Turkish baths in London

Basinghall Street, The Wool Exchange

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

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Bell's Wool Exchange Turkish Baths

It is not yet definitely known when Benjamin Bell first opened these baths. It is not even known if he installed and opened them himself, though this seems most likely.

 Although the baths appeared in Kelly's London directory for the first time as late as 1886, such dates are never very accurate for a variety of reasons. Eric Wright has suggested that they opened in 1883 and notes that they were advertised as,

having the largest and deepest plunge in London, 6 foot deep, indeed! And this in addition to clean and respectable attendants, noted for their civility and devotion to duty, to boot!

Unfortunately he does not indicate the source of the advert so that it has not been possible to check the date, although there is no obvious reason to doubt this as Bell had already been running his first establishment in Buckingham Palace Road for around four years.

When Benjamin Bell died in 1895, the baths were left to his two sons, Harry (sometimes known as Henry George) and his younger brother Edward Robert. Together, they appear to have run the baths for four years or so. But in 1901, for some unknown reason, the brothers separated after one or both of them tried, unsuccessfully, to start a company registered under the name of Bell's Turkish Baths Syndicate Limited.

By the end of that year, Harry had moved to Toronto, Canada, where he worked at the King Street Turkish Bath owned by Thomas Cook (whose wife was Harry's sister-in-law).

Edward, meanwhile, now in partnership with a Mr Bennett, continued to run these baths until 1904 when they were bought by James Forder Nevill. This was Nevill's eighth establishment, and the last to be added to the chain of Turkish baths which his family had built up in London during the previous thirty-three years.

Nevill floated his company, Nevill's Turkish Baths Ltd, in 1908 and the company kept the Wool Exchange Turkish Baths open for another thirty years, only closing them in 1938.


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Heather Burns for her help, and the photo of her great grandfather, Harry Bell

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Harry Bell, eldest son of Benjamin

Jones' first visit to a Turkish bath (8 caricatures)

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