Wednesday, 30 June 2010

J. Nodes & Co., Cricklewood

Several family-owned nineteenth-century firms of undertakers are still in existence today, including John Nodes & Sons Funeral Service, of Ladbroke Grove. Although the family business founded by John Nodes seems to be doing well, it looks like John Nodes himself experienced financial difficulties and on several occasions appeared in front of the courts. On March 7, 1848 having obtained an Interim Order for Protection from Process he was required to appear at the courthouse in Portugal Street, Lincoln Inn's. Fourteen years later having failed to obtain protection from his creditors, he was jailed in Whitecross-street prison and, on March 25, declared bankrupt. Finally on November 13, 1866, The London Gazette printed that
John Nodes, of 94, King-street West, Hammersmith, in the county of Middlesex, Undertaker, having been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, filed in Her Majesty's Court of Bankruptcy, in London, on the 7th day of November, 1866, is hereby required to surrender himself to the Registrar of the said Court, acting in the prosecution of the sain Petition, at the first meeting of creditors to be held before the said Registrar, on the 28th day of November instant at twelve o'clock at noon precisely, at the said Court.
John Nodes died in 1895 and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. In spite of all his financial troubles, the funeral business he set up survived him. Over the last century it has even been growing, with branches in several parts of London.

In 1991 John Nodes Funeral Service was contracted to arrange the funeral of Freddie Mercury, who was cremated at Kensal Green Cemetery.
In 2000 the documentary 'Great Undertakings' produced by Lion Television and broadcasted on Channel 4 looked at the work of the firm and its employees.

Location: Cricklewood Broadway / Picture taken on: 17/08/2009

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Redfern's rubber mats, Wandsworth

As promised yesterday, here is another sign for one of Redfern's products and a bit about the company itself.

Rubber Mats
For Office or House
Made in Block Rubber with White L... [Lining?]

The story began in March 1900 when a young Wilfred E. Redfern founded Redfern's Rubber Works with a capital of £4 18s. In 1906 he purchased the four-storey Spring Bank Mills in Hyde, Cheshire (now in Greater Manchester), to make rubber heels and soles for shoes (click here for an enamel advert) and then rubber tyres for bicycles and tubes. During the First World War the company produced gas-mask mouthpieces for the army. After the war the company diversified its production further by offering a wide range of hard and soft rubber goods to both industries and households. In the 1930s it launched its plain and lettered rubber mats, stairs treads and rubber flooring, which was available in sheets or tiles in a variety of colours. 1937 saw it manufacture its first ebonite goods. Having worked for the aviation industry during the Second World War, it continued afterwards and provided the rubber parts for the Comet among others.
In 1941 Wilfred E. Redfern resigned as chairman, a position that was then taken by his younger brother J. Arthur Redfern. W. E. Redfern remained on the board until 1945. He died in 1960. His younger brother was succeeded a few years later by Thomas H. Redfern, who became in 1950 president of the British Rubber Manufacturers' Association. Under his chairmanship Redfern ventured into other sectors, including plastics. In 1958 the company was transformed into Redfern Holdings, with Redfern's Rubber Works becoming a subsidiary. Ten years later Redfern Holdings merged with H. G. Miles, a company originally founded in 1929 to improve the knowledge and uses of rubber in the car industry, which owned Empire Rubber Co., Rubberlines (Hyde), Hull and Mellor, and Rubber Bonders. As a result of the formation of Miles Redfern Ltd, based in Dunstable, the names Redfern's Rubber Works and Redfern Polymers ceased to be used. Rubber continued to be manufactured in Hyde until the early 1980s but it seems the factory shut down in 1982 because of growing competition from abroad. Miles Redfern Ltd continued trading for several years but was eventually dissolved in 2006.

Until a few months ago, a billboard covered most of this sign. That explains why the colours are so vivid when the upper and right edges have almost completely disappeared.
Actually Redfern's didn't have one but two painted signs at this location. Unfortunately the lower one is still largely hidden by a modern billboard.

Note that 'Redfern' was painted twice, the first time using the same design as on the New Cross Road sign posted yesterday

Location: Lambourn Road / Picture take on: 05/03/2010

Monday, 28 June 2010

Nestlé, Criterion, Redfern, and more; New Cross

Like yesterday, here is another palimpsest but at least this one is a bit easier to read.

The most recent sign advertises:
Richest in Cream

Prior to Nestlé, this wall carried an advert for Redfern's, a company far less known that the Swiss multinational but whose painted signs can still be seen in several locations across London. Here only 'Redfern's', slightly above 'Nestlé' has survived. Whether it was rubber heels, mats, or another of the company's rubber goods that was advertised here I don't know.
I shall write a bit about Redfern's Rubber Works tomorrow.

It seems Redfern's used the blue background of the previous sign for:
With the open box of matches, it is similar to those found in Stoke Newington and Kilburn (this one will be for a later post).

