much is yet known about the early history of this Turkish bath, set up
two or three years after the first Welsh establishment opened at Church
Place, Neath, in 1864. From the chronology, it seems that Thomas Atkins ran
it with his wife until the incorporation of the Merthyr Turkish Bath Co
Ltd in 1871. This company originally intended to build a
new Turkish bath. Perhaps closer investigation suggested that the town
would not be able to support a second establishment, or the company was
deterred by the cost. However, for whatever reason, the directors
decided that the easier way forward would be to purchase the existing
bath and get Atkins to remain on as manager.
time between 1881 and 1884, Thomas Atkins died and a new manager, Edmund
Frayley, was brought in from Neath where he had been manager of the
Church Place Turkish baths since the early 1870s. The company retained
Atkins' widow Mary to manage the baths on Tuesdays when they were
reserved for use by women.
1890, the company seems to have been in financial difficulties. The baths had been in
existence for over twenty years and it could be that they were now in
need of major refurbishment which the company could not afford, or which
the reduced number of bathers discouraged them from undertaking. A
liquidator, David Robert Lewis, was appointed and he sold the
establishment to William Pool.
immediately set about renovating, improving, enlarging and publicising
As was so often the case, an establishment which
was unable to
make a profit large enough to satisfy its shareholders, continued
quite satisfactorily to provide for the needs of a sole proprietor.
1897, a local business directory included an advertorial for the
baths which gives a good impression of how they looked after
left of the main entrance was a carpeted reception room and, to
the right, the cooling-room with changing cubicles and velvet covered
divans for relaxation. Refreshments were available from an attendant who
could be summoned 'by just touching the electric bell push overhead.'
were two hot rooms, maintained at temperatures of 140ºF
and a shampooing room clad in chocolate coloured glazed
bricks, with a 'shower bath apparatus'. There, according to the
advertorial, 'by scientific manipulation at the hands of a trained
masseur, every nerve and muscle of the human frame is restored to its natural
action and elasticity'.
Turkish bath also included a 36 x 25 foot swimming pool equipped
with an aquatic trapeze and swinging apparatus by means of which 'the
swimmer may disport and launch himself with ease into shallow or deeper
water, as he may desire'.
baths seem to have closed some time around 1911.
earlier reference to the swimming pool indicates that if was from three
to six feet deep.
baths were last noted as being open in 1918.
The original page
and thumbnail pictures which can be enlarged.
All the enlarged images, listed and linked below, can also be printed.
sketch of Merthyr Turkish Baths
Pool's advert for the Merthyr Turkish Baths
Pool's 1891 advert for the Merthyr Turkish Baths
(on original page only)
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