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At The Bishopsgate Bathhouse

July 30, 2023
by the gentle author

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This extravagant domed orientalist edifice topped by the crescent moon is what you see above ground in the churchyard of St Botolph’s Bishopsgate, but it is the mere portal to a secret subterranean world beneath your feet.

These Turkish baths were built in 1895 by Henry & James Forde Nevill to a design by architect G Harold Elphick, and clad with interlocking ceramic tiles worthy of the Alhambra, designed by the architect and manufactured at Craven Dunnill in Shropshire. As you descend the spiral staircase to the larger, cavernous space below, note the ceramic motif of the hand of Fatima raised in blessing.

Yet the current edifice is simply the most recent in a series of bathhouses on this site dating back to 1817. In 1847, it was recorded that a certain Dr Culverwell was offering medicinal baths here. Around 1883, the baths were sold to Jones & Co who named them Argyll Baths and reconstructed them entirely, only for their work to be demolished ten years later and replaced by the building we see today.

In 1963, when Geoffrey Fletcher the author of ‘The London Nobody Knows’ passed by, the brass plate with the words Nevill’s Turkish Baths was still here even though it was merely in use as storage space by then. “Still eloquent of the vanished days when a corpulent company director would while a way an afternoon and a little avoirdupois in these exotic surroundings before taking himself to his green and pleasant villa in Denmark Hill”, he wrote.

In recent years, the grade II listed bathhouse has enjoyed a successful existence as a popular events venue but now it is imperilled by a redevelopment that would see a twenty-four storey office tower cantilevered above and underpinning below. The proposed tower over the Great Eastern Hotel nearby in Liverpool St potentially sets an alarming precedent for the possibility of constructing developments on top of listed buildings.

Readers are encouraged to write and object to this planning application which threatens to overwhelm the grade II listed bathhouse. Be sure to label your comment clearly as an ‘objection.’


Click here to visit the City of London planning website and make your objection


Developers’ proposal for a cantilevered tower that will overwhelm the historic bathhouse

Price list, c. 1885


Drawing by Geoffrey Fletcher, 1963

The Boom Boom Club at the bathhouse

Click here to book an event at the Bishopsgate bathhouse

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The Redevelopment Proposal For Liverpool St Station

Towering Folly At Liverpool St Station

19 Responses leave one →
  1. Patrick Leary permalink
    July 30, 2023

    Additional information about the Bishopsgate bathhouse can be found on the indefatigable Malcolm Shifrin’s website devoted to Victorian Turkish baths:

  2. Miss Clare E Shepherd permalink
    July 30, 2023

    Yet another unwanted development in the East End foisted on the inhabitants by q greedy developer and a cooperative Council working against their constituents’ interests. Disgusting greed and complacency on the path of both parties is evident.

  3. July 30, 2023

    Another carbuncle. I’ve given them 2000 characters of my best to think about! My key points were to reiterate the increase in flexible working reducing the need for office space, the wild property speculation that has been allowed to go unchecked resulting in swathes of City land being snapped up by non-residents just to own London acreage, and the increase in post-pandemic tourism, including the “Instagram travel generation” and amateur genealogists like me.
    I have encountered tourists asking where this or that structure is because they want to see it. There are no plaques, signs or guidance – Google Maps is pretty much all you have. The City is swamped with god-awful, overwhelming, faceless slabs. This proposal is hideous and desperate. I have tried to use my best persuasive writing so they may consider more what they will lose rather than raw financial gain. Let’s see.
    P.s. some of the bath options look somewhat hazardous!

  4. Carole Cox permalink
    July 30, 2023


  5. July 30, 2023

    Such a crying shame to hear this. It’s as if everything with a soul, and notable, is being crushed out of existence and replaced by bland, nondescript glass and concrete. Who will bother to stop and stare at these new non-entities in a hundred year’s time? The long list of shameful planning applications that have been given the green light and approved is really sad to see. I will ‘object’ but after the sad demise of Norton Folgate, I do not expect a positive outcome. 🙁

  6. Barbara Holliman permalink
    July 30, 2023

    What a pity that there is no public access unless you have a small fortune to spend. The outside is exquisite tho I doubt I will ever have the privilege of venturing inside.
    I have sent in an objection, there is no need for the over hang. So much office space unused, but of course it’s about investment and not providing space

  7. Bernie permalink
    July 30, 2023

    Born in Hackney and educated (in part) during adolescence by tramping the streets of London, nevertheless I think that I never discovered this marvellous anachronism. Now, exiled in Glasgow, I am hardly qualified to argue against redevelopment, but I am certainly on the side of anyone who can mount a realistic case for conservation.

