The cooling-room at Manchester's Clifford Street Turkish baths:
advertisement and reality

Cooling-room, 1859
< From an announcement of the bath's forthcoming opening, tipped into Potter's book published in 1859
Ruins of the cooling-room
< Photo courtesy of Oxford Archaeology, 2013

In April 1859, William Potter announced the forthcoming publication of his booklet, The Roman or Turkish bath, styling himself 'proprietor of the original Turkish Bath, Manchester.'

He had, indeed, been the original manager, and then owner of this, the first Victorian Turkish bath to open in England, though he did not, initially, give full due to David Urquhart and the members of the Manchester Foreign Affairs Committee who had helped to start it.

Nevertheless, by this time he was feeling confident enough to open a second establishment. A printed label dated 28 July 1859 stated,

Mr POTTER begs to intimate to the Citizens of Manchester, and the inhabitants of the district, that he is about to OPEN a SUITE of BATHS on the premises recently occupied by the 'Albert Club', CLIFFORD STREET, OXFORD ROAD, near All Saints' Church, consisting of Turkish Baths, Medicated and Mineral Baths, Electro-chemical Baths, &c, &c.

Clifford Street is near to Oxford Road and Ardwick Railway Station; and omnibuses run from the Exchange and corner of Mosley Street every ten minutes.

In the booklet itself was an artist's impression of how part of the baths, which Potter called the Sultan's bath, would look when built. It seems as though he intended that no expense would be spared in its construction and decoration.

Until recently there was some suspicion that Potter had been exaggerating the style of his new bath—a habit not unknown among bath proprietors; how could a commission agent who had, only two years before, converted part of his house into a Turkish bath afford such a lavish style for a second establishment so soon? Potter wrote that they cost him 'upwards of £2,000' to build, and he was given the benefit of doubt on the basis that what was actually built would never be known.

But in 2013 Potter was vindicated when the ruins of part of the bath were uncovered by Archaeology Oxford as part of their investigatory dig prior to the building of the foundations for Manchester University's new National Graphene Institute. The photograph clearly shows the cooling-room floor tiles appearing in Potter's image.

Ian Miller, responsible for the archaeological dig wrote1 that,

…the preservation of the structural remains surpassed our expectation… we were aware of the importance of the baths largely due to your excellent website, and my field team have been clutching a print-out of Potter's plan throughout the duration of the excavation!

We have indeed exposed some remains of the under-floor heating system, although it was rather fragmentary. …We have also discovered a fragment of an ornate stone column, which has part of a capital very similar to that depicted in Potter's drawing.

Once opened, the establishment was known, and usually advertised, as the 'Roman or Turkish Baths', rather than as the 'Sultan's bath'.

Thank you icon



Oxford Archaeology for the photograph taken at the dig

This page adds an image to illustrate
the floor tiles at Manchester's Clifford Street baths,
mentioned on pages 139-140  of my book
Victorian Turkish Baths
and here on the website
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by Malcolm Shifrin

Published 2015
by Historic England
in partnership with Liverpool University Press
Distributed in the US by Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-1-84802-230-0

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©  Malcolm Shifrin, 2015-2023

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