Shampooers' wages and conditions
in three 19th century London Turkish baths

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

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4. Hours and holiday


All three of the interviewees agreed that although the hours nominally worked are long, the hours actually worked are fairly short. For this reason, they also agreed, the life of a shampooer is an easy one.

At Bartholomew's, the men worked,

nominally from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., but for the larger part of the time the men are doing nothing, and they dress and go out for each meal.

At the Hammam, the baths were open from 8.00 am till midnight but the duty hours were varied so that the men get some free time during the day.

Each man is on duty about 54 nominal hours a week. They spend, on alternate days 8 and 10 hours in the bath, but on the 10 hour days they often get away before their proper hour if there are no bathers in the bath, so that 54 hours is really an outside estimate.

Mr Waugh has elaborate statistics for years showing the number of hours which the men are actually at work while in the bath. These statistics are based on a calculation of the number of bathers, and allows 20 minutes (much more than the average time) for each shampooing; on this basis the actual work of each man varies each year from 2 hours and 40 minutes to 3 hours and 40 minutes per day, the rest of the time they spend mostly in sleep. Altogether Mr Waugh thinks it is about the easiest life in the world.

Like the Hammam, Nevill's enables the men to have time off during the day. As usual, Mr Nevill is a little more forthcoming about the quiet and the busy hours.

Start 7.30 AM in all his places. Someone on duty till 9.30 PM Every man has 2 mornings a week off when he does not come in till 12.30 & practically the evening off too ie from 7 or 7.30 PM. One hour dinner between 12 & 2. Breakfast ˝ hour at 9 am. They are on duty 60 or 69 hours per wk.

None of their boys work more than 74 hours including meal times.

The busiest hours in the day are 4 to 8 PM. This is the time both in East [End] & West [End establishments]. In morning there may be a few retired merchants, tradesmen etc but the bulk of the work comes on after the business hours.

The curse of the shampooers life is being on duty & having nothing to do. Young men fall to pieces with the idleness. Customers will have their own particular men \ all must remain in on the chance of his men coming.

Some bathers come every day. Some every 3 months. 98% are shampooed.

Although not mentioned by Mr Waugh in this part of his interview, the Hammam was also open on Sunday, though this was not the case when it first opened. Mr Kenny noted that at Bartholomew's,

The bath is open on Sunday morning from 7 to 1,

and at Nevill's, the

Baths are open on Sundays with ˝ staff (one week on & one off for attendants).

Sunday bathing is decreasing. Bicycles & Golf have accounted for a good deal of this decrease which is still going on. 50% in last ten years.

It is interesting to note that none of these establishments appears to have had any difficulty in opening on Sundays during this period. But this was not the case in all parts of London, and this could affect the working classes in particular. As William Bishop, owner of the Putney Turkish baths, complained a few years earlier, pressure from Church and Chapel prevented his baths from opening on Sunday—the only day the working classes had sufficient time to use them.


At Bartholomew's 'Each man is allowed a fortnight in the year' and at Nevill's 'Men get a fortnight’s holiday each year (in either July August & September)'.

Nevill adds that whereas August is a very slack month,

November to Easter is the busiest season of all as Turkish baths is a specific for colds & rheumatism.

Neither mentions whether the men are paid during their holiday period, but at the Hammam,

Each man gets about 16 days holiday in the year with full pay.

This page reviewed and reformatted 14 January 2022

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London shampooers, 1896

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