That's it for the easy part. Several other signs were painted over time on this wall and I wonder whether one wasn't for Gillette. After all signs for Criterion and Gillette are often found together.
Then just below the 'N' of 'Nestlé' are some words written diagonally. They seem to be:
Greetings ...
School ...

Partly hidden by the 'ILK' of 'Milk' is:
B...e &

Between 'Milk' and 'Richest in Cream' are:
...te and S...

Finally at the same level as 'Richest in Cream' is:
... Talking [?] ...

Location: New Cross Road / Picture taken on: 23/07/2009

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Gorringe Park, Tooting

With three if not four signs painted on this wall next to Tooting Station, reading anything but the most recent one becomes virtually impossible.

Gorringe Park
Hire, Sale or Exchange
Accessories Repairs

Could this have been for a car dealer or garage?

With only a few letters still visible, I haven't managed to decipher the other signs. The only complete word seems to be 'Hotel'.

Location: Mitcham Road / Picture taken on: 07/03/2008

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Le Paysan: flower and vegetable seeds, Saintes

Back to Saintes for a brand well known to several generations of gardeners across France.
The story began in 1854 when André Blain founded Les Docks de l'Herboristerie (The Herbalist's Warehouse) to produce and market seeds. Originally these were sold in bulk but shortly afterwards a new company, Le Paysan, was created to sell seeds in sealed paper bags to amateur gardeners. The two companies remained closely connected, with Le Paysan purchasing its vegetable and flower seeds from Les Docks de l'Herboristerie, until the heirs of André Blain brought them together in 1949 to create the Société de Production Grainière. The brand Le Paysan was kept: by then it had become a leading suplier of quality seeds in France and was increasing its presence abroad. Around 180,000 bags of seeds were dispatched every day. These were sold not only in specialized shops and stalls at markets and fairs but also by mail order. I remember my grand-pa in Saintes used to have a catalogue from Le Paysan, even if he always bought his seeds in a shop or at the monthly fair.
Le Paysan's seeds and now bulbs are still widely planted today by anyone with a plot of land.

Even if the first line is hidden by the billboard, it can be guessed as it used to be one of Le Paysan's catch phrases.

Célèbres graines en sachets [The Famous Seeds in Bags]
Le Paysan
Fleurs Légumes [Flowers Vegetables]

There used to be another painted sign on this wall but only a few letters appear between 'Fleurs' and 'Légumes'.

Location: Rue Gautier, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 08/06/2010

Friday, 25 June 2010

E. Reeves, Croydon

It's funny how a change of typeface and a curvy line can suddenly make a sign stand out...

E. Reeve,
House Agent & Decoraator
33, West Street.
Repairs in All Branches.
Estd 1884.

Location: Tanfield Road / Picture taken on: 27/08/2009

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Lunch, drinks and ice cream in Havana

At the corner of San Ignacio and Obrapía in La Habana Vieja, the colonial part of the Cuban capital, is this decaying little gem: a former bar and restaurant with painted adverts from the 1950s-60s on its walls. The building was later turned into a small neighbourhood store -the Nuevo Centro Mercantil- and currently lays abandoned, awaiting a possible restoration.

The façade on Obrapía

Unfortunately I haven't been able to discover the name of this bar as it was covered when the premises became the Nuevo Centro Mercantil.

By one of the former entrances is this wonderful sign advertising ice creams, with a scoop in a stylized cup.

Helados [Ice Creams]

Even if it is possible to distinguish a few letters here and there, what was written on the scoop, including the brand, has faded too much for me to be able to make any sense of it.

Before customers enjoyed a dessert, they could have a cheap lunch.

Pruebe los más
Exquisitos y variados
Blue Plate - 60 c.
Try the Most
Exquisite and Varied
Blue Plate - 60 c.

Originally used in US restaurants, the expression 'blue plate' made its way across the Straits of Florida, an illustration of the close links between the island and the US prior to the fall of dictator of Fulgencio Batista. What 'blue plate' refers to, vacuum-cleaner salesman turned spy James Wormold discovered it when he attended the lunch given by the European Traders' Association at Havana's Hotel Nacional:
'I was telling you,' Mr MacDougal went on energetically like a Scottish reel, 'that you would do better to drink now. It's all you'll be getting.'
'There will be wine, won't there?'
'Look at the table.' Small individual milk-bottles stood by every place. 'Didn't you read your invitation? An American blue-plate lunch in honour of our great American allies.'
'Surely you know what a blue-plate is, man? They shove the whole meal at you under your nose, already dished up on your plate - roast turkey, cranberry sauce, sausages and carrots and French fried. I can't bear French fried but there's no pick and choose with a blue-plate.'
'No pick and choose?'
'You eat what you're given. That's democracy, man.'

Graham Greene, Our Man In Havana (1958, pp. 170-171 in the Penguin edition)
Often 'blue-plate' meals were served in plates with partitions and were among the cheapest food restaurants would serve.

To wash down the food, what could be better than a "Cafe express" costing 3 c., as advertised on both sides of the pillar at the street corner?

