The Baths, the Oven and the Families who owned them

The Baths, the Oven and the Families who owned them

As it was pointed out in the second chapter, Pere de Vila-rasa, a gentleman and a jurist, was the constructor of the building complex, consisting of the Palace, the baking oven, the Bath, and probably other neighbouring buildings. The construction date has also been established: the complex, or pobla , was clearly built in the second decade of the 14 th century. There is no doubt that construction was already underway in 1313 and that the main parts were finished by 1320.

THE PARDO DE LA CASTA FAMILY (before 1407 to1478)

The Vila-rasa family maintained ownership until the end of the thirteen-hundreds. As we shall see further on, the property of the complex was probably split at this time, so that the bath and oven were dissociated from the ownership of the palace. Therefore, after this time, they ceased to belong to the same individual or to the same lineage. At the beginning of the 15 th century, the bath and oven were owned by the Pardo de la Casta family, who never had any relationship with the Palace of el Almirante. The oldest reliable information is from 1407, when the gentleman Joan Pardo de la Casta and Beatriz, his wife, charged rent on the adjacent house, bath and baking oven ( alberch, bany e forn contigus ) in the Sant Tomàs parish. In 1466, Perot, the son of the aforementioned couple, obtained from the City Council the right to close the alleyway "del Bany" with doors, since it doubtlessly only gave direct access to the oven and the bath.
The Pardo de la Casta family, Barons of Alaquàs, had a house in the street called Trinquet dels Cavallers. Perot Pardo de la Casta personally owned another house, located in Avellanes street, whose far end was adjacent to the bath and oven, as was indicated in 1461. This same Perot, or Pere Pardo de la Casta, married Damiata de Montagut, a member of another family with a house on Trinquet dels Cavallers street. She was the widow of Manuel de Montagut and the mother of Montagut de Montagut. As a result of this marriage, the ownership of the bath and oven was passed on to the son Damiata already had from her previous marriage.
In fact, on 5 February 1451, Pere Pardo de la Casta and Damiata bestowed all their property on Montagut de Montagut, her son by her first marriage, on the occasion of his wedding. However, the transfer of ownership would only become effective at the time of their deaths. The will Pere Pardo de la Casta wrote on 3 February 1472, registered by the notary Jaume Pi, legalised the bestowal.


In 1478, after the death of Pere Pardo de la Casta and his spouse Damiata, the transfer of the oven and bath went into effect, and Montagut de Montagut took possession. When he died, at the end of 1501, he was still the owner of said property, but he didn't make a will. Given this situation, the young nobleman Enric de Montagut was named procurator of the deceased's estate. In January of 1502 the bath and oven, called "del Carreró", were sold to Francesc Joan de Montagut, the son of Montagut de Montagut, for 15,000 sueldos , taken from the 30,000 that the civil court had awarded Francesc Joan as his inheritance from his father, since the deceased had already given an equal sum to his daughter Damiata in 1488. The baths were, therefore, part of the paternal inheritance.
Francesc Joan de Montagut died in June 1512. In his will, which was drawn up two years before, he had designated his wife, Iolant Aguilar, as his residual legatee. The post mortem inventory, made one month after his death, includes the "oven and bath located and placed in the Sant Thomàs parish, in the street that crosses Sant Joan del Spital, commonly called Mossén Montagut".
Almost twenty years later, in March 1531, the widow Iolant Aguilar and her son, also named Francesc Joan de Montagut, sold the baths to the married couple Joan Salvaterra and Maria Pérez: "an attached bath and oven for baking bread, formerly called of Carreró, located and placed in this city, in the parish of Sant Tomàs, in the street called Carreró". The agreed price was 15,700 sueldos .


