London: Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway

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1: The Theatre  
3: Lower levels conversion   4: The Turkish baths

2. The upper levels conversion

 

After the Turkish bath was closed, it disappeared from view for over sixty years—part closed off and part, like the plunge pool, boarded over. Those of us who appreciate Turkish baths have become resigned, of late, to their closure and subsequent demolition. Only rarely is there news of a bath being reopened—there are pressure groups working to this end in Manchester,  Sheffield, and Glasgow. Very occasionally, as in the case of Royal Leamington Spa, a disused Turkish bath is sympathetically restored and successfully used for a new purpose.

This is what has now happened in Wimbledon.

In June 2001, Steve Sotiriou took over what was a rather depressing wine bar and, with the help of a conservation grant and an extremely sympathetic architect, restored most of what remained of the original Turkish baths, turning it into Bar Sia, an attractive bar and music venue. 

Outside the Bar Sia

Outside Bar Sia

The whole of the theatre building is Grade II Listed and the architects, Tijen and Brian O'Reilly, have incorporated many features from the original rooms into the new design. Working on this unique conversion must have been an exciting project leading, as it sometimes did, to unexpected discoveries.  'We just drilled a hole in the wooden floor, and saw the plunge pool underneath,' explained Tijen.4

That part of the theatre which has been transformed into Bar Sia has a complicated floor plan. 

The Lobby leading to the Turkish baths and the cooling room

In effect, it is set out on four floor levels, though the upper two are only half-a-storey apart. Three steps up from the street take you into the lounge. 

This has been created from the space occupied by the two separate shops .

Originally each shop had stairs which led to a toilet in the cellar, though there is no longer any indication of where they were.

Lounge

Key to upper two floors

Relaxing in the lounge

Two stylised wall graphics of a woman in a Turkish bath (which have been created by backlighting drilled sheets of aluminium) are so far the only obvious clues as to what the bar might originally have been. Nor is there any clue immediately visible as you mount the six steps leading to the main bar area in what was originally the Turkish bath cooling-room.

Mezzanine bar
The main bar

But, not easily spotted until you are right in the bar and happen to look backwards to the left, there is a restored staircase leading down to the rest of the original Turkish bath.

The Bar Sia closed in 2012 though the premises themselves were still in use in 2013.

                

This page last updated 12 October 2013
             


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1: The Theatre  
3: Lower levels conversion   4: The Turkish baths