After opening his first Turkish bath in Bristol in
1859, Charles Bartholomew waited twenty-two years before opening one in the nearby city of Bath—although during this period he opened
others in Manchester (1875), Worcester (1877), and Birmingham (1878). It
may be that he was satisfied with the number of bathers already
travelling from Bath to his
Bristol establishment; or it may be that he
was loathe to open in a city where there had already been Turkish baths
(in York Street) since at least the early 1860s.
So it was late in 1880, or very early in 1881,1
that Bartholomew took a
75‑year lease, at £100 per year,
on the property at 2 Edgar Buildings, George Street, situated right at
the top of fashionable Milsom Street. This had earlier been the home of
the Countess of Huntingdon11
and comprised a three-storey Georgian house with attic and cellars,
together with a long narrow garden, at the end of which a small stables
opened onto Edgar Mews, a narrow lane running parallel with George
Bartholomew converted the stables into a boiler
house with a laundry area above. The front room on the ground floor he
used as a private lounge, and the back room was converted into a wide reception
area with a counter where tickets were purchased.
Between the two buildings, replacing the garden, he built a single-storey Turkish bath with its cooling-room at the front and the hottest
room at the rear. The new building had a flat roof supported by poles,
with skylights providing daylight where required.
A bather would first obtain a ticket at the reception counter.
Any valuables would be deposited with the receptionist for safe-keeping,
locked in a drawer, and its key given to the bather.
The door leading into the baths had, in the upper
part, a central frosted
glass panel, surrounded by smaller stained-glass panels decorated with
stars, crescents, and Charles Bartholomew's CB monogram.
A short wide stairway led into the cooling-room.
This was a spacious room, forty-five foot long, twenty foot wide and
twelve foot high, furnished with twelve reclining loungers on the
right, opposite a similar number of
private dressing-boxes (changing cubicles) on the left.
The cooling-room and the hot rooms all had
floors covered in decorative encaustic tiles. There were three hot rooms, each twenty foot square,
maintained at temperatures of 160°F, 180°F,
and 260°F. It appears that the lower part of the hot room walls was
originally of white glazed
bricks, while that of the cooling-room walls was of brown wooden
panelling. The upper part of all the walls, and all the ceilings, were panelled in painted glass.
This decorative scheme was by now almost a 'brand
image' for his establishments.
On the right, between the cooling room and the hot
rooms, were two large cubicles with marble slabs where the shampooers
washed the bathers, hosed them down, and finally gave them a massage
before returning them to the cooling-room.
The baths (which were closed on Sundays) were open
for women on Mondays from 9.00 am. to 3.00 pm, and on Wednesdays from 7.00 am to
9.30 pm. Apart from these two periods, the baths were open for men,
again from 7.00 am to 9.30 pm. A single Turkish bath cost 2/-, which was
reduced to 1/- after 6 pm.11
In most of Bartholomew's baths, the
manager (and possibly other employees) would live on the
premises, while any remaining rooms would be let, and this practice
seems to have been followed in Bath also.
All Bartholomew's establishments were run on a
day-to-day basis by a manager, while Bartholomew made himself available
for consultations— here in Bath on Tuesday afternoons from 3.30 to 7.00 pm.
For this, he charged a 5/- consultation fee. Although sometimes referred
to as 'Dr Bartholomew' in North American advertisements for the baths of
other proprietors, he was not a physician and it is not known how many
bathers availed themselves of this somewhat expensive service.
Bartholomew's first years in business in the City of
Bath were helped by two unpredictable events. The first of these was the
Great Flood of the night of 24/25 October 1882 which left Sheppy's
Turkish baths in York Street under four foot of water and closed it for
well over a month.12
The second event was equally unpredictable, though
on this occasion Bartholomew took what some might consider to be an
unfair advantage of it. Archaeological ruins had been discovered—not
unusual in Bath—next to Sheppy's establishment and the excavations of
the Bath Antiquities Committee were obstructing his entrances and
causing him to lose business. Sheppy took the association to court, but
meanwhile Bartholomew had persuaded Sheppy's manager to become manager at
Bartholomew's eldest son, Charles Omar Bartholomew,
managed the baths in 1884 and 1885 (though it is not known when he moved
over from the Bristol establishment), while his daughter-in-law, Lucy,
who was 20 years older than her husband, looked after the women's days.