Joan Salvaterra was a flequer , a baker, and owned a baking oven near Sant Cristòfol. He and his wife, both from a humble background, could only pay 3,000 sueldos up front on the established price of 15,700. They agreed to pay off the remaining debt in payments with an annual interest equal to 1/15 of the sum in question, at 6.66 %, until quittance, or the settlement of the difference of 12,700 sueldos . The annual interest, 846 s 4 d , was to be paid in two instalments, in March and in September. But Salvaterra died in 1536, leaving the debt unsettled.
The widow rented out the bath in 1538 to a wool carder called Miquel Joan Sofro (thus making a third person responsible for its management). The annual rent was established at 36 libras and the lease was valid for four years, with the possibility of an extension. As for the oven, it was rented out to a "flequer" named Ramon Berroy in exchange for 30 libras a year. The heirs of Iolant Aguilar received the rent, and they even charged ground rent on this income.
Unable to settle the debt, Maria Pérez de Salvaterra was forced to give up ownership of the property. In 1541 a member of the extensive Penyarroja family line named Filibert acquired the establishment through an intermediary. We have proof of a receipt, dated March 1542, for a payment of 200 libras as part of the "price for a oven and a bath called del Carreró ". It is worth mentioning that the deceased baker Joan Salvaterra and his wife had had a relationship with Francesc Penyarroja, Filibert's father, probably because of the flour mill that the latter had in Les Arboredes, near Montolivet. Evidentially, Filibert Penyarroja also bought the Sant Cristòfol baking oven from Maria in the same transaction.


When Filibert Penyarroja bought the bath, the rental contract that Salvaterra's widow had made in 1538 to Miquel Joan Sofro was still in effect. Once it expired, in August 1546, the bath was rented to Miquel Junquer under the exact same conditions as the contract made eight years earlier. The document specifically mentions "one bath... placed in the Sant Tomàs parish, commonly called Bany del Carreró". In April 1551, after Filibert Penyarroja died, the renters of the bath were Miquel Junquer's son—who had the same name as his father—and his wife Aldonça.
At this time, the people who ran the adjacent oven did not manage the Bany del Carreró: the Forn del Carreró (Carreró Bakery) was rented to the "flequer" Lluís Pérez and his wife Àngela for 30 libras a year.
Filibert's place within the complex genealogy of the Penyarroja line is somewhat uncertain. We know he was the son of Francesc Penyarroja (there are others with the same name), a Doctor of both secular and ecclesiastical Law, who was married in 1500 to Elionor Marrades, with whom he had another son named Manuel. As for Filibert, he was married to Isabel Joan Pertusa and, when he died, she was pregnant. In his will, he designated his unborn son as residual legatee and, in his absence, Bernat Lluís, his brother Manuel's son. After the will was published, his posthumous son Joaquim Tomàs was born and "died by the end of the year", in 1552.
This is how Bernat Lluís Penyarroja obtained his uncle's inheritance, although, given his youth, he was subject to his father Manuel's guardianship. The oven and the bath belonged to him until the time of his death, for the lengthy period of 46 years. "Bernat Lluís Penyarroja, in life, had and owned in this city, four ovens and houses, and one Bany del Carreró".
Like his uncle, Bernat Lluís died without leaving any children, in 1598. His estate passed on to a relative of his, Marc Antoni Penyarroja, son of Francesc Penyarroja (not to be confused with Filibert's father) and Isabel de Casanova. This Francesc Penyarroja was, apparently, Bernat Lluís's cousin and was the first to give himself the title Bou de Penyarroja, in an attempt to link himself with the Bou family.
Marc Antoni got married twice. The first time was with Anna Duart, with whom he had no children, and the second was with Jerònima de Castellví. He died in Madrid in 1611, the father of a new born son named Mauro, but the child outlived him only by a few years. His portrait is included among those of personages from the military branch, painted to decorate the Palace of the Generalitat in 1593. The inventory of his possessions, made by his widow Jerònima, includes four baking ovens and a bath. The ovens are the one of Boatella, the one on Señor de Borriol street (Santa Caterina parish), the one of Sant Cristòfol (Mar street) and the "oven for baking bread, located and placed... in the street called ‘of the Bany del Carreró'", adjacent to "said bath". The inventory also included a house inherited from Francesc Aliaga. The bath appears in the inventory as "a bath house commonly called del Carreró... located between said borders" (the borders mentioned for the oven), thus leaving the description quite imprecise.
The estate inherited by Marc Antoni Penyarroja (or Bou de Penyarroja) from his uncle Bernat Lluís mainly included the aforementioned flour mill and the four baking ovens, with the Carreró bath, within the city. Filibert Penyarroja had not only acquired the oven next to the bath, but also another one in the " plaza micer Joan de Gallach" (Santa Caterina parish). El Forn de la Boatella, (Boatella Bakery), also known as "dels Penarroges", was one of the family's most valuable possessions. Vicent Penyarroja had bought it in 1489 for 12,000 sueldos .
The connection between the bath and the oven was a physical one, explained by the advantage of using a common supply of fuel. Also, the link established by the mill and the baking ovens was not by chance. This information allows us to confirm the economic coherence of the family's estate, whose formation went beyond coincidences produced by purchases and legacies.
An important document on this subject is the trial initiated in 1598 by Gaspar Fuster, Bernat Lluís Penyarroja's servant and business administrator, against the executors of his will. Five testimonies put the income of the deceased at more than 2,000 libras a year, "which consisted of the proceeds from said mill, four baking ovens, a bath, many houses, various ground rents and lands around said mill." The mill, called Les Arboredes, was "very important". It was located "in front of Montolivet" and had five or six millstones, as stated by Baltasar Alemany, a "flequer", a kneader and a bread retailer. He was the leaseholder of the Forn de les Repenedides, and had been repeatedly pressured by Bernat Lluís to bring grain to his mill. If Penyarroja could coerce those who ran other ovens and force them to commit to using his mill exclusively (for example, by sabotaging the bids for rental contracts), we have even more reason to believe that the control he had over his own baking ovens guaranteed that his lease-holding "flequers" would grind their grain at his mill. He would later sell at the grain market the percentage in grain that he obtained from them for doing their milling. This was the business that was diligently carried out by the administrator Gaspar Fuster.
All these facts allow us to understand the family's interest, which was neither coincidental nor arbitrary, in accumulating baking ovens for their estate. In this context, one of the ovens they acquired—which happened to be the least profitable—came with the adjacent bath. This explains the Penyarroja family's willingness to continue to operate it in later years, in spite of the decline experienced by this kind of establishments.


