I now look at
the naming of the new bath—attempts to enhance its credibility and make
it a more saleable asset; how, in other words, the Victorian Turkish
bath was heritaged.
men were responsible for its introduction into the
The first was
Scottish-born diplomat and politician David Urquhart.who came across the
Islamic hammam during his years at the British embassy in
Constantinople in the 1830s.
later he wrote about it in a quirky travel book, The Pillars of
Hercules, in which he described hammams in the Maghreb. But
he first described what he called the Turkish bath because it was
that he found the bath used in its most complete form, and because the
term was already familiar to readers of travel books, archaeological
works, and diaries.
The first work
here is different from the others (which merely describe the bath);.its
anonymous author argued, twenty-five years before Urquhart, and also to
no avail, that the government should build Turkish baths and provide
them at a nominal cost to those who could not afford them.
works such as these, the term Turkish bath was already
established when referring to the Islamic hammam. Of course,
Urquhart well knew the history of the bath and its Roman antecedents,
but he had a political agenda: promoting Turkish culture in
to encourage the government to pursue a more pro-Turkish, anti-Russian
set up a number of working-men’s Foreign Affairs Committees whose
members, after rigorous but effective training, called political
meetings, wrote to newspapers, and petitioned their members of
pro-Turkish views, together with his Turkish bath campaign, were also
promulgated in Isaac Ironside’s sympathetic paper, the Sheffield Free
Press, and later in its successor, the Free Press, which was
sold around the country by members of the various committees.
encouraged committeemen to self-build commercial Turkish baths to help
support their families, giving them more time for political work, and
premises where meetings could be held. At least 35 such baths are known.
standard, the committees’ achievement was remarkable, and some
establishments, like John Shaw’s in
Leeds, remained open for nearly fifty years.
Returning now to Ireland
in the 1850s, the second person responsible for the introduction of the
Victorian Turkish bath was Dr Richard Barter who owned the first
hydropathic establishment in Ireland, at St Ann’s Hill, Blarney, in
Barter was an
open-minded hydropathist who, earlier, had aroused the ire of his peers
by adding vapour bath cabinets to the strictly orthodox cold water cure
originally prescribed by Vincent Priessnitz. In 1856
Barter came across The Pillars of Hercules, noting that
Urquhart described the air in the hottest room of the Turkish bath as
the therapeutic effectiveness of hot air increases with its temperature,
and that the body is able to withstand dry heat at greater temperatures
than wet heat, he invited Urquhart to St Ann’s
to help him build a Turkish bath for his patients.
baths were first constructed, and success was by no means immediate.
Advice was sought from the Ottoman Sultan. And Barter sent his architect
sake—Mr Richard Barter—to study the bath ruins in Rome.For he realised
that the surviving hot air baths of the Eastern Roman Empire had changed
after the fall of Constantinople.
by Islam, and their adaption for ritual cleansing prior to prayers, led
to the use of washing facilities within the hot rooms, inevitably
giving rise to wet floors, humidity, general dampness, and consequently,
lower temperatures. Even Urquhart later admitted that initially he had
not fully realised the significance of this dampness in the hammam,
and all his baths, like Barter’s, kept the hot rooms dry.
Ireland, Urquhart immediately set about helping his Manchester Foreign
Affairs Committee to build the first Turkish bath in England since Roman