BATHS AND WASHHOUSES FOR THE INDUSTRIOUS CLASSES.
THESE institutions, which are now rapidly increasing in
London as well as in the country, originated in a public meeting, held at the
Mansion House in 1844, when a large subscription was raised to build an
establishment to serve as a model for others, which it was anticipated would be
erected, when it had been proved that the receipts, at the very low rate of
charge contemplated, would be sufficient to cover the expenses, and gradually
to repay the capital invested. The Committee then appointed partially completed
the Model Establishment in Goulston Square, in 1847, and opened 40 baths to the
public, the demand for which by the working-classes has established beyond doubt
the soundness of the principles which actuated the Committee; and such was the
attention attracted to the subject by its proceedings, that the government, at
the suggestion and instigation of Sir H. Dukinfield, Bart., induced Parliament
to pass an Act to enable boroughs and parishes to raise money on the security of
their rates, for the purpose of building baths and washhouses in all parts of
The provisions of this act have already been adopted by seven parishes in London. St. Martin-in-the-Fields (constructed by Mr. Baly), of which Sir H. Dukinfield was then the rector; St. Mary-le-bone (constructed by Mr. Eales); St. John and St. Margaret's, Westminster (constructed also by Mr. Baly); St. James's, Westminster; Poplar; Greenwich; St. George's and St. Giles's, Bloomsbury, as well as in several boroughs in the country. The general arrangements of these establishments are based upon those of the model.
The success of the bathing department, as well as the
necessity which existed for such means of cleanliness among the industrious
classes, is to be found in the numbers who have used them since their first
opening. At the Model, the St. Martin, and the George- Street establishments,
1,300,000 baths have been given in little more than 3 years, of which above
550,000 have been given in the year 1850.
The laundry at the Model Establishment, the completion of which has been delayed from the want of funds, was not even in partial operation till after the erection of the parochial establishment in St. Martin-in-the-Field5, and that erected by private subscription in George Street, St. Pancras.
The anxiety of poor women to use the laundry has proved to be fully equal to that of the men to use the baths; for in the short period which has elapsed since the opening of the three laundries referred to the clothes of nearly 1,500,000 persons have been washed, dried, and ironed.
The progress of the washing department, however, has been slowest in the dirtiest and poorest district, showing how difficult it is to induce those who have never known the luxury of cleanliness to adopt a new system, even when it is provided exclusively for their benefit, and the charge for its use is so low as to place it within the reach of all but paupers.
Thus, in 1849, no charge was made at Whitechapel. The tubs, well supplied with hot and cold water, were opened gratuitously to the poor during the whole period that the cholera was raging, and yet but few availed themselves of the advantages so offered; the numbers attending in the six months, from July 1 to December 30, 1849, being only 5695.
In 1850, the tariff of charges was agreed to, viz. 1d. per hour for the two first hours, and 1d. per half-hour afterwards, for an unlimited supply of hot and cold water, well-arranged drying closets, and irons and ironing boards. In the first six months but 4350 women attended, while in the second six months the number increased to 10,352; and this increase has been, and continues to be, progressive week by week; a progress so steady, and accompanied by such thankfulness on the part of the washers, that the committee feel satisfied they will soon be called upon to complete the remaining half of the wash-house, which is still unfinished for want of the necessary funds-about 1500l.
The floors of the bath rooms and washing rooms, the divisions between the baths and wash-tubs, are all slate. The baths are of zinc, and each bath room contains 36 superficial feet of surface, and is provided with a looking- glass, seat, pegs to hang up the clothes, and other little conveniences. The quantity of clean and fresh water for each bath is between 50 and 60 gallons. The price for a first-class warm bath is 6d., providing 2 towels; and for a second-class warm bath, 2d., providing 1 towel.
We cannot afford more space than is required for this hasty description of these useful institutions. In the largest sense they are charitable institutions, for they provide, by means of the superabundant capital of the richer class, for the comfort and health of the poorer class; but whilst thus benefited, the poor have the satisfaction of feeling that they pay a price for this luxury and means of health fully adequate to reward the capitalist, and to encourage the philanthropist to pursue his search for opportunities to benefit the poor without sacrificing their independence, or lessening their inducements to continue with cheerfulness their daily toil.
We have now only to add, that foreign countries are following with alacrity and zeal the example we have set them. France, through the recommendations of a commission appointed by her President, has already voted 24,000l. to aid in the erection of Public Baths and Laundries in Paris.
