Turkish baths in London

191 Blackfriars Road

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

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Surrey Turkish Baths

Very little is known so far about this establishment, but thanks to Paul, a visitor to the site, we are able to publish what he calls a 'rather poor' photo showing the baths in 1879. Yet such photos become valuable pieces of evidence when trying to document the history of an institution like the Victorian Turkish bath because so little evidence survives.

In the enlarged version of the photograph (which has a caption suggesting how the picture might be interpreted) it is possible to make out the figures of a small girl and three men. The young girl is understood by Paul's family to be his grandmother Maud. It seems likely that among the men in the photo, one is her father John Bryning, and another is his brother James W Bryning, the proprietor of the Turkish bath.

If little is known about the Surrey Turkish Baths, we do know something about their owner's high opinion of Turkish baths for, in a letter sent in 1873 in response to a questionnaire from Richard Metcalfe, he writes,

as a remedial agent, and a means of cleansing, there is no bath equal to the Turkish. It may be given to the youngest infant, or the oldest person, with perfect safety and great benefit.

As to getting the poor to take the bath, let it be ever so cheap, this must take time. They, like the rich, have their prejudices, and being uneducated, you cannot persuade them that it is either necessary or beneficial, therefore, it makes it a work of time.

When you find prejudice in educated medical men, you cannot wonder that the masses should be so.

James W Bryning emigrated to North America in 1887 so it may be that he retained ownership of the bath until that date, selling it on to James Spurway just before he left.

This page last reformatted 23 November 2018

Thank you icon



Paul for permission to use his evocative photograph, and for information about it.

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Exterior of the baths

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