Turkish baths in Scotland

Edinburgh: 12 Stafford Street (West End)

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

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The Turkish bath for ladies

These baths were opened on 26 October 1886 by Thomas Fleming, who had owned the Edinburgh Turkish baths at 90 Princes Street, since 1875. His earlier baths had only been open to women from 8.00 till 11.00 in the morning, and it may have been that women found this a difficult time, or Fleming may have wanted the extra time for his male bathers. Having a second bath specifically for women would have satisfied either of these needs.

However, in 1888, the Princes Street baths were severely damaged by fire at one o'clock in the morning of 2 April, and when they were re-opened in December, there was a new lessee, Alexander Hardie.

It appears that although the building was insured by its owner, Fleming was not insured for his interest, and this proved to end his proprietorship of both sets of baths.

The Edinburgh Turkish Bath for Ladies and Gentlemen

By mid-September, the Stafford Street baths had become the Edinburgh Turkish Baths for Ladies and Gentlemen, and were now owned by William Fielding.

Mrs Fielding opened the baths for women on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings between 9.00 and 12.oo. Apart from this, the baths opened from 6.00 am to 9.00 pm for men.

The cooling-room, according to a contemporary advertisement, seems to indicate that, even allowing for the exaggeration typical of such illustrations, the baths must have been capable of holding a reasonable number of bathers.

According to an advertorial appearing in the first decade of the 1900s, the proprietor, William Fielding, had previously been principal of the bath department at the Moffatt Hydropathic Establishment, while the baths exhibited,

a perfection of plan and appointment which leaves nothing to be desired. All the decorative work has been carried out in a very pleasing and appropriate style, and in the hot-rooms the artistic effect of the tiled walls and mosaic floors will not pass unnoticed by visitors.

As was so frequently the case, the opening hours for women were less than those for men but, unusually, women were able to make special arrangements with Mrs Fielding if they wished to use the baths after 9.00 in the evening.

An innovation at this establishment was the Turkish morning wash. It is not quite clear exactly what this was, but according to the advertorial again, it was,

well adapted to the convenience of gentlemen who have not sufficient time to spare to go through the process of the Turkish bath. Many avail themselves of this luxurious form of morning ablution, and testify to its invigorating and refreshing effect.

The baths were open until at least 1915. The building, including the Turkish baths, was offered for sale in The Scotsman on 8 December 1920 but it is not known if the baths remained open till then, or even whether they survived the war.

This page slightly revised 15 January 2022

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Andrew Bethune, Librarian, The Edinburgh Room, Edinburgh City Libraries

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Cooling-room at 12 Stafford Street

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