Turkish baths in hospitals

England: Huddersfield: New North Road

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

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The Turkish baths at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary

Although there had been a Turkish bath in Albion Street since the late 1850s, the need for a medical bath establishment at the Royal Infirmary was well enough argued to encourage Mr George Brook of Springwood Hall to donate a sum sufficient to enable one to be built and opened in 1897.

The establishment included Turkish, Russian, and a number of 'other remedial baths, which were available to patients under the direction of their medical advisers'. It had its own entrance, proved to be well used by patients and the general public, being 'much resorted to by many persons, on payment of the rate charged, who would not ordinarily receive treatment at the Infirmary'.

Interestingly, although the Infirmary emphasised the medical supervision which was provided, the Governors poached John Shoesmith from Albion Street to be their first Baths Superintendent. This was a wise appointment since Shoesmith had well over 25 years' experience managing Turkish baths in Huddersfield and Bolton.

In 1912, the baths were open 3½ days in the week for men and a full day and two halves for women. Turkish and Russian baths cost 2/-, medicated baths 2/6, and slipper, sitz, needle and shower baths 6d each, with a reasonable discount for those purchasing books of ten or six tickets at a time. Second-class tickets cost 1/- and 1/6. However, these allowed access only during the last 2½ hours of each day, with the result that the cheaper rate was only available to women bathers one day each week because their half day openings were both in the morning.

World War II had its effect on the baths, as on all other aspects of daily life. More women were working in factories to support the war effort and this undoubtedly contributed, with the blackout, to a decrease in the number of women bathers so that by 1940 the baths were only open to them for 1½ days each week. About this time also, possibly due to shortage of staff, the medicated baths and the individual slipper, sitz and shower baths were all discontinued, leaving only the Turkish and Russian baths in operation.

In 1927, the Turkish baths in Albion Street, and a newer establishment in Ramsden Street which was owned by the same company, had both closed down leaving the Infirmary as the only remaining provider of Turkish baths in Huddersfield. But after the end of the war, as an increasing proportion of families had their own bathrooms, the number of bathers availing themselves of the Infirmary baths diminished, to the extent that in 1949 it was decided to close the baths. As in so many similar cases, there was an active, but unsuccessful campaign to keep them open, and they closed the following year.

In 1951, the Ministry of Health demanded a substantial cut in expenditure by the Leeds Regional Health Board which, by this time, was responsible for the Infirmary. The Huddersfield Hospital Management Committee's response, in April, was that in such circumstances the £4,000 allocated for carrying out adaptations to the Turkish Baths could not be considered a high priority and that 'accordingly the Committee could not see its way to reconsider the decision not to re-open the baths.'

Despite the 'shower of protests and petitions' which greeted the announcement, and the offer by a local firm to sort out the drainage problems for which the £4,000 had been earmarked, the baths remained closed.

Thank you icon

Kirklees Libraries & Museums for the image of the Royal Infirmary

Jane Helliwell, Local History Library, Huddersfield Library & Art Gallery, for her help

   over a period of several years

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Exterior views of the infirmary

Opening hours and charges

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Other Turkish baths in the provinces

Other Turkish baths in hospitals


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

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