Read in the Bathtub Day (but at your peril)

Moorfields Hospital
Moorfields Eye Hospital
UPDATE: Peerless Pool has been nominated for an Islington People’s Plaque 2014.

This day in London’s history: 9 February is, apparently, Read in the Bathtub Day and there is a Bath Street in Clerkenwell, leading to Peerless Street (location of the Moorfields Eye Hospital), which takes its name from a luxury swimming bath that was once a dangerous pond. The name is more of a disguise than an indication of any superlative quality.

The name comes from a spring that overflowed and formed a pond – Perilous Pond – so-called, says London historian John Stow, because “divers youths, by swimming therein, have drowned”. The pond, with its unfortunate propensity for drowning people, was finally closed off.

In 1743, William Kemp, a jeweller, converted the pond to a luxury swimming bath with a well-stocked fish pond next to it. In the winter the pond was used for ice skating. Both were available to visit at the price of one guinea per annum or two shillings per visit; Kemp wisely changed the name from Perilous Pond to to Peerless Pool.

The path alongside the bath was called Peerless Row and later became Peerless Street. The pool was closed in 1850 and then built over.

St Apollonia
St Apollonia

In addition to Read in the Bathtub Day, February 9 is also celebrated (or otherwise noted) in the US as National Bagel Day and National Toothache Day. Entertainingly, some people point to the founding of the Hershey Corporation on 9 February 1894 as being a possibility for the reason behind Toothache Day. More likely is is because 9 February is St Apollonia’s Day; she was a virgin martyr whose torture included having her teeth either broken or pulled out. She is regarded as the patron saint of dentistry and those suffering from toothache.

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