Friday, December 03, 2021

Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths

Carlisle, Cumbria, UK. Monday 22-November-2021

We booked ourselves on a tour of these baths given by Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths. I have to say the baths are an architectural gem: beautiful tile-work and stained glass windows. Some of the original features are intact and in lovely condition.    

It has a central plunge pool surrounded by benches. Out the back are steam rooms and saunas of various degrees of heat and humidity, not as pretty. Apparently the original tiles are still there but hidden under wood panelling. 

What I learnt was that these, and other baths up and down the country, were not for relaxation but were essential bath and wash houses for the urban poor who had no ready access to cleaning facilities. 

The first such public baths were opened in Liverpool in 1842 thanks to the inspiration of Kitty Wilkinson following a cholera outbreak caused by poor public health. These baths are a later example but still provided essential facilities for the local factory workers living in poor housing and unsanitary conditions.

They are Grade II listed: "This set of Edwardian Turkish Baths constructed in 1909 have been designated for the following principal reasons:

  • Decorative Scheme; the original internal decorative tiling and glazed faience work by the respected company Minton and Hollins of Stoke, notably in the cool room, is of good quality and complete
  • Intactness: alterations are few and the original plan of the baths remains intact which renders the Turkish Bathing process highly readable.
  • Rarity: this building is an increasingly rare example of a once common building form, of which only around 20 remain in England; it compares very favourably with the eight existing listed Turkish Baths."

[Listing 1393755]

More stained glass in the clerestory windows.

Upstairs they had just cleared out a room full of junk and clutter to provide public access for the first time ever to a lovely Art Deco skylight. 

The purpose of the Friends is "Campaigning to preserve and develop the Baths as health and wellbeing centre with the Turkish Baths as the centrepiece".  Their enthusiasm and dedication to promoting these is admirable, I wish them luck.

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