Belgium and the United States are also alive to the importance of the subject, and, as well as France, are in correspondence with the Committee and Mr. Baly for plans which thus far have been stamped with the approbation of England, France, and America.
The Model Establishment is open at all times to visitors; and by application at the committee room the assistant secretary will make arrangements to attend, and to afford every information in his power to foreigners who may wish to examine the apparatus in detail.
We will now proceed to explain the drawings with which we have been favoured by Mr. Baly.
No 1. is the elevation of the Westminster Parochial Establishment, the most recently erected. Its style is plain and bold; simple, but conveying the idea of a public building erected with a view to durability and utility. It contains 64 Baths and 60 Wash-tubs, and 2 Plunge Baths; and, including the purchase of the site, will cost 13,000l.
No. 2 is a view of a woman at a wash-tub; and of a woman, having washed bet clothes, hanging them up to dry.
No. 3 and No. 3 *, showing the linen in the drying chamber, heated by hot-water pipes, immediately above the wash-tub, as well as a woman hanging up for drying previous to sending them to the drying chamber, as at St. Martin's
No. 4. Section through the ironing chambers.
5 is the general ground plan of the Westminster establishment:-
A. The boiler room, where the water is heated for the baths and wash-tubs.
M. The chimney and the ventilating flues, which carry off the vapour and foul air from the bath rooms.
B and C. The second-class men and women's waiting rooms and baths.
D. The first-class men's baths and waiting room. The first-class women's baths are in an adjoining house, and not shown on this plan.
F. The first-class plunge bath and dressing rooms.
G. The second-class plunge bath and dressing rooms. The baths will contain respectively 20,000 and 40,000 gals. of water, will be 3½ ft. deep at one end, gradually increasing to the depth of 5 ft. at the other.
H and I are the washing tub and boiling tub, for the women washing, and are supplied with cold and hot water, and steam.
K. The ironing boards.
L. The drying chamber, heated by flues; the temperature of which, when in full work, will be maintained at above 200º.
N. The situation of the wringing machines, by the use of which the wet linen is deprived, by a small expenditure of time and labour, of above half its water before being put into the drying chamber.
No. 6 and No. 6*. The section of the building through the washing department, the letters on which correspond with those on the ground plan, and therefore require no further notice; but we may call attention to the very ingenious construction of the wrought-iron roof, covered with glass and slate. Its lightness and simplicity, the elements of cheapness, fit it especially for a building of this kind.
No. 7 and No. 7 *· Section through the bath room.
No. 8 and No. 8* . The details of the roof over the bath department, showing how these chambers are connected with the ventilating shaft; a large flue A being formed in the apex of the roof into which the foul air and vapour are drawn, through the interstices of the ceiling boards B.
The number of bathers and washers at three of the principal establishments now open in the metropolis are steadily progressing. The receipts of this year have been as follows:-
Committee Room, 5, Exeter Hall; and Model Establishment, Goulston Square, Whitechapel.
Chairman of the Committee-The Rev. Sir H. R. Dukinfield, Bart.
Deputy Chairman-William Hawes, Esq.
Honorary Secretaries-James Farish, Esq., and John Bullar, Esq.
Engineer.-P. P. Baly, Esq., C.E. Assistant Secretary-George Woolcott, Esq.
To those born in a sphere of life far removed from want, and living in ignorance of the miseries of the masses of human life located ill many districts of this vast metropolis, more especially in the most eastern parts of it, where Jew and Christian, infidel and sceptic, live, or rather exist, in houses badly constructed, ill ventilated and drained, and huddled together in filth-men, women, and children in the one room, and in many cases sleeping in one bed ;-it will scarcely be credited by those living in comfortable and cleanly houses that such vice, misery, and discontent daily and nightly occur at so short a distance from the palaces and houses of the rich. Can it be wondered that the epidemic of the year 1848 should have prevailed so fatally, and that its anticipated return is so alarming to us all? Yet these direful calamities still remain among our poorer countrymen, and the moral degradation of this numerous class furnishes inmates for the prison and union workhouse. The value of labour in the production of several articles of daily use is reduced by the monopoly of the more wealthy trader, and the tendency of the improvement of street architecture operates most injuriously to those artizans living in lodgings,-the house occupier, either as freeholder or leaseholder, is compensated, whilst the poor must turn out and seek shelter in a more expensive lodging, and in a more densly-thronged neighbourhood, with no provision for him whose voice is too feeble to be heard. The benevolent establishments of baths and washhouses and model lodgings are, however, a great step in advance towards amelioration. It is Christian, and it is politic in a worldly sense; it is a beginning towards the salvation of soul and body, by cleansing the body and Purifying the mind; it is an earnest in part payment of a debt due to those who labour for us. There is another and a most essential help yet required-the visitation by district committees of all houses wherein the casual nightly lodger is sheltered, the separation of the sexes, and the separation of children from the contamination of the thoughtless and the depraved. These good things are yet to be done, and it is the duty of the government, as well as of individuals, to aid in forming and carrying out measures to assuage these crying evils.
