The Model Establishment, c.1847 to 1871
Contributed by Survey of London on July 27, 2016
Following Edwin Chadwick’s sanitary reports of 1842, a ‘Committee for Baths
for the Labouring Classes’ was formed in October 1844 as a result of a high
profile public meeting organised to address the issue. The group, based in
London and made up of notable citizens, aimed to improve the sanitary
conditions of the poor through the construction of publically accessible
washing facilities. This gentlemanly enthusiasm for bath houses was spurred on
by pressing concerns regarding the ability of the ‘industrious’ classes to rid
themselves of ‘personal and domestic dirt’ in order to prevent further
outbreaks of cholera. The Committee agreed to make their first specific
intervention in Whitechapel and private subscriptions were sought to support
the new Baths. This exemplar project was to be sited between Goulston Street
on the west and Castle Alley on the east. P. P. Baly was appointed to design
the building, Messrs Piper the builder, and work duly began in December 1845.
Although a date stone on the Castle Alley façade was inscribed with the year
1846, the Baths were not officially opened until July 1847 and even then only
in part. Reliant on public subscriptions and loans, this delay was caused by
alterations and additions to Baly’s original design which pushed the total
cost up from £15,000 to £23,000. The project reached eventual completion in
1851. Inspecting the Baths, The Builder lauded its ‘Useful’ design, but held
that the scheme was entirely devoid of the ‘Beautiful’, disparagingly noting
that its appearance was ‘not simply plain and unpretending, but downright
ugly.’ Whilst the Committee acknowledged the severe aesthetics, it diverted
criticism away from the architect by drawing attention to the lack of
financial backing which necessitated such functionalism. On account of funding
difficulties, the Committee was forced to abandon its original intention to
build four such establishments of several storeys each. The single storey
Whitechapel Baths was their only success.
The building claimed two principal elevations, both of red-brick construction
with white-brick window dressings. The washing department was located and
entered from the east with one entrance, for women only (see figure 1). The
bathing department was accessed from the west, with separate entrances for men
and women. Inside, the accommodation was divided roughly in two, fitted out
with ninety-four slipper baths and ninety-six washing places. Slate washing
cubicles were arranged in three rows with individual stations facing ‘back-to-
back’ in pairs, each supplied with a boiling tub, a washing tub and a drying
horse (see figure 2). The sunken cast-iron slipper baths were divided equally
between first and second class but two thirds of the baths were assigned to
men and one third to women, correctly pre-empting an imbalance of use.
Positioned to the north of the Baths, facing onto Goulston Street, a modest
‘plunge’ bath lined with dressing boxes sat below rooms allocated to the
superintendent of the establishment.
Figure 1: ‘As built’ plan of Baths and Wash-house printed in The Builder, 8
Feb 1851, p.90
As former superintendent of I. K. Brunel’s Hungerford Bridge, Baly drew on his
expertise in ironwork to engineer a structure which facilitated the efficient
flow of water around the building. The ground floor rested on a basement
formed of inverted brick arches and walls tied together with iron rods. Iron
columns rose up on these vaults, projecting up to support a slate roof divided
into ten bays. Below ground, two coal-fuelled boilers provided hot water and a
steam engine enabled it to be pumped up from the underground reservoir to an
elevated water tank positioned next to the central brick chimney stack. Gas
heated the irons and mechanical ventilation was aided by roof openings.
Figure 2: Engraving of women at their washing stations (possibly in Baly’s
Westminster Wash-house of 1849), ‘The Pictorial Handbook of London’, 1854,
Fulfilling the ambitions of the Committee, the Baths were judged to be both
nationally and world-leading. Indeed, the attention the Whitechapel project
attracted influenced Parliament to pass the important ‘Baths and Washhouses
Act’ of 1846. Critically this Act gave boroughs and parishes the power to
raise rates and borrow public funds to support the construction of public
baths to be governed by bodies of commissioners. The Act required that twice
as many baths were be provided for the labouring classes as for the upper
classes and set out maximum fees of 1d for a cold bath, 2d for a warm one, and
1d for one hour’s use of a washing place. By the time the Whitechapel ‘Model’
reached completion in 1851, seven bath houses had been constructed within
London. Reflecting later on its influence, the Illustrated London News noted
that either Whitechapel’s design had been ‘unimprovable perfection’ or
architects of later establishments had been ‘copying one another with a
touching fidelity’. It was reported that representatives from France and
Belgium, where Baly worked as resident railway engineer from 1845-49, took up
the invitation to inspect the Model. Made more widely known through the
distribution of drawings, it was upon the Whitechapel precedent that several
bath houses were approved for Paris. Awareness of its success also contributed
to the provision of similar facilities in the United States. The Model was
however not the first of its kind in England, nor indeed London. It followed
after a small-scale experiment at London Docks in Glasshouse Yard and, as a
result of the delays during the construction of Whitechapel’s Baths, the bath
house at St Pancras opened before it in 1846.
