Turkish baths in provincial England

Winchester: 155 High Street

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

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Winchester Turkish Baths

In his 1895 history of Winchester, Alderman Thomas Stopher notes that 155 High Street was,

For many years occupied by Henry Butcher, a baker and very worthy man. He established here the first Turkish bath and indeed the only one there has been in the City. Many a good shampooing I have had at his hands. The arrangements were very primitive, the hot chamber being over the oven to economize heat. There was no plunge to cool you down, only warm water thrown over you, gradually colder, preceeded [sic] by the caution 'Cooler!' as he reduced the temperature of the water.

The baths seem to have closed around 1880, despite the last directory entry being for the following year. The Hampshire Chronicle reports that in January 1881 Mr Butcher, 'formerly of the Turkish Baths', was awarded a pension of £10 from Pemberton's Charity founded by a former mayor of the city. Certainly by 1884, the bakery had been taken over by a Mr A. Dumper, the 'Pastrycook, baker and confectioner' who already owned several shops in the High Street.

Mrs Butcher looked after women's sessions during her husband's lifetime and it may be possible that she ran the baths for a time after his death. In either case, she was certainly thought of by the unknown owner of a photograph album in the Hampshire Record Office as 'Mrs Butcher who looked after the Turkish Baths' and it seems likely that this was how she was generally known during the years when the Turkish bath was open.

The baths are significant because they were probably built at the suggestion of David Urquhart following a visit by him to Winchester. Even if this is not so, it is clear that ten years after he first started helping members of his Foreign Affairs Committees to build Turkish baths he was still advising them, and they were still writing to let him know how they were getting on.

Alderman Stopher's description of the Turkish bath is nicely complemented by that in the letter which Henry Butcher, Secretary of the Winchester Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to Urquhart in February 1866.

I will now give you some account of our Bath and the success hitherto attending it. It was thought desirable to construct the Bath over the crown of the oven, but finding this attended with greater expense than [we] could conveniently manage, the certainty of the oven itself within two or three years requiring repairs would oblige us to accept a less expensive [means], by making the lumber or store room over the Bathhouse into Bath Washing and Dressing Room—the Bath and Washroom being laid with polished slate 116 square feet one inch thick. The most heat from the oven is made to pass under the slated floor thus sufficiently heated to walk comfortably upon,—but was obliged to introduce steam, the heat obtained as above not being sufficient or continuous enough for our purpose but we have now by these combined means, viz, hot air and steam, a Bath that can be heated in an hour to 130 Degrees—this Bath will contain easily six persons, and is separated from the Washroom by an air tight door, the washing place half as large again as the Bath itself—Slated at the sides to the height of four feet,—over the centre—which is a pipe supplying water from the company works, which can be used either in a body, or by the application of a rosehead be made to face as a copious and wide-thread shower,—having opened this Bath for a fortnight free to anyone who we could induce to avail themselves of the opportunity, have much pleasure to inform you that about 40 persons have passed through highly pleased and delighted with the result.—the cost of this with the addition of the Dressing Room to our house, amounting to little over twenty pounds—We have great expectations of making it in a pecuniary point of view a profitable undertaking—for am glad to state we have already taken £1-2-6 thus far—to realise the hope Mr Urquhart held out to us when at Winchester that it may be made a profitable investment, besides being a blessing to ourselves and neighbourhood.

Again Sir receive my thanks, for to the Free Press, the Pillar [sic] of Hercules, and your own personal advice, myself, family, and friends owe this extra comfort.

Your Obedient Servant, Henry Butcher

In 1980, the building was described as having an 18th century front added to an earlier, probably 16th century, timber-framed building. Overhung on brackets at the west end, it comprised two storeys and an attic, and had a steeply pitched tiled roof with two dormers. The upper floor had a stucco front and panelled parapet, with modern shop fronts on the ground floor.

This page slightly revised 1 August 2020

This account should be treated as work in progress. Further research is needed to find out whether the baths survived Mr Butcher's death and, if so, for how long.

Thank you icon


Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, for the image of Mrs Butcher,

part of their Item 85M88W/16 fol.26

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Mrs Butcher

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