Turkish baths in London

Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway

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

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Wimbledon Theatre Turkish Baths

2. The upper levels conversion

After the Turkish bath was closed, it disappeared from view for over sixty years—part closed off and part, like the plunge pool, boarded over. Those of us who appreciate Turkish baths have become resigned, of late, to their closure and subsequent demolition. Only rarely is there news of a bath being reopened, though there are pressure groups working to this end in Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Glasgow. Very occasionally, as in the case of Royal Leamington Spa, a disused Turkish bath is sympathetically restored and successfully used for a new purpose.

This is what happened in Wimbledon.

In June 2001, Steve Sotiriou took over what was a rather depressing wine bar and, with the help of a conservation grant and an extremely sympathetic architect, restored most of what remained of the original Turkish baths, turning it into Bar Sia, an attractive bar and music venue.

[The Bar Sia closed in 2012. Although the premises themselves are still in use, it has not yet been possible to re-visit the site to see what further changes, if any, have been made. The description which follows, therefore, remains unchanged from the original version, written shortly after the bar opened.]

The whole of the theatre building is Grade II Listed and the architects, Tijen and Brian O'Reilly, have incorporated many features from the original rooms into their new design. Working on this unique conversion must have been an exciting project leading, as it sometimes did, to unexpected discoveries. 'We just drilled a hole in the wooden floor, and saw the plunge pool underneath,' explained Tijen.

That part of the theatre which has been transformed into Bar Sia has a complicated floor plan. In effect, it is set out on four floor levels, though the upper two are only half-a-storey apart.

Three steps up from the street take you into the lounge. This has been created from the space occupied by the two separate shops. Originally each shop had stairs which led to a toilet in the cellar, though there is no longer any indication of where they were.

Two stylised wall graphics of a woman in a Turkish bath (which have been created by backlighting drilled sheets of aluminium) are so far the only obvious clues as to what the bar might originally have been.

Nor is there any clue immediately visible as you mount the six steps leading to the main bar area in what was originally the Turkish bath cooling-room. But, not easily spotted until you are right in the bar and happen to look back to the left, there is a restored staircase leading down to the rest of the original Turkish bath.

This page reformatted and slightly revised 29 October 2018

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Tijen Selim O'Reilly

Steve Sotiriou

Mike Lyas

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Outside Bar Sia

Upper two floors: plan

The lounge

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Other Turkish baths in London

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

 
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