In spite of these considerable successes, the ghost of financial difficulty
haunted the Whitechapel Baths far beyond the construction stage and the Model
struggled to make a sustainable turnover. The challenges facing the
establishment made it hard to find men willing to partake in its governance.
Seeking a way forward, in 1854 the Baths were offered to the City Corporation
for £13,000, the sum of its liabilities. The transfer did not come to fruition
however and the Baths struggled on. Crippled by debt, they were closed in
March 1871, intended for sale. A six-year period of disuse followed while
campaigners sought to protect the institution, and the building fell into near
dereliction. As an exemplar, the Baths proved a success. As proof of the long
term financial viability of bath houses, they did not.
Re-opening and Extension, c.1871 to 1889
Contributed by Survey of London on July 27, 2016
The density and poverty of the area surrounding Whitechapel Baths was
frequently noted in late nineteenth-century reports. Two years after their
closure, Dr John Liddle, Medical Officer for Health in Whitechapel, reported
families living, eating and sleeping in one room. With women washing and
drying clothes in the same space, the inhabitants were ‘drinking in the seeds
of disease from an atmosphere reeking with foul steam’. Well-placed supporters
rallied to resurrect the Model. Progress towards re-opening was however
The Baths found their saviour in the Vestry of Whitechapel. The Vestry agreed
to take over the management of the Baths as long as money was raised to cover
its debts and ensure its repair. To raise funds, a musical benefit was held in
the Royal Albert Hall, the amateur orchestra assisted by no less than the Duke
of Edinburgh. By 1876 a scheme of reconstruction had been approved and £8,500
was borrowed from the Metropolitan Board of Works to support the
refurbishment. D. B. Glass undertook the building work and the Baths opened
once again in 1878.
In that same year a revision to the Baths and Wash-houses Act extended
legislation to enable the provision of swimming pools by local authorities.
Responding to the ‘great recreational explosion’ and to the opportunity
presented by the revised Act, Frederic Mocatta and the Rev. Samuel Barnett led
a proposal to erect two new swimming baths in 1884. These eminent East End
social reformers promised to secure the purchase of land to the north of the
site, reclaimed by the Artizans' Commission, from the MBW. Three houses
annexed to the Baths on the south side were also sold to raise the necessary
funds for construction to begin. Local architect, John Hudson, drew up the
design in 1885 and the building contract was granted to Mark Gentry. In May
1886 the new swimming baths were opened by the Lord Mayor before the
performance of ‘a series of clever aquatic evolutions’. Entry into the first
class pool was set at 6d and 2d for the second.
The addition of the new swimming baths doubled the area occupied by the Model
and a new entrance canopy to Goulston Street extended out beyond the previous
building line. The internal arrangement of the bath house was also adjusted to
further prioritise ‘men’s second class’ slipper baths. Both pools, accessible
only to men, were lined with dressing boxes above which galleries were
constructed in 1890 along with two waiting rooms which lay to the east. The
new swimming baths enabled many local school children to learn to swim and
were especially frequented by the parish Board schools. The old bath house on
the other hand continued to serve a diverse range of local inhabitants. One
paper reported “Jews, English, German, Dutch, Polish, harkers and
costermongers, the dirtiest of the dirty” using the slipper baths once weekly.
The Ladies Swimming Bath and Recreation Hall, c.1893 to 1938
Contributed by Survey of London on July 27, 2016
For several years women and schoolgirls were only given access to the swimming
baths on Wednesdays, so that they might ‘acquire the art of swimming’. However
the increasing demand for a ladies swimming bath prompted a new scheme to be
commissioned. Architect Bruce J. Capell of 70 Whitechapel Road was appointed
to this end in 1893 and £13, 000 was borrowed to fund the building work.
