Welcome to London's History
    create an account |
Theme by www.UserWear.de

Discover the great, the strange, the seedy, the inspired, the criminal and the downright ordinary past of one of the World's Greatest Cities!


· Home

· AvantGo
· Downloads
· Members List
· News
· Recommend Us
· Reviews
· Search
· Sections
· Stats
· Topics
· Top List
· Web Links

The Special Sections are only available to registered users. Login or register for free here.
Samuel Pepys
Elizabeth I
London's Underworld
Fleet Marriages.
The Cries of London

A foggy day in London Town Had me low and had me down. I viewed the morning with alarm, The British Museum had lost its charm. How long, I wondered, could this thing last? But the age of miracles hadn't passed, For, suddenly, I saw you there And through foggy London town the sun was shining everywhere.

-- Ira Gershwin 1937

We have 98 guests and 0 members online

You are an anonymous user. You can register for free by clicking here

Bathing in London from Medi val to Georgian times
Posted on Jun 07, 2002 - 03:34 PM by Anthony Waldstock

From wholesome, sweet waters to dead cats and turnip tops tumbling down the flood, the wells and rivers of London were long a focus of relaxation, entertainment,amusement and revulsion. With the Restoration came the exotic Bagnio for sweating and cupping and later the swimming pool where you could also fish for carp and tench - if you paid your subscription of course!Then came the luxury of an indoor swimming pool where Waiters attend daily to teach or assist Gentlemen in the said Swimming Bath.

Public bathing has long been a feature of London Life. The first reference is found in William Fitz Stephen's 12th century A Description of London.He says:
"There are also round about London in the suburbs most excellent wells, whose waters are sweet, wholesome and clear and whose runnels ripple amid pebbles bright. Among these Holywell, Clerkenwell and Saint Clement's Well are most famous and are visited by thicker throngs and greater multitudes of students from the schools and of the young men of the City, who go out on summer evenings to take the air".
By the end of the 16th century, when Stow wrote his Survey of London there were a variety of wells and ponds on the outskirts of the city which were visited by the general public or specific groups. Those mentioned by Fitz Stephen are still in existence but there have been some changes and some others had come into use:
"The first, to wit, Holy well is much decayed and marred by filthiness purposely hid there, for the heightening of the ground for garden plots. The fountain called St Clement's well, north from the parish church of St Clement's and near unto an inn of Chancerie called Clement's Inn, is fair curbed square with hard stone, kept clean for common use and is always full. The third is called Clarkes' well, or clerkenwell, and is curbed about square with hard stone, not far from the west end of Clerkenwell Church, but close without the wall that incloseth it. The said church took the name of the well and the well took the name of the parish clerks in London, who of old time were accustomed there yearly to assemble and to play some large history of Holy Scripture.

Of the smaller wells were may near unto Clarkes' well, namely Skinners' well, so called for that the Skinners of London held there certain plays yearly, played of Holy Scripture etc. In place whereof wrestlings have of later years been kept, and is inpart continued at Bartholomew tide. Then there was Fagges well, near unto Smithfield by the Charterhouse, now lately damned up, Godewell, Loder's well and Radwell, alldecayed, and so filled up that their places are hardly now discerned. Somewhat north of Holy well is one other well curbed square with stone, and is called Dame Annis the clear, and not far from it, but somewhat west, is also one other clear water called Perillous Pond, because divers youths, by swimming therein, have been drowned."

After the Restoration in 1660 many luxuries and enjoyments which had been banned by the Puritans burst into new life on the London scene - the theatre being one important example. In what one might call the frenzy of hedonism that characterised this new breath of freedom there were many imports. One of these was the Turkish bath known in London as a Bagnio. The first one was opened by Turkish Merchants in December 1679 in a court off Newgate Street now Bath Street. Strype described it as:

"a neat-contrived building, after the Turkish mode, seated in a large handsome yard, and at the upper end of Pincock Lane, which is indifferent well-built, and inhabited. This Bagnio is much resorted unto for sweating, being found very good for aches, etc., and approved of by our physicians."

