NORTHWEST’S LAST TURKISH BATHS CELEBRATE 113 YEARS OF BATHING – Carlisle Turkish Baths marked their 113th Birthday this week. But campaigners have put the celebrations on hold pending a decision from Carlisle City Council on whether the Grade II listed baths are to be mothballed when swimming pools at the City’s ‘Sands Leisure Centre’ open next month.

The Turkish Baths on James Street, Carlisle, opened on 20 September 1909, providing what members of the then Carlisle Corporation described as “a unique suite of Turkish baths…built of the best materials, provided with appliances of the most modern type for getting up heat and for ventilation”.

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Offering three hot rooms, a plunge pool, wood panelled resting booths and a Russian Bath, the facilities are largely unchanged, save for the removal of the Russian Baths after it became impossible to source the parts needed to repair it.

The opulent interior of the Baths is testimony to the prevailing view of Carlisle’s Councillors at the turn of the 20th Century that “The health of the people was the city’s best asset”.

“People have been the beating heart of the Baths for 113 years. That is why we are marking this birthday with a photo collage of the people who use and love the Baths. We have people who have only just found out about them, others who have rediscovered them, and one who has been coming for fifty years!” said Julie Minns, Chair of the Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths.

The UK’s first Turkish Baths opened in 1852 in County Cork, and over the course of the next century around 700 were built the length and breadth of the British Isles. Today only twelve remain in operation, and Carlisle’s are the last in the Northwest.

Commenting on the longevity of the Baths, Julie said, “It is astonishing to think that these Baths have witnessed two world wars, seven British Monarchs and twenty-two Prime Ministers. They have even seen Carlisle United top of the Football league! Carlisle is incredibly fortunate to have kept such a rare and unique piece of its living heritage for so long. I visited Manchester Victoria Baths recently and the restoration of their Turkish Baths suite is stunning, but their Friends Group said they would give anything to have a fully operational Turkish Baths like we still have.”

The Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths have been campaigning to keep the Turkish Baths open for eighteen months. During that time usage has more than doubled and Friends have secured funding for the first stage of a viability study that they believe could pave the way to putting the Baths on a long-term sustainable footing.

“We are 100% committed to completing this project. All we ask is for the Council to keep the Turkish Baths open while we do. The only birthday present we want, is for the Council Executive to guarantee that the Baths will stay open until the new Cumberland Council takes over the Baths next April. That would make an old Baths very, very happy.” Concluded Julie.

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