Gay bathhouses in the United Kingdom

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There are multiple gay bathhouses, in the United Kingdom. In the UK the term used is "gay sauna" as opposed to gay bathhouse, the term more commonly used in North America. There are gay saunas throughout the UK, with London having most of them. Among the more noteworthy are Chariots Shoreditch, in Shoreditch, London, and Pleasuredrome, South London and Sweatbox in Soho, London.

Chariots Shoreditch[edit]

Chariots Shoreditch
Chariots contact card.jpg
2009, free customer contact card
General information
Location Shoreditch, London
Address 1 Fairchild Street
Country England
Coordinates 51°31′25″N 0°04′42″W / 51.523509°N 0.078375°W / 51.523509; -0.078375
Opening 1997 (1997)
Renovated 2000
Management Chariots Leisure Ltd
Other information
Facilities pool, whirlpool tubs, steam rooms, sauna, gym, cafe, orgy rooms, cubicles

In terms of floor-space and capacity, Chariots Shoreditch is the largest gay sauna in the UK.[1][2]


The bathhouse is on three floors decorated in the style of a Roman baths.[3]

  • On the ground floor is the main entrance with several areas of customer lockers, main shower room, TV lounge with bar/cafe, vending machines, internet area and an inclusive gym with several work-out machines.
  • The first floor houses a maze of free private cabins of various sizes including orgy rooms and an extensive dark maze (pitch black orgy room and set of cabins).
  • The second floor has a swimming pool, poolside loungers, two whirlpools (jacuzzis), two steam-rooms, a hot dry sauna, showers, glory-hole cubicles, a second smaller dark room, outside private smoking area and a porn video/orgy room.[4]

There are free STD testing sessions held at the bathhouse.[5]


Customers are given two towels, a locker key and condoms on entrance. Further condoms are available from wall dispensers. Most people keep the second towel as a dry spare in their locker. The convention is to walk around the bathhouse wearing a towel, though nudity in the dry or steam sauna is normal.[6] Apart from the lounge, cafe area, lockable cabins and within the jacuzzi, sexual activity may occur anywhere, with anyone free to watch or attempt to join in.[7]


Chariots Roman Spa opened in 1997. The management previously ran Rio's, a Kentish Town naturist club. Originally a warehouse, the Shoreditch redevelopment cost £2.5 million.[8] In 2000 the venue was significantly expanded with the addition of the restaurant, 30 more cubicles, video lounge and internet room.

Media attention[edit]

On 2 May 1998, former footballer Justin Fashanu spent the evening in Chariots before committing suicide nearby that night.[9][10]

There was significant press interest and internet speculation in 2006 when the sauna was closed for Easter Weekend, after a 24-year-old man's body was found. The police investigation found that death was due to a drugs overdose but there were no suspicious circumstances.[11]


In addition to the first Chariots at Shoreditch, Chariots Leisure Ltd has opened the following gay saunas: Chariots Streatham (1999), Chariots Limehouse (2002, previously Sailor's Sauna), Chariots Waterloo (2003, previously Wellingtons Health Club) and Chariots Vauxhall (2005). Chariots Farringdon (opened 1999) closed in 2010 due to the Crossrail development.[12]


At 0605 on Sunday 20 March 2011 the London Fire Brigade were called to attend a fire which was reported to have destroyed most of the ground floor. 150 patrons were evacuated, and there were no injuries. The cause of fire is under investigation.[13]


General information
Location Waterloo, London
Address Arch 124 corner of Cornwall Rd & Alaska Street, Waterloo, London
Country England
Opening 1998 (1998)
Management Independent - Sole Trader
Other information
Facilities pool, whirlpool tubs, steam rooms, sauna, gym, cafe, orgy rooms, cubicles

Pleasuredrome is a gay sauna in south London, in the arches below Waterloo East railway station on the corner of Cornwall Rd and Alaska Street.[14] It markets itself as "We never close"[1][15][16] and is open every day of the year and is also licensed to sell alcohol 24 hours per day.


Customers are given two towels, a locker key and condoms on entrance. It is etiquette to wrap in a towel, nudity in the dry or steam sauna is normal. Inside the sauna area sexual activity may be present and others may wish to watch or try to join in. Privacy at this venue is afforded by private rooms.,[6][7][17] This venue actively promotes condom use reinforced by staff in their interactions with the clientele to promote safer sex.[18] The venue has a drugs free, smoke free policy.[17]