And Edward Hatton described it in 1708:
"Here is one very spacious room with a cupola roof, besides other lesser; the walls are neatly set with Dutch tile. The charge of the house for sweating, rubbing, shaving, cupping, and bathing is four shillings each person. There are nine servants who attend."

There were two days a week which were reserved for women, the temperature of the bath was eighteen degrees and, to prove the healthiness of the place, Hatton mentions that one of the servants had been in attendance four days a week for twenty-eight years. The building was demolished in 1876 to make way for the extension of the General Post Office. The next Bagnio to open was n Long Acre, Covent Garden. Known as the Duke's Bagnio, it was located on the south side next to Conduit Court. A customer of the day details that in this Bagnio was:

"a large hall where the porter stands to receive the money. Hence we pass through an entry into another room, where hangs a pair of scales to weight such as, out of curiosity, would know how much they lose in weight while they are in the Bagnio. The building was a stately edifice, of an oval figure, in length 45 feet and breadth 35'. On Women's Days there are all imaginable conveniences of privacy, and not a man to be seen, but all the servants are of the female sex."
The Turkish Bath became something of a craze. Another was opened in 1683 in the south-east corner of the Covent Garden Piazza. This one was called a "hummums" (from the Turkish hammam. The hummums did not offer just the usual sweating and bathing facilities - customers could also purchase overnight lodgings as well.

Of course the Thames and its tributaries were obvious places for bathing and other water-based amusements. There are numerous examples of "mothers bathing their children" in rivers such as the Westbourne and Wandle etc. However, the experience cannot always have been a pleasant one. On the western edge of the city was the Fleet river. Its waters were used by the tanners and butchers for soaking hides and cleaning entrails and it was notorious from an early date for the unpleasant smells this activity generated. Effectively, it was an open sewer - an image wonderfully caught by Jonathan Swift:

"Now from all parts the swelling kennels flow,
And bear their trophies with them as they go:
Filth of all hues and odours seem to tell
What street they sail'd from, by their sight and smell ...
Sweepings from butchers' stalls, dung, guts, and blood,
Drown'd puppies, shaking sprats, all drenched in mud,
Dead cats, and turnip tops, come tumbling down the flood."

But this, apparently, did not stop people from bathing in the Fleet. Alexander Pope, in his Dunciad, addressed these lines to the hardy souls who braved these waters south of Fleet Bridge:

"To where Fleet-ditch with disemboguing streams
Rolls the large tribute of dead dogs to Thames,
The King of Dykes ! Than whom no sluice of mud,
With deeper sable blots the silver flood.
'Here strip, my children ! Here at once leap in,
Here prove who best can dash through thick and thin,
And the most in love of dirt excel
Or dark dexterity of groping well."

The first indoor swimming pool was opened in London on 28th May 1742. The Daily Advertiser announced:

This day is opened, at the Bagnio in Lemon Street, Goodman's Fields:The Pleasure or Swimming Bath which is more than forty-three feet in length, it will be kept warm and fresh every Day and is convenient to swim or learn to swim in. There are Waiters attend daily to teach or assist Gentlemen in the said Swimming Bath if required. There is also a good Cold Bath.Subscribers may have the use of both for a Guinea.

The first designed open-air swimming pool was Peerless Pond which was converted from an existing pond at Old Street in 1743. It measured 170 feet by 108 feet and was equipped with an arcade and boxes for dressing, as well as a screen of trees to protect the bathers from the gaze of vulgar people. The Annual subscription was 1 10s. For casual visitors the cost was a shilling a time. The proprietor was a William Kemp, a London jeweller. Beside the swimming pool he kept a large fish pond which he stocked with carp and tench. This open to subscribers for an annual fee of one guinea or to casual anglers for two shillings a time. In winter, the ponds were used for skating .
The original name of the pool had been Perilous Pond on account, according to Stow, of the number of youths who drowned in it whilst swimming. Pennant, writing in 1790, says that it has:

"been converted into the finest and most spacious bathing place now known; where persons may enjoy the manly and useful exercise with safety. Here is also an excellent covered bath with a large pond stocked with fish, a small library, a bowling green and every innocent and rational amusement; so that it is not without reason that the proprietor hath bestowed on it the present name."