William Park, who had previously worked for eighteen
months at Ben Rhydding Hydropathic Establishment in Ilkley, ran the
baths during 1888 and 1889.
Although he was appointed as Bath Attendant, and listed as such in local directories, Park certainly saw himself as manager
and it may be that Bartholomew described him as
Attendant to legitimise his not paying him a more appropriate manager's
originally offered a 'situation' at Bristol, but this was changed by mutual agreement to
Bath. The Bristol baths opened on Sundays and Park, a devout Methodist
and lay preacher,14
did not wish to work on his sabbath.15
The 'situation' was worth '25/- per week and perquisites'.16 The perks would probably have
included his accommodation and gratuities.
By the time Charles Bartholomew died at the age of 59 on 1
May 1889, he owned a Turkish bath in each of seven different English
cities. Although his wife and three
adult children all survived him, he left all his baths to his executors,
Richard Bunbury Dawbarn and Bassalissa Harriet Herriot, Lucy Bartholomew's
elder sister, to run—or dispose of—in the best interests of providing
annuities for his widow, his children and their families, and for Bassalissa
This seems an altogether surprising disposition, and it will be
discussed further when the pages on Bartholomew are written.
Bassalissa Harriet Herriott was granted probate on 6
June 1889. She was two years older than her sister Lucy, and their father
was a wealthy farm owner, William Mosdell Herriott, who had started
Herriott's Turkish Baths in Manchester some time around 1885. So when
Bassalissa was entrusted with running Bartholomew's establishments she was
stranger to the world of Turkish baths. And when
Herriott's became a limited liability company in 1892, she was the second largest shareholder after her father, owning
530 shares—more than
one tenth of the total equity.18
For a short time after Bartholomew's death, the
Edgar Buildings Turkish Baths were run by his nineteen year old niece,
who had for a while been head housekeeper at a private baths
establishment in Claines,
At the beginning, William
Park stayed on as Bath Attendant (almost certainly as de facto
Kate was actually listed in the Bath directory as proprietor of
the baths for
the year 1890/91, this should not be taken literally as such directories
were usually compiled in advance of their cover date.3
On 3 March 1890, Kate married a Mr Arthur Edwin Tapp13 and
already by 16 April, Tapp's name
had replaced hers in the local rate
book for 1890 as occupier of the premises.24
Tapp was also named as proprietor in the Bath directory, between
1892 and 1895, which latter date was also inaccurate (see below).3
William Park, perhaps not wishing to work for Tapp,
or perhaps merely wishing to be independent, soon left Edgar Buildings
after approaching Bartholomew's executors and purchasing his Sansome Walk establishment in
Worcester. This he
continued to run until he retired in 1946, latterly with the help of his
son Leonard. Park was replaced as manager in Bath by Henry Edward Hunt, son of a local millwright.
In 1893, an advertorial published in The Ports of
the Bristol Channel (probably based on the advertiser's own copy)
indicated that Mrs Tapp (ie, Kate Bartholomew) looked after the
women bathers, but also stated that Mr Tapp had purchased the baths and
premises in 1890.5
There are several contentious issues here. The least
problematic is Tapp's suggestion that he purchased the premises,
rather than becoming their leaseholder. Bartholomew initially leased
the premises from Mr F Moger, owner of Modger's, a large firm of
solicitors which still (2009) exists today.25
So, at the very least, there is some exaggeration in Tapp's story.
But while we can be sure that Mr Moger owned
the Edgar Buildings premises, we don't know who actually owned the baths
business which occupied the premises. It seems highly unlikely that Kate
could afford to purchase it, nor does it seem likely that Bartholomew's
executors should require her to do so, given the family relationship
between Kate and her uncle.
If the executors had given her the business, why was
Tapp named proprietor between 1892 until 1895? Did he purchase it from
her, or was it given to him as a dowry?