Yet some customers might have prefered something a bit stronger. Some Enxebre perhaps, as this lovely advert encouraged them to.

The Galician word 'Enxebre' means 'genuine', 'authentic', 'typical' as well as 'pure'. When it comes to alcoholic drinks, it refers to a straw-coloured white wine made with very ripe grapes from the oldest vines, or to an aguardiente made purely from grapes, as it is the case on this sign.
The Enxebre sold in this bar was imported by Jacinto Rodríguez, who owned the 'Galicia Moderna'. I haven't found when Jacinto Rodríguez set up his food and wine import business, which operated further down the road at Obrapía 26, just by the harbour. However a study about the reconstruction of the Galician identity in Cuba between the early nineteenth century and 1920 mentions that in 1907, to add a touch of authenticity to the different celebrations organized by the Galician community in Havana and around, he imported a typical ox cart from the motherland to carry his products to the aforementioned events. Another source adds he was a founding member of the Peña Gallega club. Clearly an influential member of the community, and certainly a relatively successful one too. Obviously the business survived the political upheavals of the first six decades of the twentieth century but what happened to it after the triumph of the Revolution I do not know.

Pida... [Ask for...]
Jacinto Rodríguez
Puro de uva [Made of Pure Grapes]
El mejor [The Best One]

The bottle has a very fine label on which one can read above the coat of arms "Arguadiente puro de uva", and below the three gold medals the product was awarded at exhibitions, "Jacinto Rodríguez".

What will happen to this building? It really depends on whether the Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana, the institution in charge of the capital's heritage, considers it should be restored or not (and on whether or not it will have the financial resources and the material to carry out the work). The Oficina del Historiador is already doing a fantastic job restoring the architectural jewels of a city with one of the finest collection of buildings in the Americas. The job is dauting and many that are worth preserving are still in a dilapidated state. To be fair, the architectural merit of the building where this bar was located is very limited. Yet those painted signs are certainly worth preserving. At least the Oficina del Historiador has a good record regarding the preservation of ghost signs so let's hope something can be done about this place.

Location: corner San Ignacio and Obrapía, Havana / Pictures taken on: 20/03/2010

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Batten & Davies and a mystery sign, Clapham

While some painted signs advertise well-known products, others promote local businesses few of us would have heard of and are an invitation to look into the history of the area. Such is the case with the top sign painted on this wall found in a little street near Clapham Common.
It seems the origins of Batten & Davies, a printer located at 23, The Pavement, Clapham, go back to the 1740s. Indeed a printed advert published in 1907 mentions the company has "a record and reputation extending over a century and a half". That would give a date of around the mid-eighteenth century or slightly earlier. This is confirmed by Martin P. Lam in his comment (see below). Indeed it appears David Batten published a History of Clapham as early as 1841, and that he was running a library on Clapham Common. A few decades later, John Batten, possibly the son of David, was in charge. Contemporary documents show he had a circulating library in Clapham Common between 1785 and 1805. The business remained in the family and in 1851, David Batten, stationer, bookseller and bookbinder, of Clapham Common, exhibited in the printing, paper, and bookbinding section of the Great Exhibition. There, his binding of Sir Digby Wyatt's Industrial Arts of the nineteenth century: a Series of Illustrations of the Choicest Specimens Produced by Every Nation at the Great Exhibition of Works of Industry, 1851 earned him an Honourable Mention by the jury, which described Batten’s bindings as "elaborately worked, although requiring more careful attention in finishing". That particular copy of Wyatt's work is now in the Royal Collection.
In 1865, following the death of David Batten, his eldest son formed a partnership with Mr Davies, of Maida Hill, and the name of the company was changed to Batten & Davies. The works printed by the firm included religious publications, local history books, as well as forms and registers for hospitals, asylums and homes for children.
It looks like Batten & Davies's output diminished steadily during the first decades of the twentieth century, and in the early 1930s it was bought by John Battley Rose, the printer and future MP for Clapham, who had founded the Westminster City Publishing Company. That's when the name of Batten & Davies must have disappeared, although their press may still have been used. As for the Westminster City Publishing Company it could either have been bought or gone bankrupt after 1949, as they don't seem to have published anything after that date.

Batten & Davies
In the Year
The Si... [Sign?] of the
Oldest Printers in
South ... [London?]
Telephone Macaulay 2505

Some of the books printed by Batten & Davies can still be found. I spotted recently one published in 1904: Leytonstone and its History.
The space just below the Batten & Davies sign was used to advertise two successive businesses, but whatever was written there has faded too much for me to be able to identify any of them.

The most recent sign was written in green on a white background:


What is left of the older sign are just a few black letters in bottom half:
... & ... Quality

Location: Bromell's Road / Pictures taken on: 09/04/2008 (top) and 05/03/2010 (bottom)

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Brymay and Westminster Gazette, Ravenscourt Park

Once again there is more than meets the eye on this wall at the end of King's Parade.

