Turkish Baths Harrogate celebrates its 125th birthday this month

Photo of inside the Turkish Baths

This month (July), Turkish Baths Harrogate will mark a historic milestone, celebrating 125 years of perfecting the art of relaxation.

Originally opened on Friday 23 July 1897 by The Duke of Cambridge Prince George, the Royal Baths were built by Baggalley & Bristowe of London at the cost of £120,000 on the site of the old Montpellier Baths.

Water was pumped to the baths from several different springs, with treatments for conditions such as rheumatism, arthritis and sciatica being offered.

Facilities available during the baths' Victorian heyday, included dispensing of medicinal waters, hydrotherapy departments, mud baths and steam rooms as well as consulting doctors.

And what may seem like a bizarre range of treatments today were household names then, including the likes of the 'Plombiere' douche, Schnee (electric hydrotherapy) bath, saline sulphur and peat baths.

The baths were popular with members of royal families from around the world and a particular favourite of Queen Victoria's granddaughters - Princess Alix and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine.

Although Turkish Baths were common in Victorian times, only seven remain dating back to the 19th century. None is as historically complete and in full working order as Turkish Baths Harrogate.

Their importance lies in their decoration, elaboration and rarity. The baths' Moorish design with Islamic arches and screens, walls of vibrant glazed brickwork, arabesque painted ceilings and terrazzo floors all add to its historic elegant features.

In 2018, Harrogate Borough Council carried out a £300,000 investment project to further enhance the unique historic character of the Grade II* listed building, while upgrading facilities to ensure it continues to thrive into the future.

During the project, previously hidden spaces were discovered to reveal ornate vaulted ceilings and a tiled area which was brought into use to offer traditional hammam treatments, for the first time in decades.

Today, the baths are a popular destination for visitors and locals alike and continue to offer their unique heat experience with the addition of modern spa treatments to complement and enhance the customer experience.

Councillor Stanley Lumley, Harrogate Borough Council's cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, and chair of the board of directors at Brimhams Active, said: "In a year of celebration, it's fantastic that Turkish Baths Harrogate has reached such a significant milestone.

"It truly is a jewel in Harrogate's crown, and each year tens of thousands of people visit us to enjoy a unique journey of heating, cooling and cleansing treatments, just as our Victorian ancestors did. And following our investment in 2018 and our ongoing commitment to the baths, customers can continue to enjoy both traditional and modern wellness experiences in such a historic setting. Here's to another 125 years perfecting the art of relaxation in Britain's most fully restored Victorian Turkish baths."

Mark Tweedie, manager director of Brimhams Active, said: "Maintaining good health and wellbeing is vital, and at Turkish Baths Harrogate you can enjoy a unique regime of relaxation and rejuvenation. Our customers often tell us they feel exhilarated, euphoric and have a sense of total relaxation after a session at the baths. And what an incredible facility to be able to do so."

Published: 20th July 2022