Perhaps his was a fictional proprietorship
suggested because—even after the passing of the 1882 Married Women's
Property Act—it was still popularly thought more appropriate for a
business mainly run by a man to be considered his own property rather than that
of his wife.
However, it seems quite
unlikely that Bassalissa
Harriet Herriott, acting as Bartholomew's executor, would have made over the business
absolutely to such a young and inexperienced person as Kate; far more
prudent would be to assign the establishment to her on the basis that, if she no longer wished to run the
they would revert to ownership by the executors.
On balance, this seems to be the most likely probability because,
when (some time between 29 October 1894 and 20 April 1895)
24 neither of the Tapps appears to have had any further
connection with the baths, the new proprietor was listed as Robert M
Herriott, Bassalissa's eight years younger brother.3
Fairly minor changes to the running of the baths
seem to have been made around this period. The opening hours, for
example, were slightly
shorter than they originally were, the baths opening an hour later at 8.00 am and
closing an hour and a half earlier at 8.00 in the evening. The
establishment was still closed on Sundays, but women's hours had been
increased so that they were able to use the baths on Monday and Friday
mornings from 9.00 till 1.00, and on Wednesdays from 2.00 till 9.00.
The standard charge for a single Turkish bath was
still 2/- but the evening charge had been raised from 1/- to 1/6.
Tickets were the same as those for the London baths at Leicester Square,
but with the word London crossed out. Medicated and vapour baths were also available, probably in the
basement, and, according to a contemporary advertisement, 'a suite of furnished apartments, with good Cooking and
attendance, can be had.'20
Robert retained ownership of the baths for a decade,
after which he sold them to their manager, Henry Edward Hunt.6
after twenty-six years, the establishment's connection with
Charles Bartholomew and those related to him directly or by marriage.
But members of the Hunt family were to continue running the baths—still
for many years called Bartholomew's Turkish Baths—for a further 54
Henry Hunt's operating style was different
from that of Charles Bartholomew and his immediate successors. Though
Bartholomew was prepared to employ his wife Emma, his son Charles Omar,
and his daughter-in-law Lucy when appropriate, his baths were
essentially operated by staff from outside the family. Given the number
of establishments he owned this would have been inevitable.
But Hunt (Centre), with only the establishment in Bath to
run, operated it as a family business, keeping costs to a minimum by
only employing outsiders when
absolutely necessary. So his wife Alice would look after the women's
days, and three of his four children would take on an increasing share
of the workload as they grew up.21
Edward Arthur Hunt (Left),
was always known as Ted, was given
his first Turkish bath at the age of eighteen months,9
shortly after his father started
the baths. He joined
his father as Bath Attendant in 1910 at the age of nineteen, as did his sisters Ellen (Nell)
Winifred (Win). Ted's daughter Muriel is on Alice's knee.
The working day was a long one, starting early in
the morning, with the cleaning of the bath-house, and checking the
boilers and the coke supply.
Norman Ashfield's 1991 sketch of his remembrance
of the boiler house in the late 1950s, but very
little changed from fifty years earlier. Given
the low level of the coke heap, he must have
been drawing the room as he saw it in the
The large doors on the right of the boiler room
opened onto Edgar Mews at the rear of the building, and stone steps led
up to the laundry above.
Norman Ashfield's 2009 plan of his remembrance
of the boiler room and laundry in the late 1950s
would be dealing with the laundry after the baths closed, often till as
late as 2.00 in the morning. Norman Ashfield, Ted Hunt's grandson,
writes of the them,
Sometimes, while my
hard-working aunts were washing at gone midnight, a constable's voice
would call up from the delivery doors 'Is everything alright up there?'
And they would call down in the inky blackness (working by gaslight, of
course) 'Yes thank you—water baths staff here'.21
Norman Ashfield's 2009 sketch of his remembrance
of the laundry in the late 1950s. The steps down
to the boiler room can just be seen on the left.
All the towels and lounger sheets had to be
washed in a laundry which was very basic and, although clean, very
dark, lit only by a single gasolier (gas mantle). The table was worn and
pitted with scrubbing down over the years.
