Victorian Turkish Baths—the book


New information and updates

Sometimes information appearing in the book requires updating because new information has come to light, and it is hoped to try to use this page to add such items as they become available. Material which is not in the book will be regularly added to its complementary website.

This colour is used to show the latest update, added on 07 July 2020

38 At the time of writing I was unable to confirm that Turkish baths had actually been opened in Sligo, and any possible address was unknown. Following references found in Sport and Ireland: a history by Paul Rouse (Oxford: OUP, 2015), we now know that the baths did open. Detailed below under their respective page numbers are changes resulting from this new data.

In Table 6.1, the question mark (?) referring to location should be replaced with: Finisklin Road.
39 At the time of writing, I only had a partial description of the interior of Barter's original baths at Grenville Place/Grenville Quay. I was also unable to determine when the baths closed.

In an 1860 lecture in Cork, later published as a pamphlet, Dr William J Cummins described his own visit to the baths. From this, we now know that the hot rooms were heated to 100-110°F and 140-150°F. There was also a lavatorium where taps 'of hot and cold water open into a large basin, and can be mixed at any temperature,' and a cold douche.

And while I was searching for something quite different I serendipitously came across this advertisement  in the Cork Constitution published on 22 April 1893 which indicates that the baths closed in 1893. However the wording could be taken to mean that they had closed earlier, and then re-opened for a further, probably shortish, period.
What we cannot know is whether the transfer of the business was formally agreed between the two establishments or whether the ad was placed independently by Alf Jacob, whose South Mall Baths had opened a couple of years earlier.
46 The last paragraph starting in the first column, should be replaced with the following:

The other early baths with which Dr Barter was associated were those in Finisklin Road, Sligo. At the beginning of November 1860, Miss Jane Lyons, eldest daughter of the mayor, laid the foundation stone and, according to Paul Rouse in his Sport and Ireland: a history (Oxford: OUP, 2015), the baths opened in 1861. But there were clearly major problems—possibly financial—and the baths closed a few months later in 1862. We don't know what happened next, but the following year they were already open again, and remained so until they finally closed in 1870.
48 It was suggested that the new baths at the Dublin Hammam at Upper Sackville Street, opened in 1871 shortly after Dr Barter's death by his son Mr Richard Barter, might have been planned, and started, by the doctor before his death.

A confirmation of this has now been found at the beginning of an article describing the new baths in the Cork Constitution dated 18 January. 
In discussing the appointment of George Somers Clarke as architect for the Hammam, I wrote that we do not know why he was appointed, since he had not previously built a public Turkish bath. I then went on to suggest that he 'might have been chosen because he had previously worked for one of the company directors.'

I was aware that, some time between 1855 and 1860, Somers Clarke was building a private Turkish bath as part of the extension to Cowley Manor (near Cheltenham) for its new owner James Hutchinson. But, although it had been staring me in the face for several years, I had not realised that James was the son referred to in Joshua Hutchinson & Son, who were the stockbrokers to the London & Provincial Turkish Bath Co Ltd.

The connection was finally made, with much appreciated information from historic buildings consultant, James Edgar.
107 The manager of the New Street Turkish Baths in Leicester was Mr Albert Samuels, according to the report of an inquest on the death of his father, but he seems to have used the name A Samwell in connection with the Turkish bath.
113 As the location of the Sligo Turkish baths is now known, the question mark (?) referring to its location in Table 12.3 should be replaced with: Finisklin Road.
Newcastle-on-Tyne City Council announced on 23 September 2015 that the Turkish baths, part of the City Pool and City Hall which were closed in April 2013, would now be taken on by Fusion Lifestyle Ltd who would restore and reopen the baths.

A spokesperson for the Reopen Newcastle Turkish Baths Group, which worked with Newcastle City Council, said: 'We are delighted that our voluntary work and campaigning over the last two and half years has been successful in ensuring that the Turkish Baths and City Pool are re-opened as affordable and accessible leisure facilities.'