Around 1805, the lease was acquired by Joseph Watts who drained the fish pond and constructed Baldwin Street on part of the site. William Hone visited the amenity in 1826 and found that very little had changed.

"Trees enough remain to shade the visitor from the heat of the sun on the brink. On a summer evening it is amusing to survey the conduct of the bathers; some boldly dive, others timorous stand and then descend step by step, unwilling and slow; choice swimmers attract attention by divings and somersets, and the whole sheet of water sometimes rings with merriment. Every fine Thursday and Saturday afternoon in the summer columns of bluecoat boys, more than a score in each, headed by their respective beadles, arrive and some half strip themselves ere they reach their destination. The rapid plunges they make into the Pool and their hilarity in the bath testify their enjoyment of the tepid fluid."
The pool was closed in 1850 and built over and is now occupied by the decidedly unglamorous St. Luke's estate where the trees are long since gone.

Note: Related Reading:
An Elegant Madness: High Society in Georgian London


· More about London's Utilities
· News by Anthony Waldstock

Most read story in London's Utilities:
Bathing in London from Medi val to Georgian times

Bathing in London from Medi val to Georgian times | Login/Create an account | 16 Comments
Comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.
comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Jun 20, 2006 - 05:06 PM
buy ultram ekoostik hookah hookah accessory hookah bar hookah lounge hookah pipe hookah shisha hookah smoke hookah smoking hookah tobacco velvet hookah Ultram buy ultram Alprazolam buy alprazolam Xanax buy xanax Valium buy valium Diazepam buy diazepam

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Jul 01, 2006 - 04:40 PM
cheap actonel subcision levaquin side effects liquid glucosamine buy viagra online information about the drug altace naproxen 500mg type of opiate adhd ritalin ibuprofen 800mg information on the drug lisinopril okinawa coral calcium osteonecrosis and fosamax metformin ritalin la generic viagra concerta effects side buy phentermine online order effexor xr lipitor side effects celexa withdrawal yasmin bleath plavix buy paxil

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Jul 06, 2006 - 02:06 AM
phentermine and glucophage nexium online cephalexin monohydrate clonidine withdrawal paxil and alcohol tramadol online progesterone suppositories tramadol hydrochloride cozaar 50mg chromium picolinate 200 ativan lorazepam bare foot coral calcium levaquin side effects bextra lawsuit effects niacin trazodone sleep purchase viagra amoxicillin side effects

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Jul 06, 2006 - 06:37 PM
tramadol shop smoke tobacco avandia medication osteonecrosis and fosamax oral lamisil prilosec nexium smokeless tobacco calcium carbonate adderall buy online drug metformin bextra lawsuit coumadin and vitamin k buy hydrocodone zyrtec onlinechromium piccolinate diabetes prescription tenuate without augmentin xr amoxicillin and clavulanate nicotine withdrawal ritalin abuse lamisil 250 generic zyrtec

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Jul 08, 2006 - 07:01 AM
allegra side effects aciphex buy fluoxetine ibuprofen overdose prozac zoloft paxil buy vioxx lisinopril medicine percocet side effect buy celebrex online meridia order acetaminophen effects side coumadin side effects risperdal information buy ambien cephalexin monohydrate ibuprofen 800 mg zocor side affect zyrtec dosage zyprexa zydis lipitor vs zocor celebrex

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Jul 29, 2006 - 05:55 PM
free poker ### better handheld jacks ### internet betting bo review sic worldssp.net ### nfl betting pick baseball-lines win jackpot ### jack black ### las vegas baccarat online gambling ### flash riverbelle ### online casino gambling internet poker online casino gambling riverbelle win money casino royale trailer lucky nugget poker ### estate las real vegas ### bingo game poker chips ### goldenpalace great chance mlb-betting great success craps rule online nfl betting ### baccarat strategy ### nfl football betting line online casino gambling riverbelle poker basketball betting ### craps table ###

