Victorian Turkish Baths Picture of the Month for August 2013

T Bath & Co: catalogue:
William Cooper and his companies

William Cooper, c.1910
< Image courtesy of John Cooper

William Cooper, about whom very little was known until recently, was one of the more interesting characters in the Victorian Turkish baths world.

Between the years 1910 and 1916 he purchased eight establishments in London, and either started, or purchased, a ninth, combining them to form the Savoy Turkish baths chain.

He was born on 3 September 1866 to Sarah and Thomas Busk, and in 1884 married Emma Eliza Brock. He became, first, a glass bender, then a carpenter, and then a builder.

Around 1896, he obtained a company known as Wm Cooper Ltd, a manufacturer of wooden garden sheds. Apparently wishing to be obviously associated with his new company, he decided on solicitor's advice—possibly because it was easier and less expensive—to change his own name to William Cooper by deed poll.

Clearly successful as a businessman, he built up the company, adding other products, and running several factories on different sites, one of which manufactured Cooper's bicycles. But the number of baths was soon reduced. Those at Kentish Town Road burned down in 1916, and in 1921 he closed four baths which were, presumably, not profitable enough.

Then in the mid-1920s, Cooper decided for some unknown reason to change the name of his company from Wm Cooper Ltd to T Bath & Co. William died in 1937 and the business was run by his son Leonard and other members of the family till 1946.

Baths's catalogue

< Image courtesy of John Cooper

William's grandson, John, remembers asking his father who T Bath was, and being told that it was not a person, but stood for "Turkish bath".

William had closed the Brixton Road baths in 1932, and the Newington Butts baths were destroyed during the London blitz, leaving open, after the war, only the connected men's and women's baths at 92 Jermyn Street and Duke of York Street.

In 1946, John's family sold the garden shed business which continued running for many years as Bath's Portable Buildings. The two Turkish baths were sold to the Jermyn Street Bath Company which ran the women's baths till 1958, and kept the men's open as a tax loss until 1975.

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John Cooper, grandson of William Cooper, without whom this page could not have been written

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