Even taking into account
the intervening World War, the White Rock Baths remained closed
for a very long time—nearly a quarter of a century—a period
during which the condition of the baths steadily deteriorated
until a complete rebuild was necessary. But having finally decided that
the baths were to be re-opened, they were built to incorporate
all the latest facilities, such as Zotofoam baths, which were
not available when the baths were first built.
Writing in 1935, Mr H Baker,
Superintendent of the reconstructed and newly re-opened facility,
said that it was 'probably the only building of its size and
type which is entirely underground'.9 There was roughly an acre of floor space which was 30ft below
the ground, and the lowest section of the boiler house was
'approximately 14ft below the high water spring tides.' In
such a situation, it seems—with the benefit of hindsight—that
some of the problems which caused structural faults in the
original baths would inevitably cause similar problems again.
Indeed, when the new baths closed after thirty-three years in
1968, structural problems were stated to be the reason.
The reconstruction, like
the initial build, was completed in several stages, the second
of which saw the completion of the Turkish, slipper, and
medicated baths. In describing the new suite of Turkish baths,
Baker made a point of remarking that 'advantage was taken of the
site to design the sequence of treatments in a suite of rooms
forming an unbroken straight line from the boot room at the
entrance to the laconicum.' It may be that this suggests that
the original sequence of hot rooms loosely followed what could
be called the 'golden section
View down the Turkish baths
The 'golden section style'
The major difference
between old and new was in the types of fuel used. The original
boiler burned coke, and latterly anthracite, necessitating—as
described earlier—the construction of a tunnel and chimney to
extract the smoke and fumes.
The coke fumes may well
have been successfully removed from the immediate vicinity of
the baths but, as the years passed by, there was an increasing
number of complaints from those who lived near the chimney.
Today, over 120 years later, the remains of
the chimney can still be seen.
In the new baths, although
the swimming pools were heated by steam, generated by oil-fired
boilers, the Turkish bath was heated by a gas stove. No
oil-fired stove could be found which was considered suitable for
a Turkish bath, and steam—which had been used the previous year
in the Birmingham Kent Street Turkish baths—had not been found
While the gas used for the
Turkish baths cost three times as much as the coke, the bill for
heating the swimming pools using oil was a third less than
before, with the added advantage that there were no more
complaints about the fumes from the old chimney.
To the steam rooms
The 'waiting' or cooling-room
The new Turkish bath
comprised three hot rooms, a shampooing room with Vichy
and needle douches, and a cooling-room with cubicles in which
the bather could change and later relax. In
addition there were two steam rooms and a sea-water plunge pool.
Throughout the Turkish
baths, the floors, walls (to a height of 7ft), and plunge pool
were finished in attractive terrazzo mosaic designs, while a
carpet graced the floor of the cooling-room.
< Photo: Shifrin
As in the original Turkish
baths suite there were separate times for women, though one
would never guess this from the celebratory booklet published by
the Council shortly after the baths opened.10
Every room in
these wonderful Turkish Baths is restful. Slumped in his
deck-chair in the steam rooms or lying on his couch in the
cooling-off cubicle, the bather feels that this is really doing
him good. Through the various hot, steam, cold and shampoo rooms
he goes until he reaches the sea-water plunge—the perfect end to
a perfect Turkish Bath. Then—what a deep, glorious sousing. He
steps out—the tired business man has disappeared.
But the Council was proud
of its new baths claiming, with some justification, that they
were 'amongst the very finest in England'.