This week’s ‘Shoes’ activity was slightly different from the norm – as not only did it involve the usual touch of historic culture, it also incorporated yet another ‘first’ in the world of “London Shoes”.
Although the weather on my chosen day out was really lousy, and certainly not conducive to wandering London’s streets – I did manage to knock-out a brief (but perfectly formed) blog, on a particular landmark involving a topic that has been on my ‘to do list’ for some time–namely………the “Victorian-Bath House” in Bishopsgate!!!
Back in the day, long before there were ‘public’ baths, and way before the luxuries of bathrooms, showers, hit-tubs and jacuzzi’s that we enjoy today – it was common practice particularly throughout Victorian times, for most of Britain’s main cities to have cheap ‘wash-houses’, predominantly for the purpose of keeping the lower classes clean and healthy.
Throughout London itself, there were a number of these wash-houses scattered across the metropolis, that were run by independent companies – where, for a few pennies, the average man/woman on the street, could go and have a good old scrub-down.
By the mid to late 1800’s, the more wealthier of the Victorian city dwellers, had moved up a gear and had got hooked on a new craze of ‘Turkish Bath-Houses’ and as a result of their popularity, more and more of these ‘specialised’ establishments started to sprout-up all over London.
These ‘Bath-Houses’ were mostly ‘underground’ hideaways where the more well-off Victorians could slink off to, escaping the hustle & bustle of the ‘smoke’ – treating themselves to a relaxing scrub-down and clean-up, whilst being pampered in luxury surroundings.
Amazingly – tucked away in a back-street behind the extremely busy Bishopsgate area of the City, roughly 5mins walk from Liverpool Street Station, and squashed between a bland and characterless jungle of corporate high rise offices, there is still in situ, a magnificent original Victorian ‘Bath-House’!!!
It may look totally out of place – but then that’s the beauty of it.
This tiny ‘Bishopsgate-Bath House’ was opened in 1895, and was designed so that it could be squeezed in between the big city buildings that were there at the time, (nothing compared to today’s buildings of course).
The actual design of the Bishopsgate-Bath House was/is heavily influenced by Turkish architectural styles – with marble floors, sunken baths, exotic mosaic tiling, stain glass windows, Arabian colours and emblems plus gold fixtures such as handles and rails etc.
The ‘Bishopsgate-Bath House’ soon became very popular with the wealthy Victorian city dandies – however, women were banned from it, probably because there wasn’t enough space to have a separate women’s changing facility.
Anyway, because the Bath-House was squashed between large buildings, its exterior was visually extremely small – but the bulk of its underground interior was massive and included hot-rooms and sunken baths.
What is fascinating about the Bishopsgate-Bath House is that it has amazingly survived all the devastation of the WW2 blitz, plus it has endured 100 years of non-stop extensive redevelopment and building works that have taken place all around it, and continues to this day.
The Bishopsgate Bath-House finally closed in 1954 – and throughout the next 50 or so years it had stints at being a nightclub, a bar, a storage centre – right up to 2016, when it was bought up and extensively redeveloped whilst retaining its original design, features and fixtures, all restored to their former glory – and it was turned in to a ‘private’ events venue holding up to 150 punters.
The Victorian Bishopsgate-Bath-House has been granted Grade II status, which means that it will still be around for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.
So – the rest of my day out in the ‘Smoke’, was most definitely a ‘first’ in the world of ‘Shoes’ – and great fun it was too.
The London Shoes website receives in the region of 20 to 30 e-mails per week from ‘followers’ all over the world.
One e-mail in particular last week, was from a gentleman by the name of David, who is a London Walking Tours guide for the prominent and extremely popular London tour-guide company “Insider London”.
Anyway – in David’s e-mail to me he mentioned that he is a regular ‘follower’, and a big fan of the ‘London Shoes’ website, and he complimented me on its content and presentation – saying that it was one of his favourite London ‘info’ websites, that he often refers to, to gather-up additional info on some of the lesser known and unusual historical aspects of the ‘smoke’ – some of which he often quotes when conducting his tours.
David asked if I fancied joining him on one the walking tours he was undertaking this week, that was on the topic of the London Tube/Underground – an offer which I obviously jumped at.
So – I duly met up with David and his tour party, outside Baker Street Station and we all set-off to visit a number of tube stations that had an interesting historical background to them.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, as David was extremely knowledgeable on the topic of London’s underground tube network, and his passion in his delivery certainly held his audience’s attention throughout the entire tour.
Also, what was useful for me, was that David touched on a number of facts and snippets of info about the Tube that I had absolutely no knowledge about, which I will now most definitely factor in to future blogs that I have planned under the ‘London Shoes’ category of “Transport” – a topic of which there are already some 11 blogs published on the ‘Shoes’ website.
Anyway – I found this ‘cross-fertilisation’ of knowledge and experience, really interesting and useful, but more importantly, thoroughly enjoyable – as did the rest of the walking-tour group – who came from places as far as Germany, Scotland & Manchester.
Also – the fact that David the tour-guide was a massive ‘Hammers’ supporter and season-ticket holder like myself, meant that we easily formed a connection – to the extent that we arranged to meet up again to trade ‘smoke’ knowledge – all of which is good kudos for ‘London Shoes’.
When the tour was finished, and before heading off home – I popped in to the wonderful “Lord Aberconway” pub next to Liverpool Street Station, for a couple of ‘cheeky’ ones and a bag of Nobby’s Nuts.
The pub is named after Lord Aberconway (1850 – 1934) the former chairman of the old Metropolitan Railway – London’s and the World’s very first Underground Railway.
There has been a pub on this site for a couple of hundred years, and many of the interior of the ‘Aberconway’ today, contains fixtures & fittings dating way back to the mid 1800’s.
This is a really good pub for a ‘cheeky’ one – and it also has a bit of notoriety as it is purported to be haunted by a person who perished in the nearby Great Fire of London – but the only thing I found ‘chilling’ in there, was the cost of a beer.
So – to summarise the day’s activities – there’s the ‘Bishopsgate-Bath House’ – a little Victorian gem bang in the middle of a characterless concrete and glass jungle – and then there is the experience of ‘London Shoes’ networking with one of the ‘smokes’ top walking tour organisations – so all in all, a very enjoyable and successful day.