The Pictorial Handbook of London, 1854
BATHS AND WASHHOUSES, PUBLIC. In the article BATH
(['P. Cyc.' vol. iv.
p.31] it was said "There are but few baths in London, and those
established there would not suffice for a small fraction of the
population, if bathing were a common practice. Still of late years baths
have increased both in London and England generally." The baths here
spoken of were private ones of a comparatively expensive character. There
were indeed a few public swimming-baths,
but no public establishments, where, for a trifling sum, the labouring
man might enjoy the use or the luxury, of a
warm, a tepid, or a cold bath.
But if baths of any kind were rare, public washing-houses were quite unknown. In olden days, indeed, the English were not wholly, or perhaps generally, home-washers. The housewife or the laundress carried the linen down to the nearest convenient spot by the side of a stream, where " the shore was shelvy and shallow," like that which the whitsters [washers] of Windsor resorted to, by Datchet Mead, where Falstaff was so unceremoniously slighted from the buck-basket. It is on record that the corporation of Reading, upon the suppression of monasteries, petitioned for the grant of the Friary in that town, for a town-hall, because their old hall stood by the river Kennet, near the spot which was used by the townswomen for washing clothes ; and the corporation say in their petition that the noise of the women's clappers caused great interruption to the transaction of public business. These clappers were, of course, wooden ones. Washing in cold water, they used wooden battledores to beat their clothes, just as the blanchisseuses of the Seine do still. In the present day, washing by the river-side is, we believe, nowhere to be seen in England, but it is common enough in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland; and, as is well known, the Parisian laundresses pretty generally resort to washing-boats on the Seine. In Pepys's day, London families would seem to have sent their linen to be washed by their servants at some washing establishment ; for that most valuable of diarists tells us, that on August 12th, 1667, he dined all alone,"my wife and maids being gone over the water to the whitster's with their clothes, this being the first time of her trying this way of washing her linen." Again he notes (August 19th, 1668), "This week my people wash over the water, and so I little company at home;" by which we may suppose that Mrs. Pepys was satisfied with her trial of " this way of washing her linen," as she continued to practise it for above a year.
It was reserved for our own day to establish public baths and laundries for the community generally, and for the poorer portion of it in particular. The practical philanthropist early saw that the sanitary improvement of the condition of the poor in our larger towns was a work loudly calling for accomplishment. Medical men, clergymen, city missionaries, parochial officers, and all whom either professional duty or benevolence had led to enter the dwellings of the very poor, however their opinion differed in other respects, were at least unanimous in declaring that those dwellings exhibited a degree of dirt and squalor with which health and morality were alike incompatible. Many remedies for the evil were suggested, and several carried into execution. One little knot of practical men resolved fortunately to give their special attention to the matter of personal cleanliness. It had been allowed by all who were really acquainted with the homes of the very poor, that in their crowded and wretched dwellings cleanliness was impossible. In such places not only were there scarcely the means for personal cleanliness, but to wash and dry clothes properly was quite impracticable. It was proposed, therefore, to see whether the establishment of places where, for a small charge, a warm bath could at any time be had, and where all the conveniences for washing and drying clothes should be provided free of charge, or at a trifling cost per hour, would not be gladly accepted by the classes most requiring such conveniences.
