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History of The Baths

  • Carlisle Turkish Baths Entrance

The First public baths opened in Liverpool in 1842. They were the idea of Kitty WIlkinson, a laundress who became known as the ‘saint of the slums’ when she began using her own domestic boiler to wash the linen of her neighbours during a cholera outbreak in 1832. Convinced of the health benefits of bathing and laundering, she pushed for the building of a public baths and washhouse which opened in Liverpool in 1842.

Around the middle of the 19th century Dr Richard Barter, a physician in County Cork, had become interested in hydrotherapeutic treatment for his patients. Working with a former diplomat David Urquart, whose posting to Turkey had left him with a strong appreciation of Hammam Baths, the two men opened the UK’s first Turkish Baths at St Anne’s Hydro, Blarney County Cork.

Over the next 100 years Turkish Baths grew in popularity. Railway companies built them for their workers, ocean liners were fitted out with them and some of the most wealthy installed Turkish Baths in their homes.

No precise number is known, but over 700 Turkish Baths are thought to have been built in the United Kingdom. Today only twelve remain in operation and Carlisle’s Turkish Baths are one of only nine of the twelve that are open to the public.

Built in 1909, Carlisle Turkish Baths are technically Edwardian, but the plans and design were drawn up several years earlier and therefore they are more accurately described as ‘Victorian Style Turkish Baths’.

The History of Carlisle Baths

(scroll left)

1883
Carlisle baths sub committee visit the Liverpool Public Baths and agree to build a laundry, plunge pools, showers, slipper and vapour baths to promote health and hygiene of the people of Carlisle
1884
Carlisle’s Public Baths open. An area adjacent to the new baths is set aside for ‘Turkish Baths’
1908
After several delays, a contract to build the Turkish Baths is signed with local builder William Johnstone. Apart from tiling by Minton and Hollins of Stoke-on-Trent, and heating and ventilation work by Constantine’s of Manchester, all the working done by local craftsmen
1909
The Turkish Baths open!
1922
Carlisle United players are giving a 10% discount to use the Baths.
1937
One of several attempts to close the Baths is abandoned after Carlisle doctors support it remaining open.
Late 1950s
Turkish Baths close
1959
Turkish Baths reopen!
1991
A threatened closure is averted after a group of longstanding users organise a petition
2010
Carlisle MP, Eric Martlew, successfully applies for the Baths to be listed
2018
Carlisle Council Votes to close the Public Baths and Pools
January 2021
Carlisle Council commissions a Feasibility Study to “consider a series of alternative functions" for the Baths
May 2021
The Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths is formed
1883
1884
1908
1909
1922
1937
Late 1950s
1959
1991
2010
2018
January 2021
May 2021

For more information about Victorian Turkish Baths please visit Malcolm Shifrin’s excellent website

‘It ought not to be a question of £s. The health of the people…was the city’s best asset,’ and that the baths would specially benefit the aged and the poor”

Said in 1908 during a council debate on whether to proceed with building the Turkish Baths in May 1908

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