Victorian Turkish Baths Picture of the Month for July 2009

Auckland Turkish Baths, at the end of the 19th century

Auckland Turkish Baths, New Zealand
< Photo: New Zealand Electronic Text Centre

This image from an encyclopaedia of New Zealand1 published in 1905 shows the outside of the High Street Turkish Baths some time around the turn of the century. They were purpose-built and opened in 1883 by the Auckland Turkish Baths Company Limited to replace the much older Turkish baths in Upper Queen Street which they had purchased from Mr K D Sykes in 1881. From 1891, the baths were managed by Mr Adam Clapperton Fort, whose wife looked after the women's baths.

The building contained fifteen rooms fitted out as Turkish, hot, cold, shower, and vapour baths, together with a cold plunge pool.

As was common at that time, the Turkish bath was advertised as being a remedy for a whole panoply of medical conditions. Mr Fort claimed 'to have cured patients who had received no benefit even from the famous Rotorua treatment'.1

Usage figures are only available for a few of the years of the bath's existence. In 1883 there were 3,341 bathers (608 women, 2,667 men, and 66 children) and the baths made a profit of £126 12s. 1d.2 There was an increase the following year when there were 3,802 bathers (500 women,3 240 men, and 62 children) and the profit rose to £127.3,4 But by 1885—perhaps the novelty was wearing off—there were around 1,000 bathers less.5

In 1890, the company made a loss of £19 which was ascribed to 'labour troubles and the consequent increase in the price of coal and coke'.6

It is not yet known how the baths fared afterwards but they are believed to have remained open till at least 1927.

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Paul Veart, Local and Family History Auckland City Libraries

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 1. Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago & Southland Provincial Districts]. — Christchurch : Cyclopedia Co, 1905      [return]
 2. Taranaki Herald      (8 Jan 1884)      p.2     [return]
 3. North Otago Times      (31 Dec 1884)      p. 2      [return]
 4. Poverty Bay Herald      (6 Jan 1885)      p.2      [return]
 5. Wanganui Herald      (30 Dec 1885)      p.2      [return]
 6. Wanganui Chronicle      (31 Dec 1890)      p.2      [return]