Robert Booth acted as engineer and William Goodman was the building
The ladies swimming bath was officially opened in spring 1897 although a
plaque claimed July 1st 1896. Neither date represented a full opening however,
for work was completed only in January 1902. A new floor to cover the first-
class swimming baths was finished in 1904 allowing for the Baths to be granted
an entertainment license for music and dancing. In 1910 a cinematography box
was inserted at the gallery level of the second-class baths allowing for
projections into the first-class swimming baths. The floored over hall could
seat 1,000 people according to a schedule of 1921. Up until the outbreak
of the Second World War, this hall was well used by different community groups
and businesses, accommodating plays, concerts, film nights, bazaars, lads
brigades, boxing, political rallies and the Jewish Sabbath meetings of the
Capell’s design further extended the Goulston Street entrance frontage, this
time to run almost in line with the new swimming baths before receding back on
a sharp diagonal to meet the existing party wall to the south. The ladies
swimming bath was created within the area formerly occupied by the men’s
second-class slipper baths and was lit by two large skylights. The female
first- and second-class slipper baths remained largely in place on the ground
floor. The men’s slipper baths were instead moved to a new first-floor area
situated above the new entrance. The additional floor also allowed for more
generous living quarters for the superintendent, whose sitting room was
endowed with a projecting bay window in red brick. The first-class baths and
the new ladies’ baths were lined with polished marble; the floors and dressing
compartments in an artificial ‘Victoria’ stone.
One local speaking of his experiences in the 1920s noted that, ‘the baths were
like a community centre for Jews, especially elderly Jews’ in their
preparation for the Sabbath. Local schoolchildren, Jewish and non-Jewish, were
also long-standing beneficiaries of the Baths, often receiving free use of the
pools, entering on markedly reduced ticket rates as well as enjoying frequent
swimming galas. The swimming baths were also used by the city’s plentiful
swimming clubs for adults. In September 1890 for example the first-class pool
hosted the galas of the Jewish Working Men’s, City Police, Falcon Club and
African Swimming Clubs.
A drawing of 1938 by the Borough Engineer and Surveyor shows the washing
places within the wash house removed, replaced by additional women’s slipper
baths after resisting any material alteration for almost a century. Next to
these, a new ‘establishment laundry’ is depicted, purposed to wash and dry the
hired towels and drawers. All entrances to Old Castle Street are closed off.
Evidence of the implementation for this plan is lacking; it was probably
interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. However the existence of
such a proposal indicates the declining usefulness of the old ‘wash house’.
War Damage and Rebuilding, c.1939 to 1990
Contributed by Survey of London on July 27, 2016
A rocket bomb that fell on 10 November 1944 spelled the definitive end for the
washing department. Whitechapel Baths remained in a ‘bombed state’ for many
years after. Water from the swimming baths had already been pumped to
Houndsditch to put out fires raging during the blitz in 1941.
Although the men’s second-class bath was damaged beyond repair and the wash-
house abandoned, the two other pools were salvaged and reinstated for short-
term use. The ladies swimming bath was retained as an indoor pool whilst the
roofless men’s first-class bath was continued as an outdoor pool. But this was
an unsatisfactory arrangement for such a well-loved establishment and a
lengthy negotiation to rebuild ensued between Stepney Borough Council and the
War Damage Commission beginning in 1954.
The drawn out dispute that followed centred on the Council’s desire for a
‘modern redevelopment’ of the Baths instead of the ‘like-for-like’
reinstatement which formed the basis of the War Commission’s compensation
package. Both parties finally settled on a sum of £72,000 for reconstruction.
Unwilling to give up on their vision of a substantially updated building, the
Council was left to make up the difference between the compensation and the
cost of their redevelopment. The building contract was won by W. J. Marston
and Son Ltd for £109,548 and work began in November 1959 for a projected
eighty weeks, but, as with previous rebuildings, work significantly overran.
Inclement weather, late amendments to the design, difficulty of sourcing
materials and unexpected issues with the foundations and structural works
contributed to the delays. The new building was finally opened on 28 April
Reusing the foundations, the scheme mostly reiterated the internal
organization of the previous building although the new façade along Goulston
Street was given a Modernist twist. The swimming baths themselves were mostly
unchanged, excepting enlarged viewing galleries, suspended ceilings and a
small extension to the first-class swimming bath to bring it to 100 feet
exactly in length. Fifty-nine slipper baths were positioned on the ground and
first floors as before but terrazzo partitions replaced their slate
predecessors. The ‘public laundry’ to the eastern side and the boiler house
were reinstated. For the first time however, provisions were made to ensure
all swimming baths could be used by men and women. The work re-established the
Whitechapel Baths as the best in the area, a fact reflected in its higher
charges for galas and buoyant attendance figures.