The most obvious sign is for the Brymay brand of matches, manufactured by Bryant & May. Although the space available on this wall is by no means small, Brymay's characteristic yellow oval background had to be squeezed. If the usual proportions had been respected, the name would have been much smaller and consequently less noticeable by the passing public. Unfortunately the lower part of the sign has been lost under graffiti and then a coat of red paint.

This sign was painted over at least two other signs, including one for Liberal newspaper the

The other one is more of a mystery as the only part still visible spells:
The El... [?]

Also a bit of a mistery are the two words painted between the two windows:
Were they part of the text that went with one of the ads to the right of the window or were they used to promote another product or service?

Location: Goldhawk Road / Picture taken on@ 31/07/2009

Hairdressing saloon, Tonbridge

Most signs for hairdressers are rather simple, and this one is no exception.


Location: Bank Street, Tonbridge, Kent / Picture taken on: 14/06/2009

Monday, 21 June 2010

Garage, Stralsund

I spotted this sign while wandering through the streets of Stralsund on the shores of the Baltic Sea. But how old is it? To be honest, it is too perfect to be really old, even if the garage is no longer there. Even the faded touch may be false. Still it is a lovely way to promote a business in a city centre full of historic buildings.

Wagen Lager
[literally: Car Warehouse
Repair Workshop]

Location: Apollonienmarkt, Stralsund, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern / Picture taken on: 05/05/2009

Holden's, Guildford

Documents at the Surrey History Centre show Henry Holden was a grocer in Guildford in 1874-1875. By 1889 it looks as if one Charles Holden, most certainly his son, had inherited the business. Maybe some local history book or old photographs (but I didn't see any online) could tell us more about this grocer?

Holden had this wall painted on three occasions. The two older layers, in black letters, spell:

The most recent sign points more directly to the location:
This Is

Location: High Street, Guildford, Surrey / Picture taken on: 05/04/2008

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Thornton, St Margarets

A pretty simple sign for someone's promotting his trade, but at least the shadow of the letters gives it some depth.


Location: Crown Road / Picture taken on: 21/05/2008

Bates's cures, St Pancras

Among the many products honoured with a medal at the 1851 Great Exhibition was King's effervescent citrate of magnesia manufactured by Bates & Co. This saline laxative had been launched in 1844 and was one of the firm's key products. The other one was a salve, which apparently was recommended especially for wounds and sores on breasts. However following a modification of the poison schedule in 1917 Bates & Co was forced to alter the recipe for this particular ointment.
The name of the company appears in professional publications, including Chemist & Druggist, on several occasions between 1870 and 1932, with most mentions dating from the last decade of the nineteenth century.
During that period sales must have been good enough, and Bates & Co, who operated from 1, Regent Square, London, opened a branch closeby at 55, Sidmouth Street.
I haven't been able to establish when Bates & Co was founded nor what happened to it after 1932. The houses on Regent Square weren't built until 1829 and the first inhabitants of number 1 were Isaac Seabrook, builder of St. Pancras Church, who lived there between 1834 and 1835 and 1838 and 1844, and Charles Templer Depree, solicitor, between 1848 and 1854. So Bates & Co was registered originally at another address and only moved to Regent Square at some point between 1854 and 1870, as the Chemists' Annual List from that particular year gives that address.

Bates & Co used this wall twice to advertise its remedies. Unfortunately the upper left corner, which is more exposed to the sun, has completely faded, leaving only a few letters on the right.
The most recent sign is on the left, the one in the background on the right:

... Salts
Gout and

& Sores

... the
...nowned [Renowned?]
... Salve
For ...s [Wounds?] & Sores
... [Of?] All Kinds
... 80 Years
Also For
Citrate of Magnesia
Invented in 1844
The Original Safest
& Best

Location: Regent Square / Picture taken on: 01/04/2008

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Army Club, Seven Sisters

Earlier this year several billboards were removed along High Road in Tottenham, revealing some long forgotten adverts. One of these promoted Army Club cigarettes.

Manufactured by tobacco company Cavenders of Manchester, Army Club made history by being the first product to be advertised by neon sign in Britain. Erected on a thirty-five feet long by twenty feet high display, it was switched on on Picadilly Circus in 1924.
In the aftermath of the First World War, Army Club advertising campaigns played heavily the nostalgia card. The image of the mildly smiling officer smoking casually his fag was an attempt at bringing back memories of wartime camaraderie and male, if not macho, attitude and behaviour. As proclaimed on one of their printed adverts:
Army Club
The front-line cigarette
This is a cigarette for the fellow with a full-size
man's job to do. When you're feeling all 'hit up',
it steadies the nerves.

If you ask me, this is complete bull... Still given the popularity of the brand between the wars, it must have worked...

One if not two earlier signs were painted on this wall. Several letters can be seen here and there, in particular at the same level as 'Club.'

Location: High Road / Picture taken on: 17/02/2010

Friday, 18 June 2010

Bolton & Co., Lewisham

Here is a double sign, a little tucked away in a corner, and partially hidden by leaves from spring to autumn as I discovered the first time I was in the area. So I went back a few months later to get a clearer picture.


