supporting the use of the bath as a therapeutic agent, Urquhart, as a
non-physician, saw it more as a cleansing agent for those without water
agenda, however, was popularising Turkish culture, so for him, the bath
could only be called a Turkish bath, although, like York James Moore,
there were a few others who—with little justification—called it the
Barter saw the
bath primarily as a therapeutic agent, and since hydropathy was often
seen as a quack medicine, he may have felt the need of as much
respectability as possible, and he called his bath the ‘Improved
Turkish or Roman Bath’.
bath was undoubtedly an improved therapeutic agent, but his use of the
words ‘improved Turkish’ was criticised by some as arrogance. However,
the word may have been suggested by the required title of his patent application—Improvements
in heating and ventilating buildings—which, like all patents—had to
be for an invention which was either new, or improved.
Apart from a
succession of Turkish baths at St Ann’s, Barter built, or was involved
in setting up, ten others in Ireland, and one in London. All those in
Ireland included Turkish in their names, some preceded by ‘improved’,
others with ‘or Roman’ added.
Two stand out
as being different. That in Bray was called ‘the Improved Turkish or New
Irish Bath’, and the one in Waterford was called ‘the Improved Turkish
or Irish Bath’ and, for the first and only time, the typographical
emphasis was on ‘Irish’.
proprietors might have adopted the term Irish bath, but in January 1860
Barter’s baths were subjected to an
ill-informed attack by the writer
Richard Robert Madden, published in the Dublin Hospital Gazette and reprinted in the Cork Daily Herald.
maintained, first, that the dry air of the Irish bath was medically
harmful by comparison with the vaporous air of the true Turkish bath;
second that the flue system in Barter’s baths were faulty and dangerous.
refused space in the Gazette, Barter replied only in the
Herald. Letters were published also from Barter’s supporters, and
the attack was soon rebuffed with, according to one pamphlet
edited by 'Photophilus', ‘a display
of inherent vitality'.
such arguments about whether 'dry' air was preferable to ‘humid’ air
were to be repeated from time to time, and this may have discouraged
proprietors from adopting the term ‘Irish Bath’.
mainland, most establishments followed Urquhart’s example. After all,
newspaper and magazine articles invariably referred to Turkish baths,
and it would have been foolhardy not to take commercial advantage of
exceptions, of course.In academic Cambridge, the
Roman Bath Company Limited
advertised their new establishment as ‘a Public and Private Thermae and
Swimming Bath’.Their name, the Roman Bath Company, was specifically
chosen to bring Roman culture to mind, to indicate that their hot rooms
were dry, and that there was a plunge pool. (It is to be doubted,
however, whether they replaced the Turkish shampoo with oil and
But even in
Cambridge, advertising thermae did not make commercial sense and,
for this, and a variety of other reasons, the baths
barely lasted a
Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt’s elegant building still stands, although the
plunge pool soon disappeared, and the room is now a pizza restaurant.
exception was an establishment in
where, if no-one actually called their baths Scottish Baths, the
independent-minded Peter Jack made sure that everyone knew his
baths were nothing to do with Turkey.
There was much
discussion in print.Many ‘letters to the editor’, even to such journals
as The Lancet or The British Medical Journal, expressed
views which were, to put it mildly, xenophobic.*
tended to be doctors who were against the bath. But some protagonists,
and some of those warning against its ‘overuse’, often accepted the same
surprising is that even in Ireland, appending a Turkish or Roman culture
to the bath instead of an Irish culture, was still considered
preferable, despite contemporary perceptions of the Romans as being
debauched, and the Turks as indolent and effeminate.