The sauna is set in railway arches, a building method employed as land prices in large English cities increased. The sauna opened as a gay bathhouse in 1998 whilst the HIV rate amongst Gay men in London was 10%, some but not all gay bath houses promote safe sex.[19] In the same year at another venue in London, Chariots the first openly gay British footballer Justin Fashanu spent his last night before taking his own life due to blackmail.[20] and this is the year of the Bolton 7 case, at that time it was a criminal offence for more than two men to engage in sexual activity, even if above the age of consent. The charge would have been gross indecency and resulted in person being made to sign the sex offenders register. Although the law had relaxed since the raids on Gay Bath houses in the 80's[21] Gay men still faced prosecution for consensual sex if another person was present, it was in this turbulent time that this venue opened.[22] The offences of gross indecency and buggery were repealed in The Sexual Offences Act 2003.[19]

From 2002 the Waterloo area had benefited from £50 million worth of regeneration works being completed by 2007, a focus was reusing old railway arches.[23][24][25]

In 2006 there was claim by an 18 year old male that he had been raped at the sauna by a 24 year old man while visiting the sauna. "With the full co-operation of the management and patrons, the suspect was subsequently identified and arrested" the official statement further stated that "A 24-year-old man was taken into custody at Kennington police station where he remains." Police thanked staff at the sauna for their co-operation.[26]


Sweatbox is a gay sauna located in Soho, London's gay village. Sweatbox opened in 2008, and is the only gay sauna in the UK to offer 24hr and 48hr passes, as well as a weekly pass. The sauna also offers annual membership. Sweatbox, being ideally situated in London's gay quarter, Soho, attracts many customers from the pubs, clubs and bars of the nearby gay scene either before or after a night out.


On entry, customers pay for their pass, and are given a towel and key for locker. Customers are allowed to walk around the premises naked, so long as they are seen to have a towel on them. The sauna is on two floors, the upstairs containing the showers, jacuzzi, sauna room and steam rooms. This section of the sauna is very dimly lit and dark with dim red lighting effect. On the second floor are private cubicles.

There is also a lounge, where customers can rest and use the free Wi-fi access, with snacks and soft drinks available. Alcoholic drinks are only sold during events, such as Gay Pride. Condoms and lube are provided in the lounge.

The sauna plays music throughout, mainly deep house and underground dance. Sweatbox is popular for its foam party nights held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. As of June 2013, Sweatbox is undergoing building works to make improvements to the sauna.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Humphreys, Rob; Bamber, Judith (2003). The Rough Guide to London (5 ed.). Rough Guides. p. 507. ISBN 978-1-84353-093-0. 
  2. ^ "Chariots Review". Time Out London. 2009. 
  3. ^ Edward, Olivia; Cortinovis, Genevieve; Eggleton, James; Lee, Youyoung; Hermitage, Ashley (2007). MTV England. Frommer's. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-7645-8773-3. 
  4. ^ "QX Magazine London Issue 767". QX Magazine London (QX) (767): 88. 19 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  5. ^ Writer, Staff (2007-10-15). "NHS to hold STI testing in gay sauna". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  6. ^ a b Couture, Joseph (2008). Peek: inside the private world of public sex. Haworth Press. ISBN 978-1-56023-646-7. 
  7. ^ a b Woods, William J.; Binson, Diane (2003). William J. Woods; Diane Binson, eds. Gay Bathhouses and Public Health Policy. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-56023-273-5. 
  8. ^ Chariots History, archive from official site
  9. ^ Powell, Vicky (June 1998). "Suicide note increases speculation over death of Justin Fashanu". Gay Times (Millivres) (237). 
  10. ^ "It's the national game but it is a sport which has a bad reputation for tolerance. Football started to tackle racism when black players became stars. But why is being gay still a taboo on the football field?". BBC. 24 April 2008. Retrieved 21 November 2009. 
  11. ^ Shoffman, Marc (2006-04-21). "Man found dead in gay sauna". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  12. ^ Archive page of Chariots Farringdon in 2007.
  13. ^ Park, James. "Chariots on fire: East London gay sauna severely damaged in fire". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  14. ^ "Pleasuredrome London". Archived from the original on 2010-10-09. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  15. ^ "QX Magazine London Issue 758". QX Magazine London (QX) (758): 80. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  16. ^ "QX Magazine London Issue 717". QX Magazine London (QX) (717): 37. 3 December 2008. Archived from the original on 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  17. ^ a b "Official Web Site". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  18. ^ Burston, Paul (2007-11-27). "Time Out Review". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  19. ^ a b Promoting men's health: a guide for practitioners By Neil Davidson, Trefor Lloyd, 2001. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  20. ^ [Powell, Vicky (June 1998). "Suicide note increases speculation over death of Justin Fashanu". Gay Times (Millivres) (237)]
  21. ^ Gay bathhouses
  22. ^ Bolton 7
  23. ^ "Cross River Partnership". Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  24. ^ London SE1 website team London SE1 community website. "London SE1 News". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  25. ^ "Cross River Partnership publication". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  26. ^ Writer, Staff (2006-03-14). "Rape claims in gay sauna". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 


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