Bolton & Co.
General & Fancy
Also at 5 The Pavement Ladywell

The second sign is obviously more elaborate and could have been painted at a later date, when the company could afford to spend a bit more on self-promotion. But that's just a guess. However it could only have been painted in or after 1899 since construction of the commercial parade known as The Pavement, on the northwest corner of the Ladywell Road and Algernon Road junction, only began that year.

Location: Ladywell Road / Pictures taken on: 01/03/2010

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Convey, Hong Kong

Hold on! This blog is supposed to be about painted signs (and occasionally mosaics), not plastic signs for a Japanese fast food chain*, with colours reminiscent of 'the decade that taste forgot' (or so they say). True, but there is a painted sign on this picture, even if it is rather unassuming and barely noticeable amongst the skyscrapers that rise in the western part of Wan Chai district.

Let's have a closer look at that sign, a relative oddity in a city where old means outdated and where many shops and businesses would rather opt for billboards, colourful neon signs that light up the night, and increasingly animated LED displays.

Founded in 1986, Convey Advertising Co Ltd is an outdoor media agency based in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon. It offers its customers a whole range of solutions for their advertising campaigns, including billboards, LED displays, inflatable models and billboards, replicas and signage installation systems, as well as... painted signs!

*: if you wondered, the food at Yoshinoya is actually not bad and very cheap; but since it's the only fast food restaurant I've been to in nearly twenty years, I am not really qualified to compare...

Location: Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong / Picture taken on: 05/09/2009

Hanna Funke, plumber; Dresden

Will this sign survive the renovation of this building? Many buildings in the streets of Plauen, a district of Dresden southwest of the city centre, have already been restored and in a few cases the signs of defunct shops and businesses have been preserved. Let's hope the owners of this one will do the same.

Klempnerei / Hanna Funke / Gas- u. Wasser-Installation
[Plumbing / Hanna Funke / Gas and Water Installation]

This was painted over another sign but I haven't been able to read it.

Location: Altplauen, Plauen (Dresden), Sachsen / Picture taken on: 22/12/2009

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Brickwood & Co's Ales, Havant

The Brickwood family started brewing in London in the sixteenth century but the name is more closely associated with the Hampshire city of Portsmouth, where the family settled in the mid-nineteenth century. The Brickwoods purchased their first brewery in 1851 and from then on, theirs was largely a story of expansion as the very interesting history pages of the Brickwood website tell us. By 1887 they were the largest brewer and pub owner in town, and by the time Sir John Brickwood died in 1932 in the whole county of Hampshire. However after the war Brickwood faced increased competition from London brewers. To maintain its position, the company entered from the early 1950s onward into a series of agreements with Whitbread. These ultimately paved the way for Whitbread's takeover of Brickwood in 1971. Brewing continued for a few more years in Portsmouth but eventually ceased in 1983. The brewery was later demolished to make way for the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard coachpark.
Nowadays the memory of Brickwood & Co survives essentially on the façades and windows of a few pubs, mostly in Portsmouth and the towns around, such as Havant.

Note that the first three letters are marginally smaller than the others. Also at both ends the interstices between the tessarae are wider and these are of a slightly different red.

You may notice on the first picture two doorstep mosaics but frankly, they are very disappointing.

Location: North Street, Havant, Hampshire / Picture taken on: 30/05/2010

An inspector Dyson mystery, Burgess Hill

The mystery doesn't relate so much to what is written on the top layer of this sign, although the job title is in itself unsual enough, but to why this sign was written there and not a few inches higher, and to what could have been written originally...

Joseph Dyson
Inspector To The
Burgess Hill Water

First I thought I would be left wondering what the last line could be but a closer look shows it was painted actually over the horizontal 'break' on the wall. Even before the lower part was covered by a coat of red paint it must have looked strange!
With regards to the original sign, all I've been able to decipher are a few letters here and there but no complete word has sprung to mind. That will remain a mystery...

Location: Lower Church Road, Burgess Hill, West Sussex / Picture taken on: 15/03/2009

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Dubonnet, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 1 (Go to part 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Last Sunday before we picked up my grand-ma to go to the restaurant, we quickly stopped at the market held on the Avenue Gambetta in Saintes, a lovely city on the River Charente renowned for its Gallo-Roman monuments, its Romanesque and Gothic cathedral and churches, as well as its medieval, Renaissance and classical civil architecture. While my mum and girlfriend started shopping and my dad parked the car, I went to take some pictures of two painted signs I had spotted earlier. Actually within the next eleven minutes I came across not two but ten signs. Nearly one sign per minute. Not bad at all!

The harvest began with a sign I had seen countless times as it is on the road to my grand-ma's but never photographed. It is for Dubonnet, a famous aperitif that has left its mark on countless walls throughout France.

