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New to the Turkish Baths campaign and don’t know where to start? Take a look at our most asked questions.

What is a Turkish Bath?

The main feature of a Turkish bath is that are small rooms of dry heat, rather than saunas or steamroom. After building up a sweat for 10-15 minutes in the dry heat room, you shower and then take a plunge in the ornate cold pool. And repeat. You finish off relaxing on a bed in one of the original relaxation cubicles. Carlisle’s Turkish Baths also have a sauna and steam room.

What do you wear?

A swimming costume or swimming trunks/shorts. Nudity is not permitted. Bring a towel, flip flops or similar footwear, shower gel and shampoo and 50p for the locker.

Are there single sex sessions?

Yes. One day a week it is men only and one day a week is women only. The other five days are mixed. Similar to many spas you must be over 16 to use the Turkish Baths.

How do I book?

Online or in person. Details are available on the Better website

Are Carlisle’s Victorian and Turkish Baths listed?

In 2010 Carlisle's then MP, Eric Martlew, successfully applied to Historic England to list the Turkish Baths. Although the Turkish Baths are Grade II listed, the 1884 Public Baths Building and the 1920 Ladies Waiting Room and Slipper Baths are not listed.

Are the Baths going to be demolished?

The Grade II listed Turkish Baths cannot be demolished, but the listing does not guarantee their continued use as Turkish Baths and they could be converted into a bar, a hotel or even flats. The remainder of the Public Baths building is not listed and therefore could be demolished leaving the Turkish Baths entirely on their own.

Is the Council going to close the Baths?

Carlisle City Council voted to close the Public Baths and pools in 2018. They have said that the Turkish Baths will remain open only if there is a business case. Better (Greenwich Leisure Ltd) who operate the Baths will relocate all their staff to The Sands Centre when the new pools open there in 2022. Carlisle City Council have yet to say how the Turkish Baths will operate once Better relocate or who will operate the Turkish Baths.

Are the Public Baths part of the Borderlands Growth Deal?

No. The 1970s pool extension is within the Borderlands Station Gateway area and it’s demolition will be funded by Borderlands. A budget of £400,000 has been allocated from Borderlands to make good the Public Baths and to install a new power system for the Turkish Baths(the existing power system is located in the 1970s extension and will therefore be demolished).

What is the feasibility study?

In January 2021 commissioned a feasibility study to "consider a series of alternative functions" for the Baths. The study has yet to be published, but we understand it will set out a range of potential uses for the Public Baths building.

Can the Turkish Baths survive on their own?

Probably not, or not without a huge increase in ticket prices. The Turkish Baths were built for a capacity of 14 people. There are only 10 ‘relaxation booths’ in which people can change, a single toilet and limited space. We believe the way to ensure the Turkish Baths continue in operation is by making the 20m pool and its changing rooms part of the Turkish Baths, and by creating a cafe bar and treatment rooms in the 1920 Ladies Waiting Room and Slipper Baths. We think this would create an attractive and unique visitor experience, with visitors able to step off their train and enter the Baths in less than five minutes.

Why do you want to build a hydrotherapy and health centre?

Carlisle & West Cumbria have a higher percentage of residents in bad health than the English average, and Cumbria has a higher percentage of residents who report that their day-to-day activities are limited a little by a health condition compared with the North West average. Currently residents requiring hydrotherapy have a 100 mile roundtrip to access hydrotherapy. Given Carlisle is the hub for the wider Borderlands region it makes sense to locate a flagship hydrotherapy and health centre in the city, next to the railway station and make use of an existing pool that would otherwise be closed and drained.

Why don’t you just close the pools and then bring them back into use at a later date?

Closing the 10m and 20m pools in the Public Baths and bringing them back into use at a later date would cost tens of thousands of pounds, money that would not need to be spent if they were kept filled and heated after the new Pools open at The Sands Centre in 2022.
The cost of just refilling and reheating the Keswick pool was put at £20,000.

Won’t your Vision increase the price of using the Turkish Baths?

A number of Councils charge lower prices for residents to use local facilities than those charged to visitors. We think a scheme like this, or like the Tullie Card that was given to all Carlisle residents when Tullie House reopened in the early 1990s, would keep usage of the Turkish Baths affordable to local residents, while visitors would pay prices similar to that charged by local spas.

Why do you want to change where the entrance is?

A new entrance is needed as the current entrance will be demolished along with the 1970s Pool extension. Moving the entrance to face the new Southern Station Gateway would make the Baths more visible and provide step free access directly from the Station and Town Centre. Once inside, the pool, changing rooms, Turkish Baths and treatment rooms are all on one level. There is also space for a retail unit and restaurant in the new reception area.

How much will this cost?

We don’t know yet.  But we are fundraising and seeking grant support to enable us to hire an architect, surveyor and business planner so that we can cost our Vision. We do know from our discussions with the Friends of Newcastle City Baths that their partnership with a leisure company secured investment of over £7m in their Public and Turkish Baths. However the City Baths had been closed for several years. We hope that by campaigning to keep the Public Baths in continuous use we can reduce the refurbishment and restoration costs.

Is there demand for a Community hub and laundry?

The problem with hygiene poverty is that it's hidden. The stigma attached to having dirty clothes means people just don’t talk about not being able to afford a washing machine, access credit to buy a washing machine, or take their washing to the two ‘drop and collect launderettes’ in the City. Even if they can get to the launderette, research shows it's 2,500% more expensive than using a washing machine. The deprivation statistics for Carlisle suggest that there will be households without a washing machine, but before doing anything we want to work with community groups who have established community laundries in other cities, to sensitively research and understand the need in Carlisle.

What’s your elevator pitch?

We love Carlisle. We love its history, its heritage and its people. Carlisle’s Victorian and Turkish Baths are a unique part of the City’s living heritage and serve the modern day health and wellbeing needs as effectively today as they did when they were built as a place to get clean and improve respiration after a long shift in the City’s factories, mills and breweries. It didn’t need a pandemic to remind us of the importance of public health, but it has reminded us that the health and wellbeing of Carlisle’s residents is, and always has been, our greatest asset.

Oh, and for once we have something - fully functioning Turkish Baths - that no other city in the north west has. Please help us protect it.