1826 Illustration of Mahomed's Baths on Brighton Seafront

1826 Illustration of Mahomed’s Baths on Brighton Seafront

By Wendy Hughes
What has an Indian gentleman, shampoo baths, therapeutic massage, south Asian cuisine and travelling to do with Brighton? Quite a lot actually! Sake Dean Mahomed was a Bengali traveller who became one of the most notable non-European immigrants to the Western world .He was also the first Indian to publish a book in English.
He was born in Patna, Bihar, India in 1759. His father belonged to the traditional Nai (barber) caste and was employed by the East India Company. He had also studied Mughal alchemy and had a good grounding in the techniques used to produce soaps and shampoos. Mahomed’s father died when he was only ten-years-old, and like his father joined the East India Company Army at the age of 11, and some found a father figure in Captain Godfrey Evan Baker, an Anglo-Irish officer who treated him like a son. He served in the British East India Company Army as a trainee surgeon, and remained with Captain Baker’s Unit until the captain retired in 1782. After 13 years service Mahomed choose to leave the army and accompany ‘his best friend’ Captain Baker, to Cork in Ireland, and the captain paid for him to study English language skills and literatures at a local school. It was whilst at this school that Mahomed fell in love with Jane Daly, an Irish woman with respectable parentage. The Daly family strongly opposed the relationship, so Mahomed converted from Islam to Protestantism, but because at the time it was illegal for Protestants and Catholics to marry the couple eloped and married.
Mahomed and his young growing family moved to London in search of opportunities, but instead of settling amongst the merchants who traded with India he moved to Portman Square, the hub of high society. His first job was as an assistant to Sir

Sake Dean Mahomed

Sake Dean Mahomed

Basil Cochrane, who had installed a steam bath for public use in his home in Portman Square and promoted it for its medical benefits. Whilst employed it is claimed that Mahomed was responsible for introducing the practice of ‘champoo that became anglicised to shampooing,’ (Indian massage). The treatment involved first lying in an herbal steam bath, and when the patient was sweating placed in a flannel tent with sleeves. Outside the tent the practitioner would put his arms through the sleeves and administer the massage.
In 1810 when Mahomed had accrued enough money he opened an Indian restaurant, the Hindoostane Coffee House in George Street, near Portman Square offering his customers the Indian experience complete with bamboo furniture, curries and real Chilm tobacco. The aim was to attract the people, who had served in India and had returned to Britain, but unfortunately there was already an established restaurant on the east side of town, and the Indian servants brought over by their employers cooked their native dishes. So with too much competition Mahomed was forced to take on a partner, and the venture ended up declaring bankruptcy.
Mahomed, now in his fifties moved his family to Brighton and the only work he could find was as a manager of a bathhouse, so be began to reinvent himself as the ‘Inventor of the Indian Medicated Vapour Baths.’ Cashing in on his Indian heritage he added the title Sake ( a variation of Sheik) to his name, and later opened the first
‘shampooing’ vapour masseur bath in England on the site now occupied by the
Queen’s Hotel in Brighton. His treatments were described in a local paper as the
Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (a type of Turkish bath), and a cure for many
diseases and giving relief to such things as rheumatic, gout, stiff joints, lame legs
and aches and pains of the joints. His business became an instant success and he
became known as ‘Dr Brighton’ with hospitals referring patients to him. He was also
appointed shampooing surgeon to both King George VI and William IV.

Mahomed's travel book

Mahomed’s travel book

When the couple moved to Brighton they had five children, Rosanna, Henry, Horatio,
Frederick and Arthur, with three more being born in Brighton, but soon moving a son
and daughter died. Interestingly one of their grandsons, Frederick Henry Horatio
Akbar Mahomed (1849-1884) became an internationally known physician who
worked at Guy’s Hospital in London and made valuable contributions to the study of
high blood pressure. Another of their grandson’s, Rev James Kerriman Mahomed
was appointed vicar of Hove, East Sussex in the late 19th century.

Mohomed headstone at St Nicholas' Chruch Brighton

Mohomed headstone at St Nicholas’ Chruch Brighton

Mahomed was also a generous donor to local charities and became the official
steward for the Annual Charity Ball dressing in a costume modelled on the Mughal
court dress. In 1851he died at the age of 92, just two months after Jane died, at his
home in 32 Grand Parade Brighton and is buried in a grave in St Nicholas’ Church
Brighton. His son Frederick, who taught fencing, gymnastics and other sporting
activities in Brighton at a gymnasium that he built in the town’s Church Street, and he
was later interned in the same grave.
plaqueUntil recently he has largely been forgotten, but on 29 September 2005 the City of
Westminster unveiled a Green Plaque commemorating the opening of the
Hindoostane Coffee House, and a plaque can also be seem at 102 George Street,
close to the original site of the coffee house at 34 George Street.

Queen's Hotel Brighton

Queen’s Hotel Brighton

About Wendy Hughes

Wendy turned to writing, in 1989, when ill-health and poor vision forced her into early medical retirement. Since then she has published 26 nonfiction books, and over 2000 articles. Her work has appeared in magazines as diverse as The Lady, Funeral Service Journal, On the Road, 3rd Stone, Celtic Connections, Best of British, and Guiding magazine. She has a column in an America/Welsh newspaper for ex-pats on old traditions and customs in Wales. Her books include many on her native Wales, Anglesey Past and Present, The Story of Brecknock, Brecon, a pictorial History of the Town, Carmarthen, a History and Celebration and Tales of Old Glamorgan, and a book on Walton on Thames in the Images of England series, a company history and two books on the charity Hope Romania. She has also co-authored two story/activity books for children. Her latest books are: Haunted Worthing published in October 2010, a new colour edition of The Story of Pembrokeshire published in March 2011, and Shipwrecks of Sussex in June 2011 and Not a Guide to Worthing in 2014. She is working on a book entitled A-Z of Curious Sussex which will be published in 2016 Wendy also works with clients to bring their work up to publishable standard and is currently working on an autobiography with a lady that was married to a very famous 1940’s travel writer. Wendy has spent many years campaigning and writing on behalf of people affected by Stickler Syndrome, a progressive genetic connective tissue disorder from which she herself suffers. She founded the Stickler Syndrome Support Group and raises awareness of the condition amongst the medical profession, and produces the group’s literature, and has written the only book on the condition, Stickler The Elusive Syndrome, and has also contributed to a DVD on the condition, Stickler syndrome: Learning the Facts. She has also writing three novels, Sanctimonious Sin, a three generation saga set in Wales at the turn of the century, Power That Heal set in the Neolithic period entitled Powers that Heal, and a semi biographical book entitled New Beginnings which deals with two generations coping with blindness and a genetic condition. She has also had a handful of short stories published, and in her spare time is working on several at the moment. She also gives talks on a variety of subjects including Writing and Placing Articles, Writing Local History, Writing as Therapy, Writing your first novel, etc, and runs workshops on the craft of writing – both fiction and non-fiction. She is a member of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, and a member of the Society of Authors.