Sheffield's Glossop Road Turkish Baths:
its 21st century conversion

A corner of one of the old hot rooms Another corner

< Photo:© Richard Freestone

< Photo:© Richard Freestone

Some of those who used the original Turkish baths have expressed disappointment that a sequence of increasingly hot rooms—a real dry heat Turkish bath—no longer exists at the newly opened SPA1877. This is understandable, and we can all sympathise with them that an opportunity has not been taken to include even a small genuine Turkish bath.

But life is not that simple. There are few today who are wealthy enough, and willing enough, to put their own money into such an expensive refurbishment in the hope that it will provide a good return on their investment. Only a publicly funded facility or a community sponsored project can undertake such projects today, and these are greatly to be praised and supported.

And while we may be disappointed, we should also appreciate the positive benefits which are now apparent: first, the building has not been demolished (as happened at Gloucester, for example); second the structure of the original bath and much of its original decoration survives, and teaches us how the Victorians built such facilities; third, those who live in Sheffield now have a spa which will surely be the envy of those who live in smaller towns with poor facilities, or none at all.

Finally, and we need to be absolutely honest here, the Victorians lived in an era of extremely rapid technological change and were adventurous enough to take advantage of it. Do we really believe that if they would have had access to luxurious saunas, ice rooms, and aromatic steam rooms, they would have spurned them to stay with their traditional Turkish bath alone? The fact is that while the heat in the Turkish bath is quite different, and many would say more satisfying, than that in the sauna or steam room, the Turkish bath is more expensive to operate. The Victorians would also have missed their Turkish bath, but they might have moved over to steam and sauna as quickly as they moved away from the cold water cure.

Thank you icon


Richard Freestone, for the use of his photographs

Steve Wilkinson, developer of SPA1877

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Glossop Road Turkish Baths

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

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