The premature death of Marc Antoni Bou de Penyarroja's son, in 1613, set off a series of lawsuits against his widow Jerònima de Castellví. The claims were substantiated by a nephew of the deceased, Llorenç Bou de Penyarroja, before the Royal Court, where files from the years 1616 and 1618 have been preserved. The instigator of the trial was the son of Francesc Gaspar and the Baroness of Senija, María Zapata, and the grandson of Gaspar Penyarroja and Jerònima Villalba. The grandfather Gaspar was the brother of Francesc, Marc Antoni's father. It seems the lawsuits produced the desired results, and Llorenç finally obtained the inheritance from his uncle shortly after, at some time between 1621 and 1627.
Llorenç married for the first time to Josefa Sisternes. Their son, Policarp Bou de Penyarroja, received the ovens and the bath as his inheritance. From his second marriage, to Felicia Sisternes, another son was born, named Gaspar. In 1688, as a result of a series of trials begun in 1660 concerning the succession to head the administration of the Hospital d'En Bou, the half-brothers, Policarp and Gaspar, managed to take this benefit away from the Despuig i Bou family. This was obtained by agreement, in order to avoid an endless succession of costly lawsuits.
By virtue of that agreement, Vicent Despuig i Bou renounced the aforementioned administration, but was compensated by a sum of 225 libras a year for life, taken from the income of the two baking ovens and the bath which belonged to Policarp. The majority of this sum would have come from the Forn de la Boatella (156 libras ), leaving around 28 libras to be paid from the oven now referred to as Forn "de l'Almirant" and only 21 from the Bany del Carreró de "l'Almirant", described as "adjacent to the aforementioned oven". These numbers give an idea of the meagre profits a public bath could provide at the end of the 17 th century.
After the death of Policarp—who left no children—and that of his half-brother Gaspar, the estate of the Bou de Penyarroja family went to a son of the latter, Aurelio Félix. He was the first and only member of the family that obtained the effective possession of the titles and properties of the Bou family, thanks to a late ruling in 1749. In the time of Aurelio Félix the bath was still open to the public, although it was undoubtedly no longer the original steam bath. The explanatory legends on the parish map of Father Tosca show that number 20 represented the location of the "Bath called del Almirante", and that at 28 Palau street, on the right side of the pavement, "the three houses within the alleyway of the Baño del Almirante" were included.
Aurelio Félix Bou de Peñarroja died in 1759 with no direct heirs. His estate was inherited by the son of one of his nieces, María Ana, the daughter of his sister Felicia and the wife of Joaquín Martínez de la Raga. The inheritor, Francisco Tomás, changed his surname to Bou de Peñarroja. He himself died leaving no descendants and, therefore, his relative Lorenzo, the son of his sister Antonia María and Miguel Escrivà y Faus, became his heir and also adopted the name Bou de Peñarroja. This Lorenzo would also receive the title of Count of Rótova in 1801.