It is not yet known when the baths are expected to reopen.
138 A British Newspaper Archive search has brought to light advertisements showing that the Southsea Turkish baths probably opened in 1871, and that The Duke of Edinburgh was already a patron of the baths by the following August—over a decade earlier than previously thought.
180 A newly discovered letter to the editor of the Crewe Guardian (9 Mar 1872; p.5) asks the local baths committee to consider adding a Turkish bath to the existing pool. So it now seems likely that this was added during 1873.
In Chapter 19 on Turkish baths in hospitals, I related the strange case of St Thomas's Hospital. I quoted from a letter sent by James Bryning to Richard Metcalfe stating that the bath in the new buildings opposite the Houses of Parliament was never (or at least hardly ever) used.

I also quoted Dr. Goolden's 1861 letter in The Lancet relating how he had been one of a group of doctors who had asked for a Turkish bath to be built at the hospital, and had initially been opposed by some of their colleagues. The letter also described the type of bath which would satisfy their needs.

I then noted that the hospital had to vacate its then premises to make way for the enlargement of London Bridge railway station, and that it would need to occupy temporary accommodation until the new hospital was built to the design of their architect Henry Currey.

I also included a reproduction of the second of two plans relating to the proposed Turkish bath at St Thomas's Hospital. The first (dated 22 May 1860) was a plan of the hot air ducting under the bath; the second (dated September 1860) was a sketch plan of the various rooms in the bath, closely matching the description in Goolden's letter in The Lancet.

So far, so good.

But I then assumed that the plans related to baths which were intended for Currey's new building. They could, however, have instead been for a Turkish bath to be constructed in the (more immediately needed) temporary accommodation.

My assumption that they were for the new building was based on my understanding of an 1863 paper by Dr Goolden in the British Medical Journal on his use of the bath in the treatment of diabetes. Goolden made no mention of whether the bath he used was in the temporary accommodation, which the hospital by then occupied, or in an external commercial bath. And Goolden mentioned in his letter that St Mary's Hospital in Paddington sent their patients, at a cost of 1s. each, to the commercial baths in nearby Conduit Place. I rather felt that if the bath had been at St Thomas's he would have proudly stated it.

Since then, new evidence has come to light which does prove that there was indeed a Turkish bath in the temporary accommodation. In the third of his Croonian lectures on Disease and its Medical Treatment, Dr John S Bristowe writes (British Medical Journal, 11 May 1872, p.492) that a decade or so earlier, in the early 1860s,

…owing to the fact that special opportunities were afforded to us at the temporary St. Thomas's Hospital, I treated my anasarcus patients largely by the Turkish bath; and I was soon surprised to find how well those even who were seriously ill bore it.

While there is still nothing conclusive to prove which baths the plans related to, I now believe it more likely that they were for the temporary accommodation, especially since they were more sketchy than would have been normal for plans presented for the whole of a major building complex.

However, Mr Bryning's statement that the new hospital's Turkish baths were not used is, given Dr Bristowe's reported successful use of the temporary bath, even more mysterious.
212 Hydropathy is only mentioned in the book when it is inseparably linked to the provision of the Victorian Turkish bath or is required as a context for what follows.

Anyone wishing to get a clearer impression of what it was like to stay at an English hydropathic establishment in the nineteenth century is strongly recommended to read the Ben Rhydding chapter in Tim Binding's delightfully unusual and extremely readable On Ilkley Moor: the story of an English town (Picador, 2001).
221 The cinema, in front of which the hoarding with the Imperial Turkish baths poster (enlarged in Fig 20.19) stands, is the Palace Cinema in Kentish Town Road. The photo dates from 1913, the year the baths opened, and tells us that a Turkish bath at that time cost only 2/6d.
Palace Cinema
Since the section on the Arlington Baths Club, Glasgow, was published, some exciting new research has been undertaken by the Arlington Baths Club History Group. An illustrated account of this can be found on their fascinating website here.
256 and
The Blue Star Line intends to launch a new liner, Titanic II in 2018 and has released images showing how the new ship will be an exact replica (in appearance only, it is hoped) of the original Titanic. Here is a computer render of how the Turkish bath cooling-room will look.
Titanic II cooling-room
317 In 2017 the Turkish bath in Mason Road, Birmingham, was closed when the baths were rebuilt as a leisure centre. An updated chart showing closures since 1990 is shown below. It was compiled in February 2019 when eight Turkish baths (including one in a members only club) remain open in England and three (including two in clubs) are still open in Scotland.
Closures chart, 2019
350 In the index entry for Sligo, the location is now known to be Finisklin Road.
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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development,
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