Earls Court Turkish Baths Company Limited

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

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Earls Court Turkish Baths Company Limited
Company baths: LONDON: Earls Court Gardens

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 history of this company is rather confused since not all accounts seem to tally. The Turkish bath in Earls Court Gardens was built for Thomas & Co in 1885 and altered (or enlarged) for them three years later. Kelly's London Directory identifies Mrs Mary Ann Thomas & Co. as proprietors of the baths in 1893.

The Earls Court Turkish Baths Company Ltd was incorporated in 1895. Its stated objects were to operate the baths and purchase the lease of the property from Mrs Thomas and a Mr John Walkey (both of whom were now listed as its proprietors, though still trading as M A Thomas & Co).

The new company included Walkey and Mrs Thomas among its Directors, and its Registered Office was located at the baths. Another Director was George Grosvenor Thomas, the landscape artist based in Glasgow who was the son of Mary Ann Thomas.

But in the following year, 1896, Kelly's (inevitably lagging behind actuality) was still indicating that the baths were owned by Mrs Mary Ann Thomas & Co. The new company—with 7 shareholders—included Mrs Thomas, now Mary Ann Walkey, in the list of Directors.

Kelly's continued to show Mrs Mary Ann Thomas & Co as proprietors of the baths until 1900, but in 1901 and 1902 the proprietors were individually named as John and Mary Ann Walkey.

Yet the records of the Earls Court Turkish Baths Company for 1900 show that Mrs Walkey had reverted to her earlier name, Mary Ann Thomas, even though John Walkey was shown as Secretary of the Company and Manager of the baths. The following year, the last in which the company submitted a return, John Walkey was shown as Managing Director.

Kelly's 1903 Directory, presumably still behindhand in recording what was actually the situation, showed that the baths were now owned by Archibald Reynolds James, an hotelier who had owned the Albany Road Turkish Baths in Wolverhampton since 1888.

So it seems that the Earls Court Turkish Baths Company never succeeded in its objective of owning the baths they proposed purchasing. It may be that Mary Ann Thomas, having separated from, or divorced, John Walkey, sold the baths to Archibald Reynolds James at the end of 1899, or at the latest by March 1900.

Support for this theory comes from three letters sent to the Registrar of Companies. The first was from John Walkey, on Earls Court Baths headed paper, and dated 13 August 1901. Replying to a standard request for the year's company accounts, Walkey wrote that,

...The company never went to allotment…The Board of Directors having taken one share each accessory to forming the Company and property still belonging to Mrs M A Thomas. In the event of an improvement of business at the end of the South African War it will probably be gone through with.

There are a number of problems arising from this letter and it is difficult to understand how it came to be sent from the Earls Court Baths address since the baths already belonged to Archibald Reynolds James by the time it was written.

One possibility is that James forwarded the Registrar's letter to Walkey who replied from his own address, using a sheet of the Earls Court Baths paper (of which he might well have had quite a stock). In theory, there would have been no reason why the company should not in due course have still made an offer for the purchase of the baths, but it seems unlikely.

Another (slim) possibility is that James might have kept Walkey on as his manager for a year or so. James might have been considered useful if he needed to remain in Wolverhampton for a while.

We know that the baths were owned by James at this time from an earlier letter sent to the Registrar on 19 March 1900 on behalf of Archibald James. Its formal phraseology, compared with that of a later letter sent by him in 1903, suggests that it might have been written for him by an accountant or, perhaps, the solicitor who acted for him in his purchase of the baths.

The first letter states that,

…so far as the present proprietor is aware the company never went to allotment, he having purchased the business from Mrs Mary Ann Thomas.
He also understands that the Baths were never purchased by the company from the vendor.
Everything in fact fell through from some cause or other.

While part of the cause might have been the Boer War, it might also, perhaps more plausibly, have been the split between Thomas and Walkey. The Registrar of Companies, rather like today's Revenue and Customs, seemed to have difficulty in accepting that companies cease to exist, for James had to write again to the Registrar on 29 October 1903:

Dear Sir, I am the Proprietor of the Earls Court Turkish Baths.
Last year I wrote you to this effect. I know knowing [sic] of any Company.
    Yours etc.
        A R James

The Earls Court Turkish Baths Company Ltd was dissolved the following year on 16 March.

TNA: PRO: BT31 6516/45844 All unfootnoted information is taken from this file.

1895 Memorandum of Association: 2 November
Capital: £10,000 divided into 10,000 shares of £1
Objects include:

To purchase or otherwise acquire the leasehold premises, Nos 25a, 26a, and 27a Earls Court Gardens, Kensington in the County of London, with the Turkish and other Baths therein and thereon, and the fixtures, fittings, and other appurtenances connected therewith, now the property of Mrs Ann Thomas and Mr John Walkey carrying on the said premises as Proprietors of Turkish and other Baths, Tobacconists, and Lodging House Keepers under the style of 'M A Thomas & Co' and to take over and continue the said business.

Jordan, Herbert William (Registration agent)
Jordan, William (Parliamentary agent)
Shields, Frederick (Director, Jordans Sons Ltd)
Thomas, George Grosvenor (Artist, of Glasgow)
Thomas, Mary Ann (Turkish Baths Proprietor)
Walkey, John (Turkish Baths Proprietor)
Coward, Henry
Thomas, George Grosvenor
Thomas, Mary Ann
Walkey, John
Registered Office: 26a Earls Court Gardens (5 November)

1896 Number of shareholders: 7
Mary Ann Thomas is now entered as Mary Ann Walkey

1900 Number of shareholders: 7, all directors (12 April)
Mary Ann Thomas has reverted to her earlier name, and is no longer entered as the wife of John Walkey.
Secretary and Manager: John Walkey
From the correspondence noted above, it would appear that this return, and the one sent in 1901, were posted from an address other than that which was still, officially, the registered office of the company.

1901 John Walkey is now Managing Director.

1904 No returns were filed after 1901
Dissolved under Clause 7(4): 16 March

This page last updated 04 November 2018

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