Looking through the tepidarium, caldarium and laconium © Social Streets / Claire Watts
LocalOut & AboutPlaces to visit

York Hall Turkish Baths, one of London’s last remaining traditional hammam [photoessay]

You will need to book a session at the York Hall Turkish Baths to fully appreciate this grade two listed wonder of Victorian ‘socialist’ architecture. Until now, there was no photographic record of the baths, but Bethnal Green LDN has gained exclusive access to shoot these hallowed halls.

Built in the 1920s and opened to the public in 1929, it was the third in a succession of public baths built in Bethnal Green in the early 20th century. It is now one of the nation’s best-known boxing venues and leisure centres.

When York Hall opened in 1929, it featured first and second-class swimming pools. The first-class pool had a removable floor, enabling its conversion into a public hall. Additionally, the baths included slipper baths, Turkish and Russian baths, and public laundry facilities.

Public baths were popular in the Victorian era, especially in the poor and overcrowded East End. There was a push by the government and local authorities to provide facilities, including baths and parks for the public that had no facilities or space of their own.

Several future world champions, including John Stracey, Charlie Magri, Maurice Hope, and Nigel Benn, fought there early in their careers. The hall, though a fraction of the size of modern international venues, is now widely referred to as the “home” of British boxing.

We sent local photographer Claire Watts in with her camera to shoot the traditional Turkish Baths.

Watts says, ‘For me, this is one of East London’s treasures and I have used it for years. I love the Art Deco interior of the building as a whole, and the old brick hot rooms in the spa have remained the same for years and years. There is a sense of history and old-world glamour to the rooms and it was a privilege to take the pictures for this piece.’

Central foyer leading to the showers in York Hall Turkish Baths, Bethnal Green, East London.
Central foyer leading to showers © Social Streets / Claire Watts
Blue plunge pool in York Hall Turkish Baths, Bethnal Green, East London.
Plunge pool © Social Streets / Claire Watts
Tepidarium room in York Hall Turkish Baths, Bethnal Green, East London.
Tepidarium © Social Streets / Claire Watts
Tepadarium in York Hall Turkish Baths, Bethnal Green, East London.
Tepadarium © Social Streets / Claire Watts
Chandeliier in entrance hall of York Hall Turkish Baths, Bethnal Green, East London.
Chandeliier in entrance hall © Social Streets / Claire Watts

If you enjoyed reading this, you may also like The history of Paradise Gardens.

Please support local journalism.

As a social enterprise using constructive journalism to strengthen communities, we have not put our digital content behind a paywall or subscription fee as we think the benefits of an independent, local publication should be available to everyone in our area.

We are a tiny team of four covering Bethnal Green and Tower Hamlets, relying entirely on member donations. Hundreds of members have already joined. Become a member to donate as little as £3 per month to support constructive journalism and the local community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.