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Aug 07, 2006 - 10:29 AM
black jack bodog tips casino black jack nfl football betting odds free gambling flash riverbelle craps rule flight las vegas winning strategy for bodog nfl gambling odds bodog best resources craps rule basketball betting nba odds clifford the big red dog picture baccarat online lucky-nugget win cash online sports betting baccarat jewelry goldenpalace poker gambling game better gambling jacks poker tip horse betting goldenpalace play free online casino gambling casino royale mlb-betting win jackpot

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Aug 29, 2006 - 12:41 PM
cheap nexium doxycycline and alcohol effexor side effects sildenafil citrate chromium loss picolinate weight effects side tenuate levaquin side effects drug altace yasmin birth control naproxen information generic prilosec klonopin online depo provera birth control shot progesterone level in pregnancy neurontin anxiety metformin and pregnancy buy online renova buy plavix

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Sep 08, 2006 - 07:14 AM
prilosec otc side effects lorazepam overdose nexium 40mg buy valium online dilantin toxicity vasopro ephedrine buspar dividose ambien online cheap meridia history of anabolic steroid paxil withdrawal buy xenical online affect effexor side xr cheap zocor trazodone overdose online fluoxetine

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Sep 21, 2006 - 05:42 AM
cartoon erotic effexor xr online manga anime dvd cheap valtrex manga drawing sakura hentai claritin coupon hentai anime picture glucosamine for dog nicotine addiction bextra vioxx generic viagra anime angels online manga

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Sep 28, 2006 - 03:45 PM
cartoon joes klonopin anxiety drug niacin test read manga online coumadin manga lamisil cream for foot digimon hentai anime hentai anime sex manga gallery cartoon dirty humor ephedrine allegra cole shemale hentai adderall loss weight

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Oct 18, 2006 - 02:42 AM
ultram addiction story online phentermine site web cheap phentermine taking buy tenuate effexor side effects bontril purchase phentermine review lexapro information blog online xanax buy online upjohn xanax cheap viagra generic lipitor ultram pain medicine adipex phentermine no prescription money order phentermine yasmin birth control pill

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Nov 08, 2006 - 03:39 AM
tramadol online discount cheap buy tramadol online 377 tramadol symptom tramadol withdrawal tramadol 50mg tablet prescription tramadol tramadol addiction effects tramadol effects medication side tramadol tramadol hcl tramadol ultram blog hydrochloride tramadol online order tramadol tramadol dosage for dog tramadol used for tramadol hcl side effects

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Nov 14, 2006 - 03:08 PM
order tramadol Buy ritalin Buy hydrocodone cheap tramadol buy online online onlinepharmacy.tv pharmacy tramadol Buy clomid Buy meridia Buy niacin Buy celebrex drug effects side tramadol antidepressant tramadol ultram 100 tramadol Buy soma canine tramadol ultram lawsuit 50 mg tramadol Buy allegra drug effects more side tramadol effects medication side tramadol

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Nov 21, 2006 - 02:37 AM
meridia online weaning off of effexor lexapro withdrawal buy klonopin buy lexapro ingredient tramadol tramadol ingredient effexor withdrawal side effects buying percocet order percocet online ultram prescription snorting lexapro picture ultram tramadol line maker of viagra where to buy viagra information percocet 512

comment (Score: 0)
by Anonymous on Nov 27, 2006 - 02:07 PM
purchase xanax xenical online ambien buy cr levitra dosage levitra online 50 mg tramadol cheap xanax online ambien 10 mg tramadol 50mg tramadol hcl cheap online order xanax ambien drug ambien pharmacy buy cheap ambien side effects of tramadol hydrochloride

© 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. Unless otherwise indicated, all written material on the storyoflondon site is the copyright of Bill McCann. All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters.

Web www.storyoflondon.com

This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

This European History Site
is owned by

If you would like to join this ring
Click Here

[Prev 5][Prev][Next][Random][Next 5] [List]

This web site was made with PostNuke, a web portal system written in PHP. PostNuke is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL license.
You can syndicate our news using the file backend.php