Turkish baths, with their distinctive design and bold colour palette, became a mainstay of the increasingly sophisticated society in Victorian Britain.
Changing times and tastes mean few have survived, however, with the Covid-19 pandemic claiming some of the handful that were left in this country.
That change makes Harrogate’s Turkish baths all the more special, as perhaps the finest and most original example from the increasingly small number that still exist.
Fortunately, the quality of the baths – and their place in Harrogate’s wider position as a spa town – meant they have not only survived, but thrived.
This year marked their 125th anniversary and, under the stewardship of Brimhams Active, the baths have maintained authenticity, while incorporating modern health and safety requirements.
The result is a venue that is in demand from regulars and visitors, with time also squeezed in for tours to satisfy those with an interest in the history of the baths.
Manager Chris Mason said: “Turkish baths are few and far between, especially to the level we have restored and maintained it.
“Our raison d’etre is ensuring the heritage of the site is there for people to see now. It has been there for 125 years, serving its original purpose.”
Part of the baths’ durability is the fact Harrogate is a spa town and they form part of a wider attraction for customers interested in health and relaxation.
That also helps the wider economy, and Mr Mason said: “People come to Harrogate because it is a lovely spa town and we can give an insight into what people experienced when they were visiting in their droves.”
The baths are so popular that advance bookings stretch ahead as far as May next year. Those who visit from out of town also spend money elsewhere.
“Some people come because they have heard about it from a historical perspective, some are spa-goers and come specifically for the health benefits,” said Mr Mason. “There are varied reasons why people come, in many ways we are unique as a destination.
“People may spend three hours here, but they also stay in a hotel or guest house, dine in local restaurants and shop locally.
“We are very much part of the visitor economy. We are very much a cog in the economy of Harrogate.”
Find out more about Harrogate Turkish Baths.