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The Ennis Turkish Baths 1869 – 1878
by Peter Beirne


1. The Field 18 May 1861

2. There were two different Turkish baths in the city of Limerick noted by Donovan, the second of which traded at Sarsfield (Brunswick) Street and Honan’s Quay. This latter establishment lasted well into the twentieth century and was advertising in the Clare newspapers as late as 1917. See Tom Donovan ‘Limerick Turkish Baths’ The Old Limerick Journal 36 (1999) 45 – 47. Malcolm Shifrin notes further Turkish baths in Limerick, at Cecil Street (by 1861), at the Limerick Infirmary and at the Limerick Asylum.

3. Malcolm R. Shifrin. Victorian Turkish baths. December 2006

4. For information on shampooing and shampooers (who had to be able to withstand heat for considerable periods of time and be possessed of some muscular strength), see Shifrin’s website. David Urquhart, a pivotal figure in the development of the Turkish baths, commented: “There can be no Bath without shampooers. The luxury, the enjoyment, the curative power of the Bath are inseparable from the shampooing”.

5. “Insure, first, free action of the skin in the preparatory room, and brain and heart are afterwards safe from harm by any useful increment of heat”, wrote David Bryce.

6. Many of the larger bathing establishments, particularly in the cities and also at St Anne’s at Blarney, also offered services to animals, including horses as well as to men, women and children. In the pre-motor car era, maintaining horses in good physical and mental condition was a business, economic and social imperative. Facilities for animals (including also cows, sheep, pigs and dogs) were housed and staffed separately. For more information on animals and Turkish baths see Shifrin’s website. The baths at Millview did not cater for animals.

7. James Joyce. Ulysses. (London: The Bodley Head, 1960) pp. 105 – 7, 836. A ‘hammam’ (from the Arabic hammãm) is defined as “an Oriental bathing establishment, a Turkish bath”. See David Bryce’s comment: “Throughout the East the Hammam is resorted to by all classes and ages of both sexes as a thing of everyday life, necessary for health and comfort”.

8. ‘A visit to a Turkish bath in Lincoln Place in 1860 shortly after its opening’ by “A Moist Man” Bristol Times 15 December 1860.

9. Whilst much of urban Ireland had the benefit of Turkish baths establishments, some parts of rural Ireland had sweat-houses, “a common feature of rural life up to the end of the nineteenth century”. Described as “small, generally corbelled igloo-type dry-stone structures” they are of Scandinavian (Viking) derivation and were particularly prevalent in Ulster. Sweat-houses “differ from the hot-air baths of Graeco-Roman and Muslim tradition in that they are dry hot-air rather than moist hot-air baths”. See generally A. T. Lucas ‘Washing and bathing in ancient Ireland’ Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 95 (1965) 65 – 114. For sweat-houses see Edward Haughton ‘On hot-air baths: with special reference to the Turkish bath’ Journal of the Royal Dublin Society, 11 (1858) 134 – 145, D. J. Hickey and J. E. Doherty A new dictionary of Irish history from 1800 (Dublin, 2003) p. 463, John Feehan Farming in Ireland: history, heritage and environment (Dublin, 2003) pp. 271/2, and Anthony Weir’s interesting and unusual website, ‘Irish sweathouses’.

10. The London Medical Record commented: “Blarney in Ireland has long enjoyed a high reputation as a residence for invalids … the baths have a European celebrity, and are better known in Germany than in England”. Hydropathy is defined as “the treatment of disorders by the application of water, internally as well as externally”.

11. For an account of Captain R. T. Claridge’s ten-week Irish lecture tour in the summer of 1843 (Limerick, Cork, Wexford, Dublin and Belfast), see Alastair J. Durie Water is best: the hydros and health tourism in Scotland 1840 – 1940 (Edinburgh, 2006) pp. 16 – 21. Dr Durie discusses the impact Captain Claridge made on Richard Barter, on Father Theobold Mathew and the wider temperance movement, on the Society of Friends (the Quakers), and on the contemporary medical establishment. Captain Claridge published treatises on hydropathy in 1844 and 1849.

12. An Act for promoting the voluntary Establishment in Boroughs and certain Cities and Towns in Ireland of public Baths and Wash-houses, 9 & 10 Vic c. 87 (1846), with subsequent amendments. There were municipal baths in operation in at least twenty towns in the United Kingdom by 1865. Under Schedule B of the 1846 Act, admission charges to municipal baths were strictly prescribed at one penny (1 d.) or two pennies (2 d.), charges considerably lower than the sixpence (6 d.) or one shilling charged at Millview. Malcolm Shifrin suggests that part of the reason for the failure of the Ennis baths was high admission charges. Baths in Cork and Belfast (admittedly with considerably larger populations) charged 1 d. or 2 d. for a Turkish bath.

13. Millview is described in Mr Pearson’s newspaper advertisements of March 1878 as having “a frontage of 170 feet, with the River Fergus as a boundary on one side”. Following its sale in March 1878 it was subsequently demolished sometime before 1890, the date of the present building on the site. See the Ordnance Survey town plans of Ennis of 1876-8 (1:500), the Ordnance Survey town plans of Ennis of 1894 (also 1:500), and Dúchas, the Heritage Service National inventory of architectural heritage: Ennis (Dublin, 1997).

14. Bernard H. Becker. Disturbed Ireland: being the letters written during the winter of 1880-81 (London, 1881), p. 160. Mr Becker wrote for the Daily News of London.

The Ennis Turkish Baths 1869 – 1878
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