What is the history of baths?

Posted on 6 January 2022

Over the years, bathing has become not just a way to keep clean but also to relax and unwind at the end of a hard day. If you love a long soak in the tub, you may be wondering “What is the history of baths?” Read on to learn more about bathing throughout the ages. 

Ancient bathing

What is the history of baths?

You might assume that people in ancient times were unhygienic. However, that’s not really the case. People from this era of history enjoyed bathing just as much as we do, often enjoying several baths each day. The Greeks and the Romans are well-known for their bathing practices.

The Greeks 

When considering what is the history of baths, the Ancient Greeks are the best place to start. The earliest findings of baths actually date from the 2nd millennium BC in Knossos, Crete, Greece. Not unexpectedly, it was found within a luxury palace that also contained a flushing toilet system. The bathing area consisted of a 5-foot bathtub constructed from painted terracotta. 

The Greeks have long been renowned for their public baths. Greek Olympians constructed buildings with heated flooring and water heating furnaces. Rather than simply being somewhere to wash, they were places to meet with friends. Often, food and drink was involved, creating a real sociable experience. 

The Romans 

The Romans were equally well-known for their love of bathing. Indeed, this society invented the Thermae and Balineae. Thermae were the larger imperial bath complexes whilst Balineae were smaller and existed in large numbers throughout Rome. Like the Greeks, Romans would often use these facilities for socialising with friends. Although, wealthier individuals would tend to build their own private bathhouses at home. 

The Romans led the way when it came to guttering systems, installing them in the streets to drain water away and prevent flooding. They relied on guttering to feed water into the public baths. They heated the water using a log fire before channelling it into the bathing rooms using a Hypocaust system. Hot air from furnaces flowed through the room and through the flues in the roof. 

Medieval bathing

People from the medieval period weren’t as enthusiastic about bathing as the Greeks and Romans. However, this doesn’t mean that they didn’t take a dip in the tub from time to time. Public steam baths called ‘stews’ were popular as social meeting places in medieval England. These were named after ‘stewhouses’ which were first established in the mid-12th century on the south bank of the River Thames. Unfortunately, these places were also used as brothels.

Wooden tubs become common in homes of the wealthy. They required filling up with warm water using jugs. In aristocratic houses, they’d often use sponges with herbs or roses when washing. Of course, less well-off folk didn’t have access to such luxurious bathing facilities. 

Around the same time, many people started to wear clothes made of linen, making them look far more presentable than they had done in the past. Many took the view that looking good was much more important than maintaining personal hygiene, which meant they bathed less. Medical experts were also telling people that dirty clothes caused disease and so the best way to stay healthy was to wash clothes rather than their bodies. 

The 19th century 

Bathroom Fitting in Scunthorpe

The 19th century saw the evolution of piped water systems, starting a whole new era for baths. Sanitation systems were common in well-populated urban areas, allowing people to collect water to use at home for bathing. Since collecting sufficient water for everyone to bathe was tough, many families chose to share bathwater. Copper baths widely replaced wood baths during this period, although the wealthiest tended to have clawfoot tubs which were constructed from cast iron and porcelain. These baths remain a popular choice today, adding a touch of class to any bathroom.

The 20th century onwards 

Bathrooms started being installed in new houses in Britain in the 20th century after World War Two. This was part of the government’s mammoth rebuilding exercise. Of course, older houses still didn’t have bathrooms, which meant that many people continued bathing in the kitchen or living room as well as using an outside toilet.

Modern bathing is nothing like the bathing of the past. Today we have an endless choice of baths to meet all needs and budgets. What’s more is that baths are constantly evolving, with manufacturers eager to use technology to provide increasingly innovative bathing solutions. 

Some of the most popular types of baths include clawfoot and pedestal baths, recessed or alcove baths, freestanding baths, corner baths, shower baths and whirlpools baths. Some baths come with Jacuzzi jets to provide a highly relaxing experience. Others use Smart technology to fill up automatically before you even get up in the morning, making bathing very convenient.

Quality Bathrooms in Gainsborough and Brigg 

If the time has come to invest in a new bath, look no further than Quality Bathrooms. We offer a wide range of baths in a whole host of styles, all at highly competitive prices. Our professional installers can fit your new bath to the highest standards, ensuring a first-class finish. If you need expert advice on choosing a bath, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can talk through your options with you, helping you to select the perfect bath from our range of beautiful bathrooms in Gainsborough and Brigg. 

Contact us 

Now you know what is the history of baths, you may be eager to install a new tub in your own property. To discuss your requirements, contact Quality Bathrooms. Call us on 01724 375 019 to talk to one of our friendly specialists. You can also send us a message via the website if you prefer and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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