The movement was practically initiated by the holding of an influential meeting at the Mansion House, under the presidency of the Lord Mayor, in September 1844; when resolutions were passed for the formation of an 'Association for Promoting Cleanliness amongst the Poor;' and an active subscription was commenced. The first experiment was made in a wretched locality near the London Docks, where in an open court, called Glasshouse Yard, Rosemary Lane, an old but spacious building, which had for some time been occupied by ' sleeping-berths for the houseless poor,' was rented and converted into the first 'Free Baths and Wash-houses,' and opened in May 1845. A portion of the building was adapted, as well as it could be at a small expense, to the purpose, and furnished with a due supply of tubs and boilers, and with a few baths in various out-of-the-way recesses ; and soap and soda, as well as hot and cold water, were provided gratuitously. The number of persons who availed themselves of the establishment was, in the first year, 27,662 bathers and 36,577 washers; in the second year there were 84,584 bathers and washers. This, though the first establishment of the kind in London, was not the first in England; a very small one having been previously started, and with much success, in Liverpool, though without the knowledge of the London Committee. The Glasshouse Yard establishment owed its success solely to its usefulness. There was nothing extrinsic to render it attractive. It was placed in one of the worst spots in the metropolis ; the building itself was as little suited to the purpose as any building well could be; the accommodation was of the most ordinary kind. Yet it at once proved—if proof were needed—that the poorest in that wretched neighbourhood would gladly be clean when the means were attainable. In August 1846, a second, and much superior establishment, was opened in George Street, Euston Square ; a plot of ground having been liberally offered by the New River Company, near one of their reservoirs, with the additional advantage of a free supply of water for the first six months. In the first year there were here some 113,000 bathers and 20,000 washers. This establishment, in which the baths are more varied in price than elsewhere, still flourishes.
The establishment third in point of date was, however, the first in importance and in the value of the consequences which resulted from it. In this the committee first fairly developed their plans. Although the building in Glasshouse Yard was opened gratuitously, it had been desired that the institution should as soon as practicable be rendered self-supporting by means of a small charge to each person who used it. The committee hoped too, to see the system extended throughout the country ; and they rightly thought that nothing would so effectually and speedily further that object as to be able to show a Model Establishment, which, while it contained all the conveniences and appliances which those who availed themselves of it could desire, should be in itself all that science, combined with practical skill, could effect in the economy, suitableness, and completeness of its arrangements. Accordingly, architects and others were invited to send in designs for baths and laundries, and all the information which could be obtained was collected. The Model Establishment was then erected on a site which had been purchased in Goulston Square, Whitechapel, a very poor and crowded neighbourhood, but of ready access. The arrangements being almost entirely novel caused a very large original outlay, and many changes have been subsequently made; but as a whole they had been so carefully considered, and were so judiciously designed by Mr. Prichard Baly, the committee's engineer, that no material alteration has since been found necessary ; indeed, in a recent Report of the Committee, we are told that " the general arrangements and mode of construction have been almost universally followed in London and the country."
In general character, then, these establishments are pretty much alike. The exterior is usually a plain brick building, with stone quoins and dressings; having a basement, and, in front, a story above it, with a lofty square ventilating and chimney-shaft, somewhat like a campanile in appearance. A brief sketch of the interior of any one will serve to give a general conception of all, it being understood that there are differences of detail in each.
The baths for males and females are on opposite sides of the building, and separated in Goulston Square by the washing-room, in some others by the plunging-baths. In both sides are first and second class baths. The apartment in which these are placed is spacious and lofty, covered by an open roof, and lighted in the day by ample skylights, by gaslights at night. Each bath-room is a distinct compartment, somewhat more than six feet square, shut in by walls of painted slate, which are carried up to the height of some ten feet: but the top is open, so as, while insuring privacy, to admit of thorough ventilation. The bath, in some establishments sunk in the ground, in others placed as usual above it, is either of iron enamelled, or of zinc. The first and second class rooms are usually alike in every respect, except that the fittings in the first-class rooms are of a superior kind, and more complete than in the second. On each door is a porcelain knob, having a number painted upon it; a similar number is painted inside. An index outside enables an attendant to let in either hot or cold water, as the bather may direct. The charge for a first-class warm bath is sixpence, for which two towels, 'flesh and hair brushes, and a comb are allowed. For a second-class bath the charge is only twopence, but only one towel is allowed, and the bather most provide his own comb and brushes. The baths are in all respects alike, the same quantity of water (in most places forty-five gallons, but at St. Martin's much more) is allowed, and the bath is invariably cleaned after each person. The most perfect cleanliness is indeed observed in every respect. For a cold bath the charges are respectively threepence for a first and one penny for a second class bath : the regulations are the same as with the warm baths. The baths on the female side are similar to the others, but there is a little more taste in the first-class fittings. At Goulston Square there are only warm and cold baths. At St. Martin's a shower-bath is added. At George Street there are also vapour-baths ; and at the more recently constructed establishments there are plunge or swimming baths filled with tepid water. For these swimming-baths the charge is usually fourpence for the first, and twopence each person for the second-class. At the larger of the recent establishments there are two swimming-baths — a first and a second class; the smaller places have only one large bath, using it three days a week as a first, and the other three days as a second-class bath.
