North West’s only historic Turkish baths features on The Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered Buildings list 2023

Carlisle’s Grade II listed Edwardian Turkish Baths in Cumbria is on The Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered buildings list 2023. It needs local ownership and support to bring it back into community use for another century

Picture credit: Craig Charters Cinematography 18/06/2023

Griff Rhys Jones, The Victorian Society President said: “Come on Carlisle, we will surely never see the likes of these fantastical interiors again. I salute the Friends of these wonderful public baths. They have great plans to keep these amazing facilities open. They have been working hard with the newly formed Cumberland Council and we all really want them to succeed in keeping these highly decorative, relaxing, historic, and much loved baths in use. What incredible survivors. Public attractions of the future.”

Inspired by a visit to Liverpool Baths, Carlisle Council sought to improve the health and hygiene of the people of Carlisle as few working class people had access to bathrooms or washing facilities in their home. Carlisle Baths and Washhouse opened in 1884 providing first and second class plunge pools, a ladies plunge pool, slipper baths and laundry facilities. The Edwardian Turkish Baths were added in 1909 and a Ladies waiting room and slipper baths opened in 1920. Records show that by 1957 over 100,000 people were using the baths. These astoundingly beautiful, lavishly-tiled Turkish Baths have original internal decorative tiling and glazed faience work by the renowned company Minton and Hollins of Stoke. This is of great quality and is largely complete.

Carlisle City Council (CaCC) voted to close the Baths in 2022. It was one of only 12 historic baths in the UK still operating – only 9 of which are open to the public – and the only one in the north west of England. An active ‘Friends’ group continues to fight to save the Baths. Surely there is a market for a restored beautiful, restored, historic Turkish Baths for both visitors and the community hub? The Society urges Cumberland Council, who now own the baths after CaCC was dissolved, to work with the Friends to keep these baths in use for another 138 years.

The full Top Ten list can be read here, and includes an earl’s mansion that became a hostel for the homeless, a church where the congregation can’t hold services, two engineering marvels that saved lives through improving sanitation, and a club where newly enfranchised voters could meet. The Victorian Society has announced its Top Ten Endangered buildings list thirteen times. The list is based on public nominations from across England and Wales, and the buildings selected represent industrial, religious, domestic, and civic architecture from across the nation with unique historical and community significance and value. Nominated buildings must be dated between 1837 and 1914.

Update: On the 24th June 2023 in a news article in The Cumberland News and Star, Cumberland Council said that they are “committed to finding a viable solution’ for the Turkish Baths.” A council spokesperson said: “Cumberland Council recognises the historic significance of the Turkish Baths building in Carlisle and its listed status. We remain committed to finding a viable solution that will not only protect the building, but also provide it with a sustainable future.” Read more here

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