Site Unseen: Grosvenor Gardens

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past, they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

If ever a building proclaimed its original function, this is it. Standing in Bishopsgate Churchyard is this Ottoman Hamam in the heart of the City dedicated to Mammon.

[T]HE FASHION FOR TURKISH BATHS was petering out a decade after this little curiosity was constructed in 1895for the king of Turkish baths James Forder Nevill who owned nine Turkish baths in London.

Built on a site so constricted that its entry is via a small kiosk, it was said to be modelled by the architect Harold Elphick on the 19th-century shrine at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. This Moorish gem of blue faience, brick, and terracotta, surmounted by an onion dome (to house the water tanks), continued the Alhambra theme inside with three hot rooms, shampooing room, shower bath and plunge bath, all with mosaic floors, tiled walls, marble seats and stained glass windows.

Against all the odds, it survived Hitler’s valiant attempt to destroy it and every other redevelopment scheme, continuing as a Turkish bath until the 1950s. Fighting a lone battle against the pressures of surrounding developers and encircling demolition work a Turkish gentleman; Mr Mourat saved the building and converted it into the Gallipoli Turkish restaurant.

It is now an Italian restaurant and bar, and at last years’ Open House had Londoners queuing to view this rare surviving Moorish temple in the heart of The City.

Featured image: Bishopsgate Churchyard, London, EC2 by DavidHallam-Jones (CC BY-SA 2.0). With St Botolph’s-without-Bishopsgate churchyard behind them pedestrians walking towards New Broad Street find themselves facing the entrance to this former underground Turkish Bath establishment. Apparently there had been baths of one kind or another on this site since 1817. These “new” (replacement) baths were opened as “The New Broad Street Turkish Baths” on 5 February 1895. They were situated partly underneath the original New Broad Street House (since demolished) and partly beneath Alderman’s Walk (now called Bishopsgate Churchyard). Potential bathers entered the kiosk that is topped by an onion shaped cupola and decorated with a star and crescent and went down a faïence-lined (earthenware tiled) winding staircase to a vestibule where s/he bought a ticket. Although Grade II-listed, it seems that it has been adapted into a restaurant.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 19th February 2010

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