'Best Foot Forward' For Friends Of Carlisle Victorian And Turkish Baths

With our support, inspiring Cumbrian charity will create a facility to make their city proud
June 13, 2023

Carlisle charity, The Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths, are running a second historic walking tour of 'Wapping' after a successful sell-out tour last month.

Tickets for the tour went on sale on Monday, and within 24 hours over half had been snapped up by people wanting to discover more about this once thriving Carlisle neighbourhood. Visitors take a trip back to Victorian Carlisle when the area around the James Street Public Baths was a warren of cobbled streets, terraced houses, mills, factories and no less than nine pubs.

Carlisle Victorian Baths (Image: Rose And Trev Clough)

Lynda Hepburn, who organises the Charity's events said, "Until the city council closed the Baths last November, we were able to offer guided tours of the Baths themselves. But a lot of what made those tours interesting, including why the Baths came to be sited on James Street, was the history of the area. So we decided to see what interest there was in a walking tour of the area that was once known as Wapping, and we couldn't believe the response! The first tour sold out almost immediately and it looks like the second tour will too. The area has a fascinating social history, although the origins of why it was called Wapping are heavily debated."

The tour is led by the Charity's Chair, Julie Minns, and lasts just over an hour. One unexpected stop on the tour is the building that once housed Carlisle's Wesleyan Mission on South John Street. Remarkably the building escaped the bulldozer that levelled much of the area in the 1970s, and visitors on the first tour were astonished to hear that the terraced property seated 425 people in its heyday. 

Commenting on the Charity's work to reopen Carlisle Turkish Baths, Chair of the Friends, Julie Minns said, "We completed stage one of a viability study last year which showed that our outline plans and business case for developing and restoring the Baths, were viable. We had hoped to progress discussions about a Community Asset Transfer with the city council at the same time as we were carrying out the study, but sadly that wasn't possible and it meant we weren't able to secure grant funding for the second phase of the study earlier this year as we had hoped. But in the meantime we're continuing to fundraise towards the cost of phase two, and the money we raise from tour tickets and merchandise sales really helps."

Interior Detail (Image: Tomasz Ondrusz)

The Charity received a further funding boost this week when Benefact Group awarded the Friends £1,000 as part of their Movement for Good Awards.

The Victorian Baths on James Street opened in 1884 and in 1909 the Turkish Baths were added. At one point the UK had an estimated 700 Turkish Baths, but today only twelve remain in working order, with Carlisle's being the last in Northwest England. The Charity hopes to negotiate a Community Asset Transfer with the new Cumberland Council and secure heritage grant funding for the remaining viability study work, before moving forward with their ambitious plans to turn the building into a Centre for Health and Wellbeing, with treatment rooms, a studio, cafe bar and new aquathermal facilities to complement the Grade II listed Turkish Baths.

For more information about the plans and details of all of the Charity's events please CLICK HERE