This gable is well located, on one of the two main roads leading into town from the east, and Dubonnet made sure drivers didn't miss its advert, repainting it on two if not three different occasions. On the most recent layer 'Dubonnet' is spellt in black letters, with a peculiar 'U' that looks like the upper part of a long-stemmed glass and a 'O' inclined enough to catch one's attention. This is framed by an ochre strip above and a red one below. This hides a previous sign with 'Dubon / Dubonnet' written over two lines. This is slightly at odds with the classic slogan 'Dubo, Dubon, Dubonnet'. It makes you wonder where 'Dubo' has gone or whether the painter got it wrong. Finally there could have been at least another sign here as the traces of the triangle pointing down doesn't go with Dubonnet, and nor does the arrow on the left...


Location: Avenue Jourdan, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 06/06/2010

Valentine, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 2 (Go to part 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

With my picture of the Dubonnet sign taken, I headed towards the bridge over the railway tracks, where I had previously recognized a sign for Valentine. As I came closer I was surprised to discover a second ghost sign, which is normally obscured by the parapet if you seat in a car (there are two, much more convenient, underpasses for pedestrians to cross the tracks, so no reason really to venture onto that bridge on foot).

Few people will notice these two signs nowadays but before the bridge was built the road led to the railway crossing at the junction with the Avenue Jourdan. Whenever the barriers were closed or the traffic light was red, drivers had plenty of time to look at these walls. Prime location!

Les belles

The origins of Valentine paint can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century, when Lawson Valentine, a descendant of French immigrants, joined Wadsworth, Nye & Co a manufacturer of varnish based in Connecticut. Having left his employer, he founded in 1852 the firm of Stimson & Valentine. Its name changed on various occasions as partners came and went. In 1864 it became Valentine & Co. By then it was a leading provider of varnish to coach makers across the US. When the company crossed the Atlantic to set up a subsidiary in France is unclear. However in 1925 Valentine merged its French operations with the Établissements Lemoine to form the Compagnie des Vernis Valentine, which specialized in varnish and paint for the automobile industry, supplying among other manufacturers Citroën, Renault, Pahnard or Berliet. That very year Eugène Schueller (the controversial founder of l'Oréal) became the company's managing director, a position he occupied until 1939. Under his leadership Valentine launched in the late 1920s its first range of decorative paint, which "dried in four hours only" (to quote the ad the company ran at the time). Its success, no doubt helped by the colourful, bold posters designed by Charles Loupot (the poster for Valentine is the first one of the second row), and catchy radio ads, made it a household name across France. One of those radio ads was based on Maurice Chevalier's famous songs 'Valentine' released in 1924. The lyrics were altered from
Elle avait des tout petits petons, Valentine, Valentine [She had tiny little feet, Valentine, Valentine]
Elle avait un tout petit menton, Valentine, Valentine...[She had a tiny little chin, Valentine, Valentine...]
Elle se vend en tout petits bidons, Valentine, Valentine [It is sold in tiny little cans, Valentine, Valentine]
Elle se fait dans les plus jolis tons, Valentine, Valentine... [It is available in the nicest colours, Valentine, Valentine...]
In 1934, Valentine & Co having sold its shares, the company became 100% French owned and remained so until 1984 when it was sold to Imperial Chemical Industries, the manufacturer of Dulux paint. Then in 2008 ICI became part of Akzo Nobel. It is now marketed under the name 'Dulux Valentine'.
After the Second World War the figure of the painter originally designed by Loupot was given a more modern (but much less elegant I'd say) appearance as the painted sign above shows. He remained the symbol of Valentine for several decades, before he was replaced in the late 1980s / early 1990s by a classy black panther.

To the right of the Valentine sign are the logos of the advertising companies that managed that space: SFAR and Dauphin.

The Société Française d'Affichage Routier (French Society of Road Displays) was one of several companies that appeared during the early twentieth century and brought advertising to the roadside. After the Second Word War, like some of its competitors, it was bought by Dauphin O. T. A. (itself result of the merger between Dauphin and the Office Technique d'Affichage). Founded in 1930, Dauphin expanded rapidly after the war thanks to Eugène Dauphin's refusal to collaborate with the Nazis during the Occupation and his role in the Résistance (ironically, he then used the pseudonym 'Le Duc', a lower title than his real surname. The Dauphin was the heir apparent to the throne during the Ancien Régime). This stance allowed him to win many contracts after 1945, in particular in Paris where he was given the right to use blank walls and buildings damaged during the war, and to purchase under favourable conditions some of his competitors that had behaved less honourably. Under his son Jacques the company continued to flourish, with subsidiaries opening in the Benelux countries, Spain, and Italy. Following his death, his niece and nephew took charge of the company and in the early 1990s they sold it to the US media conglomerate Clear Channel.


Location: Avenue Aristide Briand, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 06/06/2010

Suze, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 3 (Go to part 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

After the Dubonnet sign, and only a few metres away from the Valentine sign is this ad for another aperitif: Suze, with its characteristic yellow background.