  8. Peta Bridle permalink
    July 30, 2023

    Looks hideous! And totally bizarre.

  9. Rodney Francis Whale permalink
    July 30, 2023

    An interesting article but a creosote bath sounds horrific.


  10. July 30, 2023

    Bear with me, hurling seemingly-off-topic comments from the Hudson River Valley. However, I see a connection here. Many years ago, a Swiss company had plans to build a gigantic cement plant here in the town of Hudson. It would have eclipsed the entire town, provided work for just about ZERO human beings, been a total plight on the region, and would have been the end of the local economy which relies on tourism. Sigh. A David-VS-Goliath campaign ensued and to our great shock, David triumphed. As a result, the crown jewel of our local historic treasures — Olana, home and studio of artist Frederick Church — was preserved and it has become the pivot point for endless (endless!!!) development, progress, community spirit, rampant tourism, and national arts support. And may I add that the design of Olana is very much in the same exotic spirit as the Baths? The moment I saw the first photo, I saw the affinity of the two structures. Inspired by exotica, and graced with tile, stenciling, other motifs. Olana has triumphed, and I have great hopes that the Baths will also. Holding out for a good outcome, and sending best vibes.

  11. Jennifer Grigg permalink
    July 30, 2023

    Thank you for drawing our attention to this – I have made my objections.

  12. July 30, 2023

    Thank you, Gentle Author, for a beautiful piece about a beautiful, unique—and I mean unique—building.

    Your many followers are most strongly encouraged to send in a comment on these plans, ensuring that they include the word OBJECTION. This link should lead straight to the appropriate page:

    Bernie, who comments above, may be in exile in Glasgow, but he has at least the opportunity to use two great Victorian Turkish baths there, though the architectural style is rather different. He can find out about them at

  13. JULIA SMITH permalink
    July 30, 2023

    This is a unique building and should be preserved and celebrated , rather than replaced by yet another glass and steel building that is the same as all the others.

  14. Esther Rank permalink
    July 30, 2023

    Yet another planning notice to object to…spending so much of my life having to do that. Just a note to Bernie above who grew up in Hackney and now lives in Glasgow who says he doesn’t feel qualified. You can object to the planning application and you are qualified. You don’t have to have a London address. Please add your objection if you have time.

  15. barry john matthews permalink
    July 31, 2023

    I have objected.

  16. C R permalink
    July 31, 2023

    Reading the list of medicinal baths I’m not surprised that age expectancy used to be far lower.

  17. August 1, 2023

    Objection submitted:

    Thank you for bringing this most recent abomination to our attention, G.A.

  18. Alan permalink
    August 8, 2023

    Oh City of London. STOP destroying our London history with your greed. Let us mere Londoners seek and enjoy something other than corporaye OFFICES. London as a whole is rammed full of them, and you want even more. Enough. Think of something more appropraite to invest your monies in.
    This is architecure at it’s best and all the better for being allowed to be shown off at its BEST.
    If you must build knock down something plain and recent. But not this hint of a former world.
    Lifelong resident of Hornsey former Midlessex.

  19. Shelly permalink
    April 7, 2024

    As a recent graduate of London Metropolitan University, we used this a few times as a typology and reading about the proposed design I strongly oppose the expansion. Must we allow this new structure to encroach upon the already crowded courtyard, surrounded by seemingly looming buildings? This harmonious green enclave holds sacred the echoes of history, once graced by this illustrious bathhouse, now threatened with erasure by vapid, soulless constructions.
    Preserving this heritage is paramount, as intact bathhouses dwindle in number. The building, classified as Grade Two listed, warrants stringent laws ensuring that surrounding structures align with its historical integrity. No loopholes should circumvent this imperative.
    Moreover, these Grade Two listed edifices serve as magnets for tourism, offering a glimpse into our storied past!

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