Inside one of the UK's last Victorian-style Turkish baths

  • Video report by Hannah McNulty

Stained glass, original green and white tiles, decorated pillars and a plunge pool - Carlisle's Victorian Suite is one of the last remaining Turkish baths in the UK.

Built more than 100 years ago in 1909, only eleven are still open. There used to be more than 400 and now a campaign has begun to 'save' Carlisle's Turkish baths - even though the city council have repeatedly pledged to keep them open. 

Around £400,000 is going to be spent renovating the baths, on James Street. There are calls for a long-term future to be mapped out.

Turkish baths began in the Middle East, but the trend for relaxing with different steam and heat treatments and the freezing plunge pool caught on in the UK from the 1870s.

Those wanting to preserve them say one in Harrogate attracts over 40,000 visitors per year and, with a bit of vision and a lot of cash, so could Carlisle's.

Visitor numbers pre-covid were in their hundreds and before it reopens next month it's due a lick of paint and £400k has been earmarked from the Borderlands project which aims at increasing growth in this region but there are calls for more to be done. 

Leader of Carlisle City Council, John  Mallinson, said: "I'd really welcome the opportunity to dispel any threat of demolition and I'm rather surprised that the groundswell of support for Victorian Health Suite and we really welcome that. We take it as an indicator that the people of Carlisle really do want this preserved."

Julie Minns, from Friends of Carlisle Baths, thinks this is a slightly hidden gem in the city and it needs a bigger profile so has started an online group.

She said: "I have had comments from people who've lived in Carlisle for 30 years who had no idea it was here

"I've spoken to people who've been coming here for 47 years, came off their factory shift and left feeling like a million dollars." 

Plunge pool inside the Turkish Baths. Credit: ITV News

She continued: "We would like there to be a guarantee in the longer term for this building. it's one thing to say there's no intention to get rid of the building - you can't, it's Grade Two Listed - but there's another to say it'll be maintained as a Turkish baths.

"I think with a bit of vision and ambition it could be quite a compelling offer to local people and visitors."