In the year 1963-4 there were 82,790 users of the slipper baths and 109,620 of
the swimming baths, and yet it was considered that the use of slipper baths
was in ‘sharp decline’ as a result of a loss of population in the local area
and the improved housing facilities. There is evidence that, as the Jewish
community resiled from use of the washing facilities in respect of the
Sabbath, the area’s new Muslim community revived demand for the baths in
connection with their ritual ablutions. In 1960 the Baths opened one hour
early in order to ensure that members of the East London Mosque could wash and
attend the mosque in time for 9am prayers for Eid. In a further reflection of
changes in leisure practices, 1972 saw many slipper baths removed to make way
for two new pine-faced saunas, divided for male and female use. A solarium was
installed in 1976 alongside a gym with a five-stationed ‘gym compact’, a
rowing and a cycling machine. One wall within the gym was decorated with a
mural depicting gymnasts in action, produced by local artists from the Tower
Hamlets Arts Project.
The 1990s ushered in the closure of the Whitechapel Baths, in spite of
surviving a fire in 1985. Promising a brand new swimming pool elsewhere in the
borough, the Council reported that the Baths did not meet modern health and
safety standards and were running at a loss. The abrupt closure provoked an
intense outburst of bitterness and protest in Whitechapel which was organised
into a co-ordinated but ultimately unsuccessful ‘Save Whitechapel Baths’
campaign. Feasibility studies spurred on by this group demonstrated the
viability of re-opening the institution but no action was taken apart from a
stripping of the building’s assets. The Baths sat vacant for two years and
sank further into a state of decline. In 1993, the land was sold to the London
Guildhall University (formerly the City of London Polytechnic), with the
intention of converting the swimming pools into lecture halls.
The Women’s Library and London Metropolitan University, c.1995 onwards
Contributed by Survey of London on July 27, 2016
The conversion was not immediate. In 1995 Wright and Wright Architects won a
design competition to remodel the site for London Guildhall, which was to be
consolidated into the London Metropolitan University (LMU) in 2002. Ultimately
the architects created the Law Department of LMU and, significantly, ‘The
Women’s Library’ – a unique collection hosted by the University. Having lodged
in a cramped basement of the adjacent Calcutta House for many years, the new
Library costing £4.5 million was funded by private and public donors of whom
the Heritage Lottery Fund was the most significant. The Women’s Library was
completed in 2001, the Law Department followed shortly after in 2003.
The client’s brief requested the new library ‘feel permanent’. Wright and
Wright’s design made use of thick concrete walls which contributed to a
restrained architectural aesthetic as well as providing substantial thermal
mass for improved environmental performance. In its dignity and pragmatism,
the building was regarded by the architectural press as a ‘model of
politeness’. The design bore a resemblance to the technology-led original
Baths. Both schemes shunned unnecessary ornamentation in favour of carefully
considered efficiency and ventilation. Maintaining continuity with the
thousands of women who had utilized the same entrances for over a century and
a half, the practice elected to privilege the eastern façade of 1846 (see
figure 3). Indeed it was this willingness to engage with the site’s history
that Claire Wright believed won the architects the commission. Behind this
punctuated black facade, a substantial new building of red brick stepped back,
rising up to five storeys and down into a basement. Internally the purpose-
built accommodation was arranged around a centrally located ground floor
exhibition space lined with pocket courtyards and a cafe. A modest staircase
led up to the archive, library, offices and reading rooms. The design for the
interior clearly drew attention to the visual and physical connections between
these diverse spaces. Because of these interlocking rooms and voids, The
Architectural Review lauded the building possessing ‘the elegant complexity
of a Chinese puzzle’. In this organisation, the design rejected conventional
spatial hierarchies, an act which some argued was self-consciously ‘feminist’.
In 2002 it was awarded the RIBA Journal’s ‘Best UK Building of the Year’
Figure 3: Wright and Wright’s Women’s Library (photographed February 2015)
The innovative library only continued in this purpose-built accommodation
until 2012 when it was sold to the London School of Economics. Reminiscent of
efforts to save the Baths, the ‘Save The Women’s Library’ campaign gathered a
petition with over 12,000 signatories and was backed by prominent supporters,
including RIBA President Angela Brady. One protester reflected that the
Library and its award-winning home belonged together, like “a body and its
insides”. According to the designs of Molyneux Kerr Architects, LMU
substantially adapted the ground floor interior to house a new central lecture
theatre and is presently preparing to relocate its own wide ranging archival
collections to the site.