The baths have everywhere proved exceedingly popular. The second-class baths are, in the summer particularly, always well attended, and of an evening there are generally many waiting for their turns, which are always strictly in the order of arrival.
The number of baths varies, of course, according to the requirements of the locality, and the size of the building. The number of first-class baths, for example, at St.-Martin's-in-the-Fields is, twenty-four men's, five women's ; of second-class, thirty-three men's, and eight women's. At Goulston Square, there are ninety-four first and second class baths. At St. James's, Marshall Street, there are only about fifty of both classes ; but there is a swimming-bath. The number of bathers at Goulston Square in the year is above 150,000; at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields the number is above 200,000.
The Wash-houses are more remarkable than the bathing-rooms, because entirely unlike what is seen anywhere else. Along the centre, on one side, and at the ends of a large and lofty room, are ranges of little doorless and roofless compartments, the walls being of unpainted slate, and some six or eight feet high: these are the washing-places. At convenient points are the wringing-machines. Along one side of the room (at Goulston Square) is what looks like a range of wide but shallow deal drawers, turned up endways, the handles being one above the other—that is the drying apparatus. A long flannel-covered board is furnished for ironing on. In some of the latest wash-houses a mangle is provided.
Each washing compartment is six feet long by three and a half feet wide. At the end are two wooden troughs, which serve as a washing-tub and a boiler; these are furnished with taps for hot and cold water, for steam, and for letting off the waste water, so that the tubs are filled and emptied without any more trouble on the part of the washer than turning the tap, and without moving from her standing-place. The water in the boiler is made to boil by the admission of steam into it, which, as we said, the washer can do whenever she pleases. The ventilation is so arranged that the steam from each compartment is at once drawn upwards, and carried off to the great ventilating shaft.
The Wringing-Machine is in effect a sort of wide bnt shallow colander, the sides, instead of the bottom being perforated, or rather formed of galvanised wire, so arranged that the meshes are about a quarter of an inch apart. When the wet clothes are put in this, it is set in rapid motion by a handle which works a few connecting wheels; the clothes at once by centrifugal force arrange themselves around the sides, and the water is rapidly driven out between the wires, and carried off by water-pipes: an opening at the foot of the machine shows when the water ceases to flow, and when consequently the ' wringing' is completed, and then the pressure of a lever at once stops the machine. The machine has rather a heavy look, but the turning of it is really very light work, and by it three minutes suffice to rid even a thick blanket of its moisture. The Drying-Chamber is a long chamber, heated by hot air to a temperature above 212°, and divided into numerous smaller chambers, so as to separate the clothes of the washers. Each division of the chamber contains a clothes-horse or maiden, one being allowed to each washer. In ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, the clothes, unless very heavy or numerous, are quite dry. The Committee have published a table in their Report to show the rapidity with which the drying is accomplished. Some of the results are curious. We may take a single instance as an illustration of the processes we have been following. Three large dirty blankets weighed before being washed 9 lbs. 1 oz. ; after washing, they weighed 24 Ibs. 14 oz.; after leaving the wringing-machine, 12 Ibs. 3 oz.; after being dried, 8 lbs. 12 oz. These blankets took twenty-five minutes to dry, at a temperature of 210°. In all other cases the results were similar, establishing the fact that "the articles when taken from the drying-chamber contained decidedly less moisture than they did when they were received for the wash." To show the "satisfactory working of the drying-chamber at the Model Establishment, and also its great advantage in the economy of time, trouble, and expense, to those of the labouring classes who resort to it," the committee give a return of the articles dried there in one week ending January 24,1852. It is too full for us to copy ; bul we may state that the number of articles of all kinds from counterpanes, jackets, and trousers, down to shirts and stockings, was 36,844, belonging to 1373 washers, who occupied 2999½ hours in washing, drying, and ironing them ; and that the drying consumed only 282 bushels of coke, which cost under 4l.
