Nevill's Turkish Baths
This building, currently a
restaurant, is one of the more unusual buildings in London. Not only did
it survive the London Blitz in the 1940s, but—in some ways an even
greater miracle—it survived the massive office redevelopment projects
which took place in the last decades of the 20th century.
was erected in 1895 by Henry and James Forder Nevill to house a
new Turkish bath. The Nevills already owned more establishments in
London than any other company. This would be their fifth in
total—their second in the City of London.
There had been baths of one kind or another on this site since
By 1847, Dr Robert James Culverwell was providing Medical Baths
here (and a year later also in Argyll Place, just off Oxford Circus). Both these
establishments, known as the Argyll Baths, were continued for about eight
years or so after his death in 1852 by his widow, Ann Eliza Culverwell.
March 1860, the establishment was owned by Argyll Baths who added Turkish baths
and then renamed it New Broad Street Turkish Baths. Some time before
1883, they came under the ownership of a firm called
Jones & Co and, in 1885. the new owners refurbished the baths.
Better baths have replaced the now obsolete forms, and the rooms
have been enlarged and thoroughly ventilated, thereby removing all those drawbacks which passed muster in bygone years, but
which are now no longer up to the present scientific standard.
baths were open from seven in the morning till nine at night and a
'plain hot-air bath, with shower' cost 3/6d and the 'complete process'
cost 4/-. Also available were perfumed vapour, Russian vapour, Vichy, and sulphur
vapour baths. There were scented showers, together with ascending, descending and spinal douches.
New Broad Street Turkish baths
We can’t be absolutely certain of
the exact date, but it seems likely that Jones and Co sold both their
establishments some time between 1886 and 1889. Their New Broad Street baths were bought by Henry and James Forder
Nevill, probably as a going concern.
the Argyll Baths had been refurbished in 1885,
they were nearly fifteen years old and would have been much inferior to
the specially designed baths in Northumberland Avenue which the Nevills built
in 1884. Some time around 1893,
therefore, they decided to close and demolish the old baths in order to
new building was very attractive, though much smaller than that in Northumberland Avenue, and
it does not appear to have been open
for women bathers. It was designed by the architect,
G Harold Elphick, and opened by City of London Alderman Treloar on 5 February 1895.
Architectural journals of the day
described the baths in glowing terms, praising both the overall
decorative scheme and quality of fittings, and also the imaginative
manner in which a very small ground level area was
utilised. In 1895, before many of the streets in the area were re-named,
the main entrance to the baths was in Alderman's Walk (now Bishopsgate
Churchyard), just as today it is the main entrance to a restaurant.
baths themselves were partly underneath the original New Broad Street House
(now demolished), and partly underneath Alderman's Walk. The entrance forms
part of a kiosk in the upper portion of which were water tanks,
masked by a Moorish style wall, and surmounted by a similarly styled onion shaped cupola, decorated with a star and
the kiosk, the bather went down a winding
staircase, lined by tin-glazed earthenware (faïence) to the entrance
vestibule, where he bought his ticket.
of Nevill's baths charged 2/6d before 6.00 in the evening and
1/6d afterwards. But the newer baths at Northumberland Avenue were
rather more expensive—3/6d before 7.00 in the evening and 2/- afterwards—so it is possible
close to the Stock Exchange and Lloyds, the Nevills thought that City
gents could afford the higher rate at their New Broad Street
the Turkish baths
After paying, the bather continued on to a cooling-room decorated in the style of the Alhambra in
Spain. A fountain of cold filtered water, with a Doulton basin, reinforced
the Moorish ambience of the interior.
room was divided into a series of divans, or cubicles, each of
which was provided with couches, an elaborate mirror, and an occasional
table. The ceiling was clad in cream tinted panels with coloured borders,
and the floors were covered with soft richly patterned carpets.
off from the cooling-room were three hot rooms, each with marble mosaic floors, and
tiled walls and ceilings. Marble seats, stained-glass windows, and wall alcoves
in faïence, gave the rooms a comfortable and luxuriant air.
The calidarium (the hottest room) could be raised to a temperature of
tepidarium to 180°F, and the frigidarium to
All were lit by electricity.
in other Nevill establishments, fresh hot air
came through a grated opening below the ceiling, while the stale air was
extracted through ventilators in the seats near the
floor level, or gratings in the floor itself.
was also a vapour bath of marble with hot water
pipes ( under the seat) throwing out fine jets of steam, producing instant perspiration for
those bathers unaffected by the
dry heat of the Turkish bath. The adjacent shampooing-room was also fitted with marble slabs, and tiled
throughout. The bather then had a choice of showers ( rose, douche, needle, or spiral
douche) after which there was a cold plunge pool, 30ft. long
and 5ft. deep, lined with marble, mosaic, and tiles, with a decorative frieze
(no pun intended!).
The ceilings of
the hot rooms
and the shampooing-room were of enamelled iron upon a solid roof of
cement, and the windows were treble glazed to prevent rapid
transmission of heat. The design and colour of the
various apartments differed, and a richly modelled stalactite cornice
surrounded the cooling-room and the other main rooms.
At the top of the
leading to the baths below, and throughout the relaxation areas, were
walnut screens with panels of coloured leaded glass in
peacock blue and gold.
interior of the building, the walls,
beams, and columns are encased with faïence and tile-work. Even the joints are worked in to form part of the design, the
tiles being made in various interlocking shapes, in the Moorish
manner, for this purpose.
were manufactured at Jackfield in the Ironbridge Gorge by Craven Dunnill
to the designs of the architect,
Harold Elphick (who had the shape of his interlocking tiles registered).
Turkish Baths Ltd
At the end of July 1908, the two
Nevills floated a company, Nevill's Turkish Baths Ltd, with an capital
of £75,000. In addition to the New Broad Street Baths, the company was
to 'acquire and take over as going concerns the
business of proprietors or keepers of Turkish, Electrical, Light,
and other Baths and appliances, carried on by James Forder Nevill' at Harrow Road, Northumberland Avenue, Commercial Road East, High Street
Whitechapel, Wool Exchange, and Railway Approach at
this time, the lease on the New Broad Street basement still had 46
years to run at an annual rent (in 1908) of £395. The baths remained
open until 1954 until the expiry of the lease when Nevill's decided not
to renew it.
number of bathers using the baths had been declining steadily since
1950. Devaluation, 'extreme tension both in the political and business
a tough 1952 Budget, and increasing fuel costs
led to the
closure of the baths. Employees were given £200 compensation, and some
bathers transferred to Nevill's London Bridge establishment.
baths were used for storage for some years, and were first converted
into a restaurant in the mid 1970s. We must be grateful that its
Listed Building status has preserved so much of the original building
for our delight today at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Miguel Araujo, for his interesting enquiry
Dawn Edmonds, for information
about the Culverwells