How the Wash Houses were used
Contributed by Survey of London on April 17, 2018
East End historian and guide David Charnick recounts some of the history of
the former Whitechapel Baths and Wash House on Old Castle Street.
“Well. We're on Old Castle Street and we're looking at the wash house entrance
to the old Whitechapel Baths and Wash House or, as it was known at the time,
the model establishment. The date on the front is 1846. That's when Prince
Albert himself came here to lay the foundations stone, but the building didn't
actually open until 1847. At that point, it still wasn't finished anyway.
There was still work to be carried out.
As the name implies, baths and wash houses, you got two functions. The baths
were what were called slipper baths. In other words, they were individual
bathtubs in cubicles. The main entrances of those were on the other side from
where we are now on Goulston Square, which was just off of Goulston Street.
You had first and second class baths. First class baths, you got two towels
instead of one and a bit more hot water and a nicer cubicle. Second class
baths were just as accommodating. Then, you had the washhouse side, which
again was small cubicles.
These were where obviously the women of the family, the mothers, would bring
the laundry to do. Each little cubicle would have two troughs at the end. One
of them was for warm water for general washing. The other was hot water heated
by steam, which was for your boil washed to get rid of the stubborn stains, et
cetera. In between, at certain point, you would have what they called ringing
machines, which are basically hand operated tumble dryers.
You put your wet clothes into there, shut the lid, turn the handle and then,
they would get partially dry. There were also some, what we called clothes
horses that would come out from the wall where you could air your clothes and
dry them properly before you took them home.
The building was demolished later in the 20th century. Not totally sure of the
date because some say the 1980s, some say early 21st century, but certainly
was demolished and made way for the new building that sort of peeps up behind
it, which is the former Women's Library.
There was [also] a swimming pool. Plunge baths as they used to call them in
those days. They had the trouble with the model establishment is that although
they did charge a small fee for baths, it was by no means enough to keep the
place going and it actually closed in 1871. It was up to its neck in debt and
the local authority, the Whitechapel Board of Works, they took it over on the
grounds that the money could be raised by charitable means to clear the debts.
When it reopened in 1878, it had a large plunge pool for men and then, later a
second one was added for women. No mix bathing in those days.
When it actually came into being, It was created by one of a number of groups
that were appearing in the early 19th century to encourage public bathhouses.
This was The Society for the Committee for Promoting the Establishment of
Baths and Wash Houses for the Labouring Classes, which was created in 1844 at
a public meeting at the Mansion House in the City of London. Its Principal was
the Bishop of London. They actually opened two wash houses before this one,
but they were in converted buildings.
This was to be the model establishment. This was to be the prototype that was
to be followed by others. By 1852, the society was reporting that there were
representatives from various European cities and indeed cities from the US who
were coming to visit, taking notes of what was being provided here, et cetera
and then going back to their own countries and starting their own. The people
here weren't bothered about that. They wanted people to copy them.
They wanted to be, as I say, the prototype to encourage more of such
establishments to be created. It was essentially a charitable body. It was
only taken over by the local authority of the Whitechapel Board of Works in
the late 1870s. One of the people behind that was Samuel Barnett who was a
major philanthropist in the area.
A variety of people, [used the baths]. As I say, you had to pay a small fee.
Although, when there were outbreaks of cholera in the area in the 1840s, they
made the baths free for access.
It would presumably have been a weekly visit. Because people around here, even
people in regular work weren’t earning a great deal. There was a limit to how
much they could pay on luxuries of bathing. Although, people were well aware
of the necessity for bathing, I mean we tend to think of this idea of
cleanliness next to godliness, but it wasn't actually a Victorian sentiment.
One of the major diseases prevalent in Victorian times and indeed prior to
that was typhus fever, which is a sort of umbrella term for a number of fevers
that are spread by parasites that goes from human body to human body.
Particularly in things like jails when they didn't use to have individual
cells, they had communal cells and so, parasites would run around. The need to
clean your body and to wash your clothes to get rid of these parasites was
paramount to avoid the spread of typhus. There was an awareness of how
important these things were. Everything was done to encourage people to use
them. Abolishing taxation on lanolin, which was used to make soap and things
like this. There was a lot of movement in the 19th century to make bathing and
cleanliness much more affordable."
