Set into the pavement in Russell Square is a rather tempting sign. Warm, relaxing Turkish baths; a marbled sign promising luxurious surroudings; and a rather fetching arrow pointing the way. Who could resist?
Don't attempt to follow it, though, as the baths no longer exist. They were part of the Imperial Hotel, designed by Charles Fitzroy Doll, who was also responsible for the nearby (and surviving) Hotel Russell. Part of an extension to the building, the baths opened in 1913. An early photograph shows an opulent interior, the walls and ceilings heavily decorated, the floor of mosaic. It more than lives up to the promise of its sign.
A later advertising brochure for the hotel claimed its bath as 'Finest in the World', open to non-residents for a rather pricy three shillings and sixpence. Not only were they open 'day and night', but there was a wide range of other treatments including Russian vapour baths, Vichy douches, electric light and ultraviolet ray baths and electric treatments.
Sadly, the hotel and its baths were demolished in 1966. Statues from the baths now line the car park entrance; otherwise, all that remains is this sign, tempting and taunting the passer-by.