknown, proprietor who added warm baths and showers and, to
better publicise these new facilities, changed the name
establishment to the Reclining Shower and Turkish Baths, in which form
they survived until at least 1927.
account should be treated as work in progress. Further research is needed
to fill in further information about the facilities of the baths, and how
long they survived.