The last fully operational Turkish Baths in the Northwest closed their doors in November, with no plan as to how or when they might reopen. Until their closure Carlisle Turkish Baths were one of only 12 original Turkish Baths to have remained in use in Britain, from the over 700 that were built from 1856 onwards.
Opened in 1909 as an addition to the Corporation Public Baths on James Street, Carlisle, the Turkish Baths had remained in constant use for 113 years, save for a period of closure in the 1950s. Although the glazed brick walls in two of the original hot rooms and the terrazzo floor had been covered, the opulent cooling room rivals the interiors of Harrogate and Porchester Turkish Baths, albeit on a more modest scale.
Uncertainty had surrounded the future of the Grade II listed baths since 2018, after Carlisle City Council voted to build new pools in the city’s main leisure centre. However, a spirited community campaign to save the Turkish Baths began after the Council commissioned a feasibility study to look at repurposing the building in early 2021.
The campaign led to the formation of the Friends of Carlisle Victorian Turkish Baths who secured funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Cumbria Local Economic Partnership for their own viability study. The Group aims to commence a second more detailed study next year, with a view to a community asset transfer and renovation.
However, local government reorganisation in Cumbria is further adding to the uncertainty, with a new unitary authority, Cumberland Council replacing both the city and county councils in April. In the meantime, the baths are in urgent need of protection.
For further information visit www.carlislebaths.co.uk.