HistoryThe history and restoration of the Glossop Road Baths, and the creation of Spa 1877.
In 2000 our Turkish Bath, set in a once proud landmark building, was derelict. Cast aside 7 years earlier in the name of progress, replaced with stainless steel and smart glass buildings with 'state of the art' facilities designed for the 21st Century.
The challenge facing us was to restore, open and operate this once popular venue for thousands of Sheffielders and visitors to the ‘ Steel City ’. But where do you start? To successfully create a building with a future, we had to look to its past…
The original building known to many locals as the ‘Glossop Road Baths’, dates back to 1836, and was built as a medical facility rather than swimming baths, at the height of the Cholera epidemic in which 402 Sheffield people died. Before the baths were built people were obliged to immerse themselves in the River Don, which was becoming increasingly polluted. The Sheffield Bath Company Ltd was formed in 1875 and purchased the public baths for £2,500. This coincided with the rise in popularity in bathing and marked a change of emphasis from medical to recreational use.
The Victorians added a different dimension to the original bathing tradition with features like the ‘plunge pool’. Today ours is chilled to around 4°C and perhaps more importantly is filtered and treated constantly, as far as we can tell the original plunge was simply filled in the morning and drained in the evening and would get murkier throughout the day!
During the restoration project our biggest inspiration was also our worst problem - the building itself. Here’s how it was described in 1877 by Building News ‘New Turkish baths, considered the finest in the kingdom, have just been opened in Victoria Street… the interior is lavishly fitted with tessellated (mosaic) pavements, white and coloured glazed brick walls, arched and decorated ceilings, marble and felt covered seats.’
What greeted us in 2000 however was an altogether different proposition, it was a major restoration project, made even more intimidating as we didn’t know if anyone would want to visit a restored Victorian Turkish bath and "essential beauty" area housed in what was the former furnace, boiler and plant room, probably the most unlikely venue of all.
50, 000 glazed bricks are a large part of what provides the Spa with its unique identity and over 15,000 were cut out and replaced during the restoration. Slabs of granite were painstakingly cut and polished to recreate the original warmed benches and the mosaic floor in the Hammam was reproduced from photographs and shipped in from Italy; although the fleur-de-lys motif had to be re-designed to protect the original copyright of 1877! The specialist equipment needed to provide the different heat experiences had to be customized to fit into a listed Victorian building. 21st Century technology meets 19th Century architecture creates some interesting problems, but the stunning end result more than made up for the challenges.
The transformation of the old furnace and boiler rooms into the "essential beauty" downstairs was perhaps the most incredible – a dark and dingy basement became a light, bright, brilliant area for essential beauty treatments. Working with such a blank canvas meant the team could experiment with the latest materials and designs to create a truly stylish and modern space, and the exposed brick work walls act as a reminder of the Spa’s industrial past.
Spa 1877 has at all times attempted to remain true to the origins of the Turkish Bath, retaining where possible as many of the original Victorian features, but, just like the Victorians, we have incorporated the latest advances in technology and treatment methods for our guests to enjoy today and hopefully well into the future.
To see more about the Turkish Baths today, visit our Spa Experience page.