Although the Rousseau, Laurens et Moureaux distillery was founded in 1795 outside Paris in Maison Alfort, it was only in 1895 that Fernand Moureaux decided to create an aperitif that wasn't wine-based. The alternative he came up with, using a Swiss recipe, was gentian roots, both distilled and infused. This Alpine plant, to which extracts of several aromatic plants are added, gives Suze its peculiar bitter taste and yellow colour. After four years of research the new aperitf was launched. Called Suze, either after Moureaux's sister-in-law Suzanne or a Swiss river, it was sold in an easily recognizable bottle designed by Henri Porte. By the turn of the century Suze had become a common sight on the tables of French cafés and in 1912 Picasso immortalized it on his collage 'Glass and Bottle of Suze'. However in a tough aperitif market, Suze needed more than Picasso to strengthen its position. That was why in 1922 Moureaux launched a huge advertising campaign. The aim: to have the name Suze painted in every French village! I don't know whether they succeeded but there are certainly quite a few signs left...
1945 saw a major change: the alcohol level was lowered from thirty-two degrees to sixteen. In 1965 the Suze brand was purchased by Pernod Ricard. More about Suze since then can be found on the company's website. At the bottom of the page is a display of limited-edition bottles designed since 2001 by the likes of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Christian Lacroix, Sonia Rykiel or Thierry Mugler among others.


Location: Avenue Aristide Briand, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 06/06/2010

E. Leclerc, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 4 (Go to part 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Having taken my photos (see parts 2 and 3), I continued a bit further on the bridge just in case there could be another sign, and indeed, I saw two more in the street that runs parallel to the railway tracks and passes under the bridge. I turned back to go and photograph them but then noticed that two recently painted (or repainted) gables next to the bridge had been used previously as advertising spaces. Obviously these are trickier to read, even after a bit of tweaking in Photoshop.

The most 'visible' sign here is for supermarket chain E. Leclerc and includes above the name its logo. Edouard Leclerc opened his first supermarket in Brittany in 1949. Since then E. Leclerc has been experiencing a steady expansion and is now the leading chain in France with around 560 stores and 16.4% of the market in 2008. Until the second half of the 1980s E. Leclerc had a small supermarket on the Avenue Jourdan, less than a kilometre east from here, and people coming from the centre of the city would have been reminded of its presence. This particular store was forced to close when E. Leclerc opened a new hypermarket on the other side of the city.
Under 'E. Leclerc' are two, apparently unconnected lines, written with different fonts:
... ... Ber...
Vous remercie de votre visite [Thank You for Your Visit]
On the left side of the wall was another painted sign but I can't distinguish enough of it to identify it.


Location: Avenue Aristide Briand, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 06/06/2010

Redondeau peinture, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 5 (Go to part 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9)

E. Leclerc wasn't the only sign painted over. Just a few metres away from it was another one that required a bit of work with Photoshop to try to identify it.

Here as well there are several signs. The easiest to read is on the left of the wall:
& Cie
The sign for this local company seems to have been painted over an earlier one, which ended, on the right of the wall, in "...erie".

Location: Avenue Aristide Briand

Before joining everyone else at the market, I quickly passed by the Rue du Souvenir, a narrow street with houses only on one side, to take some photos of the two signs seen earlier from the bridge.

Actually the first one is for the local painting company mentioned previously
SARL [Limited Liability Company]
The company is based in those premises and is still in business.

For the second sign, go to part 6.

Location: Rue du Souvenir, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 06/06/2010

St Rahaël and Byrrh, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 6 (Go to part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9)

A little bit further down the road from the second Redondeau sign was a much more interesting wall with three signs, two of which advertised, you've guessed, it... aperitif drinks!

Let's start with the most recent layer, which reads
Et Pension [Guesthouse]

However the most colourful and easily recognizable sign here is for the aperitif St Raphaël. This 1950s design, the work yet again of Charles Loupot, is much bolder than the one from Rigny-Ussé I posted a couple of months ago, and is similar to an enamel sign auctioned some years ago at Drouot.
These large red letters in a white and black background would have caught the attention of passengers on passing trains. Since there is almost no traffic on this street, these were the targets of this sign. Having said that, I used to travel a lot by train between Bordeaux and Saintes as a kid and teenager and I can't say I ever noticed it. Maybe because I always waited until the last minute to pack my stuff or was looking for my grand-pa's car parked by the local railway headquarters across the tracks...
Equally noticeable would have been the earlier sign for Byrrh, in even larger white letters on a red background. Byrrh was invented in 1886 by two itinerant drapers, brothers Pallade and Violet Simon by mixing dry wines from Languedoc-Roussillon and mistelles. To this they added some cinchona and obtained a product that was originally considered to have such invigorating properties that it was only sold by chemists. Its reputation as a health drink ensured its success in the early twentieth century and sales peaked between the two World Wars. However after the Second World War sales of Byrrh declined sharply because of fiscal advantages awarded by the authorities to naturally sweet aperitif wines and of changes in people's tastes. By the 1970s Byrrh, which had remained a family business, was bought by spirits company Cusenier, already part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio.