David Charnick (www.charnowalks.co.uk) was speaking to Shahed Saleem on
23.02.18. The text has been edited for print.
Going to the baths in the 1950s and 1960s
Contributed by Rosemarie Wayland (nee Zetolofsky) on June 6, 2017
I remember going to the public baths in Goulston Street because we had no
bathroom at home. You brought a clean towel and clothes with you and paid your
money at the entrance. In return you were given a ticket which you gave to the
attending lady. You were then shown to your bathroom and given a plug to stop
the water draining away. In the room there was a sink and a mirror. You
shouted out 'More hot water for number 10!'
First visit to the baths
Contributed by Survey of London on Feb. 6, 2018
Yoel Sheridan grew up in Goodman's Fields in the 1930s and 40s and has written
about the experiences of his family at this time in a book called 'From Here
to Obscurity' (Tenterbooks, 2001). He recalls that he visited the Goulston
Street Public Baths with his brothers every Friday on his way home from
school. Here he describes attending the baths for the first time with his
"Yulus was escorted, on his first visit, by his eldest brother who had the
appearance of an expert bather. He always looked immaculate...Having paid on
entry Yulus was given a ticket that he handed to an attendant in exchange for
a clean neatly folded white towel and a bar of soap. Yulus sat with his
brother on a bench against the wall of a clinical white-tiled ante-room that
had a strong smell of chlorine. Next! Shouted another attendant who wore white
overalls over white trousers and white canvas shoes. Yulus was ushered through
swinging doors, his brother at his side, into a long, wide corridor flanked on
either side by cubicles, all but one, with their doors closed. The doors were
not full-sized, there being a large gap between the bottom and the floor and
of such a height that the attendant, by stretching, could see over. There was
a clock on every door, each showing a different time. On the outside walls of
each cubicle were hot and cold water taps that were operated by a large
removable key handle, presently attached to the tap of the open cubicle. The
attendant swung the door open further to reveal a white bath that in Yulus's
eyes was enormous, big enough for a swim. The bath was half full of water.
Clean looking but yellowish in colour. Test it, said the attendant as Yulus
stared at the bath in bewilderment. It's his first time, said his brother. Put
yer 'and in and see if it's too 'ot, said the cockney attendant standing at
the open door, broom in hand. Yulus touched the water gingerly and said Ouch!
Too 'ot? Fought so, said the attendant as he moved the key from the hot to the
cold tap and swung it round. A strong gush of cold water streamed out of the
elephant-sized tap outlet for a few seconds and then stopped as he swung the
key handle back. Try it now. He ordered. Go on, stick yer 'and in. Be''er?
(the 't's' of better and other words were not pronounced) he asked. Yulus
nodded. Fought so, said the attendant as he adjusted the clock face on the
door. You's go' twen'y mini's, tha's till 'alf pas' the 'our, like the clock
sez and not a mini' more. Unnerstan'? How will I know, if the clock is on the
other side of the door? Cos there's a real clock up there, ain't there? He
said pointing upwards with his broom to a large clock hanging from the ceiling
that could be seen from every cubicle.
Ask him now, said his brother, nudging Yulus to instill confidence. Yulus had
been told that it was more private to bathe in the public baths than at home.
If that's the case, said Yulus, then why don't they call them private baths?
You'll have to ask at the baths, he was told. Whadge wanna know? Asked the
attendant with a momentary show of kindness. Why are the baths called public
when each cubicle is private and why are they called slipper baths? Ventured
Yulus, never short of adding a question. Wha' a bloody question! How should I
know? I only work 'ere. Retorted the attendant as he turned to Yulus's
brother...You're next. We ain't go' all day yer know. Nah you! He said turning
to Yulus. Ge' yer clothes orf, ge' in and ge' washed. Every bi' of yer nah.
There ain't much of yer, so i' shoodden take long...E's a bright un, the
attendant could be heard muttering. Why is private public? What a bloody
The water that had felt comfortable to touch was too hot for the body, but
Yulus was too embarrassed to call for more cold water having said it was OK.
He got in, turned pink all over and washed and dried within five minutes. He
wanted to get out as soon as possible but was afraid that they would suggest
that he hadn't washed at all, so he stood by the bath splashing the water and
said everything was OK again when asked. After a couple of visits he soon got
used to the atmosphere and learned to call out like the rest of the bathers
for more hot or cold water or joined the communal singing that would break out
from time to time. One song that was sung to the tune of the Volga Boatman
contained the lines: Hot water number forty four, repeated three times and
followed by Ooh Ooh and a long drawn out Aaaah and shouts of laughter. Quiet!
The attendant would shout above the din. Carn 'ear myself wash ou' the barvs!
Which he did dexterously with his long-handled yellow broom after each bather
and before the next."