The Lost Turkish Baths on Northumberland Avenue

Along Northumberland Avenue in Westminster you find the wonderfully picturesque Sherlock Holmes pub.

Turkish Baths Northumberland Avenue

It’s delightful on the eyes and appears the quintessential Victorian London pub.

But out of sight there’s some hidden history of another Victorian gem. Or at least the remnants of it…

A Lost Turkish Bathhouse

Known as the Charing Cross Turkish Baths, the site was one of nine owned by Henry and James Forder Nevill.

The number is a bit disingenuous as four venues were really two; split between men and women. Today it’s the women’s entrance on Craven Passage (formerly Northumberland Passage) where you can find the only bit of surviving visual evidence.

Turkish Baths Northumberland Avenue

You have to walk down the passage and look up to admire the details…

Turkish Baths Northumberland Avenue
Turkish Baths Northumberland Avenue

The scrap of decoration doesn’t at all do the former baths justice. But thankfully there is a surviving image of the interior, specifically the ground floor cooling room;

Turkish Baths Northumberland Avenue

Image from Malcolm Shifrin’s Victorian Turkish Baths website

A Glorious Survivor

Happily, a more complete Nevill’s Turkish Bathhouse can be found on the other side of London by Liverpool Street.

Turkish Baths Northumberland Avenue

This one was finished in the 1890s, also designed by Elphick, and today it’s an event space and bar.

The Sherlock Link

And just in case you thought including the pub was superfluous, there’s actually a fun link with the former bathhouse.

It gets a mention in the Sherlock Holmes novel ‘The Illustrious Client“, Dr Watson narrates;

“Both Holmes and I had a weakness for the Turkish bath … On the upper floor of the Northumberland Avenue establishment there is an isolated corner where two couches lie side by side, and it was on these that we lay upon September 3, 1902, the day when my narrative begins.”

The baths closed in 1948 and sadly, a peek through an open door while the site is being renovated reveal no saved interior decor. There’s a sign for a new business on the door but there’s not much information about it.

However do look up and admire what’s left on the outside, possibly while having a refreshment in the nearby drinking establishment!

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8 Comments

  • Gareth Morrell

    Reply

    You outdo yourself every week – there is clearly no end of fascinating things to discover in London. When wandering around the Whitehall area you can be 100 yards away from Trafalgar Square and feel almost lonely! By the way, Google maps is telling me the pub is on Northumberland St, not Northumberland Ave. Did Conan Doyle get it wrong or did the street names change?

    July 10, 2019 at 11:37 am
  • It’s an awful pub, but does have (or at least did have) a section that was a sealed off replica of what Sherlock Holmes’ study might have looked like. It’s worth popping in for a pint just to see it. The food was some of the worst I’ve had in the area and is very obviously targeted at tourists.

    If you stand outside the front entrance and look slightly to the left and up, that’s where the opening fight scene from Doctor Strange took place (where they are running sideways down the walls). Slightly further down is the “Ministry of Magic” from Harry Potter.

    July 10, 2019 at 5:18 pm
  • Sue Mayhew

    Reply

    This site is amazing, I love London and Reading about all these unknown things is fascinating.

    July 10, 2019 at 10:42 pm
  • Some years ago I was doing a Katie-type wander around this area and came across this building being cleaned out. The workmen let me in to have a look around …fascinating! Until now, I had no idea what or where it was..thanks for the information.

    July 29, 2019 at 9:11 am

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