Huddersfield: Infirmary Building, New North Road

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Huddersfield Royal Infirmary Baths


1897

Turkish , Russian, medicated, &c, baths
       John Shoesmith (Superintendent) 

1900

Turkish , Russian, medicated, &c, baths
       John Shoesmith (Superintendent) 

1912

Turkish, Russian, medicated, &c, baths

1932

Turkish, Russian, medicated, &c, baths

1940

Turkish & Russian baths

1951

Baths close 

                                

Hospital facadeAlthough there had been a Turkish bath in Albion Street  since the late 1850s,1 the need for a medical bath establishment at the Royal Infirmary was well enough argued to encourage Mr George Brook of Springwood Hall to donate a sum sufficient to enable one to be built and opened in 1897.2

The establishment included Turkish, Russian, and a number of  'other remedial baths, which were available to patients under the direction of their medical advisers'. It had its own entrance, proved to be well used by patients and the general public, being 'much resorted to by many persons, on payment of the rate charged, who would not ordinarily receive treatment at the Infirmary'.

Interestingly, although the Infirmary emphasised the medical supervision which was provided, the Governors poached John Shoesmith from Albion Street to be their first Baths Superintendent.  This was a wise appointment since Shoesmith had well over 25 years' experience managing Turkish baths in Huddersfield and, before that, in Bolton.3

In 1912, the baths were open 3 days in the week for men and a full day and two halves for women. Turkish and Russian baths cost 2/-, medicated baths 2/6, and slipper, sitz, needle and shower baths 6d each, with a reasonable discount for those purchasing books of ten or six tickets at a time. Second-class tickets cost 1/- and 1/6. However, these allowed access only during the last 2 hours of each day, with the result that the cheaper rate was only available to women bathers  one day each week, their half day openings both being in the morning.
4

Huddersfield Royal Infirmary Baths price list, 1932

Price-list and opening hours, 1932 

World War II had its effect on the baths, as on all other aspects of daily life. More women were working in  factories to support the war effort and this undoubtedly contributed, with the blackout, to a decrease in the number of women bathers with the result that by 1940 the baths were only open to them for 1 days each week. About this time also, possibly due to shortage of staff, the medicated baths and the individual slipper, sitz and shower baths were all discontinued, leaving only the Turkish and Russian baths in operation.5

In 1927, the Turkish baths in Albion Street, and a newer establishment in Ramsden Street which was owned by the same company, had both closed down leaving the Infirmary as the only remaining provider of Turkish baths in Huddersfield. But after the end of the war, as an increasing proportion of  families had their own bathrooms, the number of bathers availing themselves of the Infirmary baths diminished, to the extent that it was decided to close the baths in 1949. As in so many similar cases, there was an active, but unsuccessful campaign to keep them open.

In 1951, the Ministry of Health demanded a substantial cut in expenditure by the Leeds Regional Health Board which, by this time, was responsible for the Infirmary.6 The Huddersfield Hospital Management Committee's response, in April, was that in such circumstances the  4,000 allocated for carrying out adaptations to the Turkish Baths could not be considered a high priority and that 'accordingly the Committee could not see its way to reconsider the decision not to re-open the baths.'

Despite the 'shower of protests and petitions' which greeted the announcement, and the offer by a local firm to undertake the repair of the drainage problems for which the 4,000 had been earmarked, the baths remained closed.


  Kirklees Libraries & Museums for the image of the Royal Infirmary
Jane Helliwell
, Local History Library, Huddersfield Library & Art Gallery

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