Turkish baths in London

17 Goswell Road

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

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At the end of 1860, William Turner, a fixture merchant of Vine Street, set up a small Turkish bath in Goswell Road to be managed by his son-in-law Samuel Curry, husband of his eldest daughter Susannah. Turner must have had considerable confidence in Samuel's ability because the bath's Boxing Day opening came less than six months after the first Turkish bath in London opened in Bell Street, off the Edgware Road.

Although the bath was a small one, Turner's confidence seems to have been well placed because within only twelve months it became clear that the venture was a success and that the baths were too small.

Initially, there must have been concern as to whether such a novel form of bathing would be successful so far out of the centre of London, the baths being located at the Islington end of Goswell Road. Turner was an experienced businessman, however, and the set up cost would not have been excessive. And while the decoration and fitments were probably fairly basic, every need was catered for and must have been carefully researched beforehand.

Right next to the entrance was an area for bathers to remove their outdoor shoes in exchange for a 'comfortable pair of slippers'. A short flight of steps led to the 'cooling and wardrobe room' where each bather was assigned a lockable cupboard for his clothes and other belongings. After using the washing and shower bath room, bathers passed through the shampooing room to the single hot room, maintained at around 150°F to 170°F. And after completing the process, coffee was available in the cooling-room.

There was a reported introductory reduced price of 1/6d for the first few weeks and, although there might have been similar promotions at other new establishments, this is the only instance for which we have so far found any evidence.

After the initial promotion, there were to be two classes of bather according to the time chosen. The charge between 8.00am and 5.00pm would be 2/6d, and that between 6.00pm and 8.00pm would be 1/-. But in the event, the upper price was finalised at 2/-. instead of 2/6d, and there was an additional 1/- session on Sundays between 7.00am and 11.00am.

These permanent prices were already in force shortly after the beginning of the new year, and separate hours, on Tuesdays and Fridays between 2.00pm and 6.00pm (at 2/-) and between 6.00pm and 8.00pm (at 1/-), were allocated for use by women bathers. Additionally, there was a reduction in price when a dozen tickets, usable by family members, were purchased at the same time.

These prices and hours remained the same throughout the year, except that after a few months, the higher price women's baths were only available for two hours instead of three. Otherwise, Samuel, seems to have hit on the most successful combination of times and charges.

Business must have been good because by the end of the year the it was decided to move it to larger premises, more elaborately fitted out, and slightly closer to the centre of town at the Clerkenwell end of Goswell Road.

This page first published 26 January 2019

Thank you icon


Peter Collingwood and Barbara Curry for indispensable help with

   William Turner's family tree

The original page includes an image and footnotes.

Advertisement for the baths, 1861

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