Doncaster Oriental Chambers & Turkish Baths Co Ltd

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

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Doncaster Oriental Chambers & Turkish Baths Co Ltd
Company baths: DONCASTER: 16, Oriental Bldgs, Station Road

As handwriting is often unclear, all name transcriptions below are indicative only.
When accuracy is important, the original documents should be consulted.
PRO (Public Record Office) documents are at The National Archives, Kew.

The company was formed by resolution of a public meeting, held at the Glyn Hotel, on 21 February 1896. It was called by a Mrs Taylor of South Parade House, and appears to have been well-prepared. Mr T G Edwards of Sheffield, an architect, displayed sketches for a multi-purpose building, and these met with unanimous approval and were adopted. Edwards estimated that the land and buildings would cost around £6,900, and that the revenue for the offices and shops would be £486, although, perhaps wisely, no estimate was made of any revenue from the baths for the first year.

It had originally been planned to set the capital at £7,000, raising half by means of a mortgage at 3½% and the other half by a public offering of 700 shares at £5. But, in the words of the directors' annual report on the first year's progress,

Owing to the rapid manner in which the shares were taken up, it was decided at a subsequent general meeting that the whole of the capital should be thrown open to the public, and that it should be fixed at £8,000. The shares were all subscribed without the necessity of issuing a prospectus or advertising.

The building was completed, and the baths opened, just over a year later on 25 January 1897. The venture started well. In his report on the company's first year, the Chairman, Mr T Turner, was able to announce that,

Five of the shops have been let to good tenants, and, with one exception, are held on leases for seven years. The present annual rental of shops and offices is £415 10s, so that when the remaining shop and three offices still unlet are included, the rental will come very close to the architect's original estimate.

In proposing the adoption of the report, he said that there was a balance of £379 to the credit of the company, and that so far as the Turkish baths were concerned, 'their success has so far exceeded anticipations'.

According to the report which was to be presented to the company's third general meeting on 1 March 1898, the Turkish baths were well patronised during their first year and even contributed a small balance to the Revenue Account. But most of the net profit of £360 15s. 5d. arose from the shop and office rental. Of this, £166 19s 4d. was paid as an interim dividend in July and it was proposed to pay a dividend of 4% per annum for the following six months, costing a further £160.

Undoubtedly, to a modern observer the payment of such a large proportion of the company's profit as dividends would not be considered prudent, and at the meeting questions were already being asked about the profitability of the Turkish Baths. Several speakers, however, were concerned that they should be given time to show their worth and should be seen as part only of a set of buildings which together would be profitable.

Mr R E Clark said that the baths were not expected to make an extravagant profit, but would need to pay their way. It was not yet clear whether the public would satisfactorily support them after such a short period but if, after a fair trial, they made a loss then they would be closed and the premises used for some other purpose.

The Chairman said that during the first three months 'when the thing was quite new' the baths made a profit of £29 2s 6d, and since then they had paid their way and left a small dividend for the shareholders. He did not think they should look upon it as a foregone conclusion that they would not pay well. He suggested that perhaps they should consider letting them.

Councillor Smith said the question had been considered whether the charge of 1s. at certain times should not be raised to 1s 6d. It was expected that the low charge of 1s. would induce apprentices, shop assistants, and artisans to use the baths, but they found that their customers on the shilling day were generally business men, who would be quite as willing to pay 1s 6d. or 2s.

The Chairman said he considered that the company had been a very successful concern indeed. They had now got all their shops and offices let, with the exception of one small office, and their baths had been successful in paying their way. That, for a commencement, was very good, and he did not think it would be wise for them to make any alteration in the arrangements at present.

If they found that the thing did not pay, then was the time to consider the desirability of making alterations that would make them pay. Those who used the baths got good value for their money and he had no fear about getting a dividend of five per cent. They had a good valuable property, and everything in their favour.

Alderman Clark said he considered the report very satisfactory. One of the objects for which the company was formed was to provide Turkish baths and it was stated at the time that if the baths did not make a profit the other buildings erected on the site would do so, and pay the shareholders a good dividend. The shops had been exceedingly well let, at good prices and to good tenants, and made a very good show. They were thus assured of a revenue, independent of the baths, and he hoped they would be content to go on as they were for a while. He thought that they were bound to do their utmost to keep the baths open, for a good many shares were taken for that purpose, and they should hesitate to close them unless they made a considerable loss. The doctors recommended the baths, and they were well appointed in every way. Bathers found them all they could desire, and he did not think they could find better baths in any provincial town in England.

In fact the Turkish baths remained open until around 1928. After they were closed, the company changed its name to Oriental Chambers Company Limited.

TNA: PRO: BT31 41610/47278 Companies House files no longer extant.

1896 Memorandum of Association: 21 February
Capital: £8,000 [assumed to have been divided into 1,600 shares of £5]
Objects include: to purchase land and build a Turkish bath, with shops and offices to let.
Secretary: Clarke, Frederick J
Turner, T JP (Chairman)
Clark, Alderman J F, JP, CC
Huntriss, W J, JP
Jackson, E Walker
Milnthorp, James
Smith, Councillor G
Stacey, G
Auditor: S H Wright

1897 Registered Office: No.3 Oriental Buildings, Station Road
Secretary: Clarke, Frederick J
Turner, T JP (Chairman, till 29 Nov)
Milnthorp, James (Chairman, from 29 Nov)
Smith, Councillor G (Vice-Chairman)
Clark, Alderman J F, JP, CC
Huntriss, W J, JP
Jackson, E Walker
Stacey, G
Auditor: S H Wright
Company dissolved: 1967

This page last updated 04 November 2018


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

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