Saunas, spas and baths are a major part of European culture - from Finnish saunas which include a roll in the snow, to the ornate baths of
|London gets its first public spa|
London gets its first public spaBy Angela Saini
A £1.4 million makeover to the Turkish baths in Bethnal Green have brought a touch of glamour to the East End - but is the service still affordable?
A state-of-the-art spa facility has been built in York Hall to replace the building's eighty-year-old Victorian-style Turkish baths.
'Spa London' is a joint project between Tower Hamlets Council and Greenwich Leisure Limited, a non-profit-making company that provides sports facilities in London.
It is the country's first fully-equipped public-sector spa. Andy McCabe, Director of Operations at Greenwich Leisure Limited, told BBC London that similar facilities will be built elsewhere in London if it is a success.
York Hall is most famously known as the venue for boxing matches. The building also houses a gym and the council's incontinence laundry service.
Nevertheless, the unlikely surroundings now contain a facility that rivals many of London’s private spas.
Too expensive for some?
The services at Spa London include a steam room, sauna and relaxation zone, which are available at a steep discount for Tower Hamlets residents - £6 for concessions and £15 for everyone else.
Other treatments, such as massages, are charged at much higher commercial rates - up to £95 for a hot stone massage. Tower Hamlets Council says the profits from those services will help subsidise the steam room and sauna for local residents.
But that hasn't satisfied everyone. Chris Fox, from the York Hall Users Group says that in the old days he could pay £7 and spend most of the day in the sauna and steam room if he wanted.
"It's not just the price and access which are disappointing" complains Chris, "but also that decades of tradition have been overturned by bringing in a luxury spa that isn't in keeping with the area".
Joanna Buick, another regular user of the former Turkish baths, agrees that they have lost their character: "Many local community users of the baths are hurt, angry and sad," she said.
"The target user group seems to be wealthy people ... People who've been coming to York Hall Baths for years will either not come back, or if they do find the money to come, they won't interact and share in the ways they did in the past."
Newham and Tower Hamlets reporter Angela Saini filmed inside Spa London. To watch her report, click on the link at the top right of this page.