The Surrey Turkish Baths, 1879,
191 Blackfriars Road, London

Surrey Turkish Bath, 1879
        < Photograph reproduced by kind permission of Paul, its owner and a visitor to the site.

The photograph is difficult to interpret. The figures appear to be standing in front of a doorway, but the height of the Turkish bath sign seems at first sight too low for the door to be at street level.

A visit to Blackfriars Road in November 2002 revealed that No.191 has been demolished, possibly quite recently as, at the time of the visit, a builder's hoarding surrounded the site. However, a few doors further south, No.171 is one of very few 19th century buildings still standing in this part of the road and, though it has been much altered, it seems in many respects to be similar to the building in the photograph.

A door, similar to that in front of which the figures are standing in the photograph, still exists; the windows on either side of it have been converted into 'modern' shopfronts, but the decorative brickwork above and between the old windows remains. A large area in front of the building has been concreted and this stands in marked contrast to the paving slabs which cover the part of the pavement nearest the road.

It seems most likely, therefore, that the Turkish baths were in the basement of the building, otherwise the sign would surely have been above the ground floor windows. Bathers would have entered through a door leading off an open area in front of the building, reached by steps down from the street. Such open areas and entrances were very common in London in the nineteenth century and the front of the basement was probably lit by the two small windows beneath the words 'TURKISH BATH'.

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

 
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The right of Malcolm Shifrin to be identified as the author of this work
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