CorkSouth Mall

 Click for printer-friendly version

                                                                

Turkish Baths


1890

Turkish Baths; No.30

   

 

Cork Turkish Bath Co Ltd (Proprs)

    Alf Jacob (Managing Dir)

1891

Turkish Baths; No.30

   

 

Cork Turkish Bath Co Ltd (Proprs)

    Alf Jacob (Managing Dir)
 

 

Opened on 17 October

1912

Turkish Baths; No.38

   

 

Cork Turkish Bath Co Ltd (Proprs)

    Alf Jacob (Managing Dir)

1937

Turkish Baths; No.38

   

 

Cork Turkish Bath Co Ltd (Proprs)

    Alf Jacob (Managing Dir)

1938

Turkish Baths; No.38

   

 

Cork Turkish Bath Co Ltd (Proprs)

    Alf Jacob (Managing Dir)

1938

Turkish Baths; No.38

   

 

Mrs Peg Buckley (Propr)

1943

Turkish Baths; No.38

   

 

Mrs Peg Buckley (Propr)

 

 

The baths may have remained open for another fifteen or more years and it is not yet definitely known when they closed. The building (currently No.30a) is now a restaurant


 

 

 

The Turkish baths were sited next to the Bank of Ireland. Alf Jacobs's Cork Turkish Bath Company started planning the conversion of an already existing building in 1890. The main work was carried out by E & P O'Flynn to the design of the architect, Arthur Hill. The gas and general plumbing work was undertaken by M Barry, and the painting and decoration by J S M'Carthy.

Because the bricks and tiles had to be manufactured specially for the project, there was considerable delay in completing the work. But from what can still be seen of the building today, we must assume that Jacob thought the delay worthwhile when, on 17 October 1891, he was finally able to open for business.1 Certainly the Irish Builder thought them worthy of description.2

Facade, 1891   Facade, 2006

South Mall Turkish Baths: façade, 1891

 

Jacobs on the Mall:
fa
çade, 2006

The façade is deceptive as only the entrance on the left belonged to the Turkish baths. The large windows to the right belonged to offices which shared the other door with the Cork Stock Exchange upstairs.
 

 

1897 plan of
the baths

 

2000 plan of
the restaurant

The doorway to the baths opened onto a narrow tiled passage executed, as was all the tiling, by Nicholas Sisk. The passage is still in use today, and currently (2007) leads to Jacobs on the Mall, a restaurant named after the original managing director of the baths. It is interesting to see, in the enlarged versions of the plans, how the various rooms of the baths are used today.

 

Entrance
to the passage

 

Tiled floor
in the passage

Two photographs, one of the outside of the Turkish baths and the other showing the shampooing room, graced one of the walls of the passage and enjoined prospective bathers to 'Come inside to enjoy them!'. It is not known when these were first displayed, but they were presented to today's restaurant proprietor, Michelle McCarthy, by the family of the last proprietor of the Turkish baths, and they hang there still 'In memory of Peg Buckley'.

 

The pictures in the passage

At the end of the passage was the Turkish bath ticket office. After paying the admission charge, the bather left any valuables in one of a series of lockers and was given the key. Such lockers were not, as was claimed in the Irish Builder article, unique. But they were still unusual enough in Ireland at that time for it to be stressed that 'each key is different...so no one else can have access to the valuables'.

Progressing through an ante-room, where a toilet was available, bathers removed their boots and shoes, and no one was allowed beyond this point in outdoor footwear.

The cooling-room
The cooling-room in 1891

The first of the main rooms in the Turkish bath was a large 60x40 foot cooling-room, maintained at between 125ºF-140ºF.  During daylight hours, natural light filtered through softly tinted glass in the high ceiling. At the northern end of the room was a gallery set aside for smokers.

Around the cooling-room were individual cubicles, upholstered and screened, for bathers to undress in and leave their clothes—enough, it was claimed, to cater for fifty bathers at a time.

Cooling room roof, 2006   Northern smokers' gallery, 2006

Cooling-room roof,
as seen in 2006

 

Northern smokers' gallery, as seen in 2006

Along the centre of the room, was an oval plunge bath, 26 feet long by 8 feet wide, with a minimum depth of 4 foot. This, thought the Irish Builder, 'is a grand feature in the establishment, and it is certain to be highly appreciated'.  Built in concrete and lined with glazed bricks, the plunge was surrounded by a marble coping with a two foot high guard 'to prevent the splashing of the "coolers" (who will be lying about on couches after their bath), by the "plungers" as they take their "headers" '. A surface spray kept the plunge pool constantly flushed so the water was 'in a constant state of change'.

The first hot room
when the baths opened

There were three hot rooms, each lined with ornamental brickwork and tiling. The first, only slightly hotter than the cooling-room, was 24 foot by 32 foot.  The second was in the shape of an elongated octagon, 12 foot by 30 foot, maintained at a temperature of 160ºF to 180ºF.  Finally, there was an inner room where 'those who can stand it can breathe a temperature of from 250 to 300 degrees'.

The ceilings of the hot rooms were of a patented construction in which iron replaced the normal wooden laths, with the plaster backed by a composition material which retained the heat and resisted fire.

Unlike Barter's Turkish baths, in which the required room temperatures were maintained by hot air passing through an underfloor hypocaust, Jacob used what was known as the Bartholomew system.  Fresh air was drawn into the building and then heated by being passed over a stove. It then passed directly through the hot rooms, starting with the hottest and cooling as it passed into the other rooms. One particular advantage of this system is that the floors are comparatively cool, pattens or clogs are not necessary, and there in no risk of burning oneself if one accidentally falls on a floor covered with extremely hot tiles.

The rooms were ventilated by grilles in the floor through which the vitiated air passed along a flue, out of the building. The fumes from the stove were separately carried to a 60 foot high chimney.

The shampooing room

The shampooing room

Between the cooling-room and the first hot room were shampooing slabs, douches, a needle bath, two separate washing compartments and two porcelain reclining baths with hot and cold water.

The establishment had its own laundry above the hot rooms. This was fully equipped with washing machine, mangles, wringers, and drying cupboards.

It has been suggested that the Turkish baths were closed down during an outbreak of polio in the city in 1943 and that the Bishop of Cork refused to allow them to be re-opened, but this has not yet been confirmed.

There is a certain irony here in that in the aftermath of the poliomyelitis epidemic which hit Cork in the summer of 1956, the building was converted into an aftercare centre known as the 'Polio Clinic'. New equipment was installed and physiotherapy and swimming facilities were made available to help rehabilitate those who had suffered during the last years before the discovery by Jonas Salk of the first polio vaccine.

Though the Turkish baths have long since disappeared, the building, which is now the home of a well-thought-of restaurant, has again become a place to visit with one's friends for enjoyable relaxation, albeit in somewhat cooler surroundings.


Marie Gethins for much help and encouragement;
Seamus Gethins for his photographs of the pictures in the passage;

Roger Herlihy for the opening date, his lead to the 1896 plan, and much else;

Michelle McCarthy of Jacobs on the Mall for permission to reproduce her historic pictures


        
Top of the page