MODERN OWNERS (1800-1984)

Coincidentally, Lorenzo Bou de Peñarroja was one of the very few Valencian noblemen who took advantage of Godoy's land reforms to get rid of some of the family estate. By taking advantage of the decrees of 1798-99, which permitted the disposal of entailed estates, on 8 March 1800, he sold the bathhouse located on the Calle del Almirante to Vicente Plancha for 1,400 libras and 10 sueldos . The oven was left up for auction.
The new owner renovated the establishment, creating a modern bathhouse outfitted with expensive marble tubs. In 1804 Laborde paid his famous visit to the baths. Gregorio Plancha, Vicente's son and a "land-owning resident" of Valencia, sold, to the tradesman Mariano Carsí, in 1828 for 11,000 libras (165,000 reales de vellón ), the "bath and dwelling... with all the furniture, fittings and equipment" located in the "Callizo del Baño del Almirante", as well as the "water from the well and the woodshed that is in front of said house, linked to it by underground stairs and a room in the same street, all of which is adjacent to the house itself."
Between 1828 and 1833, Mariano Carsí acquired from the office of the Treasury a license to sell spirits in the Kingdom of Valencia. The high price required for this license forced him to mortgage the bathhouse of the "Callizo del Almirante", among other properties. Shortly after, the establishment became the property of Francisco Mª Pérez de Lasarraga and, in November 1838, the building was sold, in his name, to Mrs. Águeda Tejada, the widow of Santibáñez, for 18,000 libras . This represented a considerable increase in value, compared to the 11,000 libras , at which it had been appraised ten years earlier. This appreciation reflects the construction of neighbouring houses, as well as the widening and improvement of the street carried out at the beginning of the 1830s. In 1847 the new owner paid off the mortgage contract taken out by Carsí.
Águeda Tejada died during the cholera epidemic of 1855. Her son, Luis Antonio Santibáñez, received the house in inheritance, although, in practice, he had taken on the responsibility of managing the building years before. Already in 1849 Zacarés considered him the owner of the bath, and described him as an educated person. A few years later, in 1864, Santibáñez acquired the adjacent oven, the old Forn del Carreró (Bakery of Carreró street) or "of the alleyway called Baño del Almirante". The bath had been sold separately around 1800; therefore, the old unit formed by the oven and the bath was reunited again. The price was only 38,000 reales de vellón (9,500 pesetas ), a price far inferior to what was paid for the bath. Josefa Blat sold the oven, which she had had since 1819. It had been formerly owned (until 1816) by Jaime Fernández, the bookkeeper for the Valencia City Council, and afterwards, to Nicolás Sales and Juana Escrig.
The oven was demolished and added to the bath building in order to expand the vestibule, where a portico with columns was constructed, surrounded by new cubicles with bathtubs. The renovation work was finished in 1874.
In 1892, Luis Santibáñez died and, since he was a bachelor, he left the baths to Consuelo and María del Carmen, the daughters of Mariano Chiner, the establishment's manager, who lived in the mezzanine of the house constructed on the plot where the oven had been. Consuelo Chiner died in February 1937 as a widow with no children. She designated her niece, Consuelo Blasco Chiner (the daughter of her sister Carmen, who had died in 1944 and was co-owner of the building), as her residual legatee.
Mrs. Consuelo Blasco was the owner of the bathhouse "del Almirante" when it finally closed its doors to the public in 1959. After the restoration work by the architect Ferrant, it went on to house a gymnasium, before finally being acquired by the Valencian Government (Generalitat Valenciana) in 1984. All in all, the establishment offered 640 years of continuous, practically uninterrupted service as a public bath, a truly extraordinary case.