In most of the establishments there is only one class of washers ; but in some there are both first and second classes, the difference being that the first class have a somewhat larger compartment allotted to each washer, and a third or rinsing-tub. The charge for the use of all the apparatus m have described is now generally l½d. an hour, though in few places it is only 1d. an hour. Where there are both classes, the charge is 2½d, an hour first-class, and 1½d. second Soap, soda, &c., have to be found by the washers. The number of washing compartments varies, of course, according to the size of the establishment; at Goulston Square there are 84 of them, at St. Martin's 56. The average time occupied by each washer at the Model Establishment is two hours and a half; and this is the general average time in London; in some country towns it differs considerably. In London it seems pretty well established that the active wife of a labouring man can at one of these places wash and dry the clothes of her family in two or three hours. The ironing, at least in part, is generally done at home.
Let us now look a little at what has been accomplished. In August, 1846, the royal assent was given to an Act to encourage the establishment of public baths and wash-houses, which, as amended in the session of 1847, empowered parish vestries and borough councils to establish such institutions, and, with the sanction of the Treasury, to borrow money for the purpose on the security of the borough fund or poor's rates. A schedule directs, among other very excellent rules, that baths must be provided in them at 1d. for cold, and 2d. for warm baths ; and that the wash-houses shall be furnished with necessary conveniences at a charge not exceeding 3d. for two hours. Baths and wash-houses of a higher class are to be charged as the council and commissioners respectively think fit. The baths and wash-houses "for the labouring classes " in any such establishment, must be not less than twice the number of those of any higher class. This Act at once gave the system a firm standing ; and both boroughs and parishes have availed themselves of its powers to a considerable extent. Of course, it is not always easy to persuade vestrymen to permit an addition to be made to their parochial rates for a purpose that does not promise advantage to themselves ; bat as it has become year by year more evident that these institutions may be made self-supporting, and in due time repay the amount expended on their foundation, so there has been a growing readiness to found them. In London and the suburbs, besides the Model Establishment in Goulston Square, and that in George Street, Hampstead-road, there are several large parochial establishments, some of which are fitted up in an extremely complete manner, while all are well attended by both washers and bathers. Manchester and Liverpool have each several baths and washhouses, and almost every other large town throughout the country is either provided, or taking measures to be provided with similar establishments; and the example has been followed by several of the smaller towns. Nor have the good effects of the movement been confined to this country. The Committee for promoting the Establishment of Baths and Wash-houses for the Labouring Classes, were able at the end of 1852, to state in the Report before quoted, that the governments of France, Norway, and Belgium, the municipality of Venice, and the authorities at Hamburg, Turin, Munich, Amsterdam, Lisbon, and New York, had applied for, and been furnished with information on the subject ; and in some of these countries the example of England has since been followed in providing similar establishments for the labouring classes.
It is evident that the institution has become firmly established. In London alone, the bathers number little short of two millions a year ; while the washers exceed half a million. The constantly increasing number of bathers and washers shows that the system is commending itself to a large section of the population. The experience of twelve years has proved that, with proper attention and economy, the establishments may be rendered self-supporting; and the observations of all who have watched them in particular localities, vouch for their beneficial influences. The point in which they appear to have failed, is in reaching the very poorest. That portion of the community for whom the institution was primarily intended, seems to have been scarcely touched by it. Everywhere those who avail themselves of the benefits offered, are of a class above the poorest. The most profitable section of the establishment is found to be the "first class." Whether availing themselves of the hint, the managers of these establishments might not, by furnishing a yet higher class bath (though still at a moderate price), provide the means by which they might support one of a cheaper kind than they have at present been able to afford, and so extend the benefits of the system both upwards and downwards, is a question perhaps deserving of more attention than it has hitherto received.
Second Supplement to the Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1858
BATHS AND WASH-HOUSES, for the working-classes, originated in 1844, with an "Association for Promoting Cleanliness among the Poor," who fitted up a Bath-house and a Laundry in Glass-house Yard, East Smithfield; where, in the year ending June 1847, the bathers, washers, and ironers amounted to 85,584; the bathers and washers also gave whitewash, and lent pails and brushes, to those willing to cleanse their own wretched dwellings. . . . This successful experiment led to the passing of an Act of Parliament (9 and 10 Vict. c.74), "To Encourage the Establishment of Baths and Wash-houses." A Committee sat at Exeter Hall for the same object; a Model Establishment was built in Goulston-square, Whitechapel; and Baths and Wash-houses were established in St. Pancras, Marylebone, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and other large metropolitan parishes.
John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867