Turkish baths in Scotland

Dundee: West Protection Wall

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

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Central Baths

Dundee's swimming baths

For a number of years, Dundee's swimming baths had been managed by successive committees under private control, on a site donated by the Harbour Trustees. The running of the baths was taken over by the Town Council towards the end of 1870, and the buildings were transferred on 1 January 1871, after which there were extensive alterations which included the addition of Turkish baths.

The baths opened at 6.30 in the morning and stayed open till 9.00 in the evening (opening slightly later and closing slightly earlier during the winter months. And while, on Sundays, the baths stayed open for only two and a half hours ( until 9.00 am), in England few baths opened at all on Sundays. An annual ticket for the Turkish baths could be purchased, in 1893, for 30/-.

The Turkish baths

Between 1908 and 1910, £10,000 was spent enlarging and improving the baths (including the Turkish baths) so that they might 'be worthy of the city.' Walter MacGregor, who had been appointed Superintendant in 1876 (and was still in post in 1922) reported on the success of the alterations, noting that in the first five months after re-opening overall revenue had increased by over £230.

Provision for women bathers was much improved after the alterations. There had always been a specified time when the Turkish baths were reserved for women bathers, but it is not known when this was, or for how long it lasted. After the rebuilding, these hours were extended and the Turkish baths were available for women's use on two evenings for three hours from 7.00 pm till 10.00. (Women swimmers also benefitted more substantially as the old first-class pool was set aside solely for their use at all times.)

It is easy to receive a general impression that Turkish baths became popular quickly, reached their peak before World War I, and thereafter went into steady decline. This does not appear to have been the case in Dundee where, in 1913 bathers took 5909 Turkish baths; yet in 1972 there were 13,986 baths taken (though the following year the number had dropped by 350.)

It seems more likely that the cost of maintaining Turkish baths as a proportion of the overall cost of baths provision rose, and continues to rise, so that a much larger number of bathers is required to make them pay, or at least to ensure that they do not make increasing losses.

So far as Dundee is concerned. the baths were closed in 1974, and demolished a year later.


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Ms E Moran, Library and Information Worker, Local Studies Library, Dundee,

for information and assistance

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cooling-room, with salt water plunge pool

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

 
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