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

4. The Turkish baths

But, taking everything into consideration, what remains of the original Turkish baths is quite remarkable.

The walls of all the rooms and the staircase are faced with white glazed bricks, with a green glazed brick double dado at about hand height. The floor, seating shelves, and walls of the plunge pool are also faced with white glazed bricks, and the room floors are of terrazzo.

Like the shampooing slabs, the seats in the hot rooms were originally of marble but these were also removed at some stage by a previous occupant. In the restored baths, the original benches have been given new tops to support cushions. Tables and additional seats have been fitted so as to optimise the use of the available space and adapt it to fulfil its new function. The rectangular hot room has a bar and a booth for a DJ.

Perhaps the most radical alteration has been the installation of tables and chairs on the floor of the plunge pool. Some might object to this, but it seems to me that this is far better than boarding them over and hiding them again.

And if the idea of having a drink in the middle of a plunge pool seems strange, it is hardly new; in 1892, a civic dinner to mark the opening of new public baths in Southampton was held with the guests seated at tables on the floor of the women's swimming pool.

Turkish bath enthusiasts will surely appreciate that new fixtures (like, for example, the handrails) have not been made to look as if they are of the same period as the original baths, but stand out immediately as modern functional necessities.

On the other hand, when items have necessarily been removed from an area, it is not immediately obvious that a now cosy alcove was originally a shower.

For more than six decades, no one has thought to restore the old baths as part of their business plan—or if they did, they must have been dissuaded by the cost. We must be grateful that so much of this unique Turkish bath can be seen once again.

This page reformatted 29 October 2018

Thank you icon

Tijen Selim O'Reilly

Steve Sotiriou

Mike Lyas

The original page includes one or more enlargeable thumbnail images.
Any enlarged images, listed and linked below, can also be printed.

Shower area before restoration

Second hot room before restoration

Plunge pool before restoration

Terrazzo floor

First hot room after restoration

Second hot roomafter restoration

Through the hot rooms to the bar

Tiled tiered seats in plunge pool

The old pool ladder

Tiered tiled seats

Relaxing in the restored showers

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Other Turkish baths in London


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

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