I remember there were two
huge china sinks; one had taps, and there was a piece of wooden
channelling to carry water across to the second tub. The towels were
scrubbed hard and after they were wrung out by hand, there was a mighty
mangle through which the towels were rolled and they came out squeezed
flat, not needing much ironing. Anything that required it,
there was a black flat metal iron in the downstairs kitchen which was
heated on the range and with a woollen protective cloth for the hands
round the rather conductive handle, was ironed down there.21
Norman Ashfield's 1991 sketch of his remembrance
of the basement kitchen in the late 1950s
The items which did not need ironing were hung out
to dry on a line on the roof. At some stage after the baths were built, probably
during Henry Hunt's time, a greenhouse had been erected on the roof
which—suitably covered with duck-boards—played an
important part in the life of the Hunts.
As well as serving as a drying area,
it provided a regular
setting for family photographs taken on birthdays and after weddings.
Len's daughter Janet (even though Len never worked
at the baths) and Ted's
children and grandson Norman, were all familiar with the roof and the greenhouse behind them.
Orders for refreshments to be served in the
cooling-room were requested by the receptionist who used a speaking-tube
leading to the kitchen in the basement. When ready, the food was sent up
to reception by means of a dumb-waiter, or food lift. Then one of the shampooers, with
a towel round his waist, came out to collect it, since propriety would
not allow the female tea-makers to enter the cooling-room on a men's
day. On women's days, Win and Nell Hunt did the shampooing, and extra
help had to be employed to look after the reception area.
It was probably in Henry Hunt's time that
slipper baths were first made available in the basement at a cost of 1/-
(to include soap and the use of two towels). But, as with many public baths
of the period, the running of the bath water was done by the bath
attendant and was strictly controlled, the taps being well outside the
The price of a Turkish bath had again risen by this
time: a single bath cost 3/- and was only reduced by 6d after 6.00 pm.
On the other hand, a Turkish bath could be also be had after 6.00
for 1/9d. if shampooing was omitted.
The men's baths now opened at 10.00
am, remaining open till 8.00 pm. The women's hours were
again increased, from fifteen hours per week to sixteen but,
probably more efficient from a staffing point of view,
spread over two days instead of three.22
Henry Hunt died in 1941 at the age of
74 and the Turkish baths passed to his son Ted. The
establishment seems to have continued to be run in much the
same way during Ted's ownership, though mention is now made
of massage on warmed marble slabs, rather than shampooing.
And a number of douches appear to have been installed
allowing bathers to take showers of varying temperatures.
Ted also employed an additional masseur to help out.
As with many long established
Victorian Turkish baths, there is more than an element of
sadness in the demise of the baths at Edgar Buildings. By
the beginning of the 1960s, Turkish baths were becoming less
popular—to consider just one factor, most homes now had running water—and Ted had no
immediate family members able to take over a business which
was now becoming harder to run profitably.
In 1961, at the age of 71, Ted
understandably decided that working twelve or fourteen hours
at the baths daily was getting too much for him.
He offered the baths to Bath
Corporation from whom he and his father had rented the
premises for many years. But the corporation was not at all
interested. Interviewed at the time, Ted said, 'I understand
the Spa Committee were not prepared to act on a suggestion
that the premises should continue to be used as Turkish
Baths…It appears the premises will be more valuable to the
Amazingly, during the whole life of
the baths, there was no electricity in the building. All the
illumination was by gaslight. But this was seen to suit the
ambience of the baths. For, according to Norman Ashfield,
The cooling-room was particularly
romantic on a cold winter Saturday afternoon with the
yellow, warm lights hissing gently, the red couches at the
ends without bedlinen on them looking smart, and the others
set up with white linen and bathers reclining on them,
reading a paper or supping their tea from ornate metal
stands next to them. Small white cups, a miniature pot of
milk and pot of tea to accompany that, plus digestive
biscuits. It was a warm, venerable, lived-in smell, not new
and fluorescent as our accommodation is nowadays.21
The baths closed on 11 June 1961,
just under eighty years after Charles Bartholomew opened them.