Location: Rue du Souvenir, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 06/06/2010

Garage, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 7 (Go to part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9)

With nothing else around to take a picture of on the eastern side of the railway tracks (see parts 1 to 6), I went down the Gambetta underpass, only to discover some new signs as soon as I emerged above ground.

Unfortunately, this series of painted signs is not easy to decipher, partly because it is hidden by the modern signs of a well-known car rental company, but also because there are several layers including one with many elaborate floral motives.


To the left of the window:
...struction [Construction ?]
...obiles [Automobiles]
To the right of the window:
Pièces détachées
Another sign here ended with: Teintures [Dyes].


Location: corner Avenue Gambetta / Avenue de la Marne, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 06/06/2010

Salon de couture, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 8 (Go to part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9)

Next door to the repair workshop is yet another sign...

Dames Messieurs
Spécialité de teintures [Dyes A Speciality]

Maybe at some point the same business operated in this building and the previous one?


Location: Avenue de la Marne, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 06/06/2010

Les bières de l'Atlantique, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 9 (Go to part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

Finally, just down the road from the signs in parts 7 and 8 is this façade on which another drink was being promoted. Like the Byrrh / St Raphäel sign, this one was designed to be seen from passing trains.

Les bières
de Bordeaux

Whether these beers brewed in Bordeaux were really superior I don't know...
The Brasserie de L'Atlantique (Atlantique Brewery) was founded in 1901. It stood south of the city centre on the Quai de Brienne. The brewery adopted a cockerel as its emblem and its trademark beers were the 'Bière du Coq', a lager, 'Cynthia', a semi-brown ale, 'Le Coq Export', a golden lager, and 'Le Coq Monopole', a pale lager. Other beers on offer included 'Alsacienne Blonde', 'Bière Bock', 'Bière La Cigale', 'Bière Cristal', 'Bière Galacta', 'Bière de Mars', 'Bock Cristal', 'Elfenbein', 'Excelsior', 'Hallerpils', 'Moldovia', 'Monopole', 'Monopole Atlantique', 'Monopole Export', 'Prosit', 'Spalthaller', and 'Thallerburg'. Between 1912 and 1932 under the management of Emile Schirber the brewery increased its regional presence, with warehouses in Périgueux, Brive, Rochefort, Mont-de-Marsan, Bayonne and Angoulème, and took over a small brewery, the Brasserie Fischer et Leppert. In 1966 it was its turn to be taken over, by the Brasserie de la Meuse, a group of twenty breweries disseminated across France, which that very same year merged with the Grandes Brasseries et Malteries de Champigneulles to form the Société Européenne de Brasserie, a group of twenty-three breweries. At the time the SEB was the largest brewing group in Europe but it was a heavy structure, particularly costly to manage, and inadapted to a market in which the demand for small bottles was growing rapidly. As a result in 1970 glassmaker BSN purchased the SEB. Three years later BSN merged with Gervais Danone to give birth to the multinational company now known as Danone.
I haven't been able to find out when the Brasserie de L'Atlantique closed down but the site where it stood was redeveloped in the 1960s or early 1970s when the wholesale market across the road expanded.
You can see some of its labels and posters here, here, and here. More images of beers brewed by the Brasserie de L'Atlantique can be found here (look for 33 Atlantique towards the bottom of the page and click on the different letters in the columns to the right).

If the words are still visible on this façade, the logo of the Brasserie de L'Atlantique has almost completely faded. On the second picture below I have pasted it and rewritten the name of the brewery. The result isn't great but you can compare the two pictures and get an idea of how it would have looked originally.

After so many stops it was time to meet my parents and girfriend by the fishmonger's stall to help them select some seafood and fish for dinner the next day. I wouldn't have been against looking around for a bit longer but that will have to wait until my next visit to Saintes.

Location: Avenue de la Marne, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 06/06/2010

Monday, 14 June 2010

Benson & Hedges, South Wimbledon

Following Brian Duffy's death on 31st May, BBC4 broadcasted on Saturday night "The Man Who Shot the 60s", originally shown earlier this year. If you missed this tribute to one of the iconic photographers of the 60s and 70s, you can still watch it on BBC iPlayer over the next six days.
After working for some of the most influential fashion magazines, Duffy ventured into advertising, something he didn't particularly enjoy. As he put it himself, by the 70s, "99.9% of what I was shooting then was advertising – crap. The people who were hiring me, I didn't like. It was like being on the game and disliking the men who are fucking you..." Still Duffy shot some amazing pictures, especially for Collett Dickenson Pearce's Benson and Hedges 'Pure Gold' campaign launched in 1977. The surreal images of this award-winning campaign certainly captured people's imagination far more than the posters, TV ads (until 1965), or painted signs that had been promoting 'Pure Gold' cigarettes since 1962.

Pure Gold

Even if this sign at the end of a row of closed-down shops has been painted over, with a double or triple coat on the lettering, it is still possible to read what was written when the sun is at a right angle (and with a bit of work with Photoshop).
The whiter patch on the left masks what looks like an old logo of "B&H". The letters are much more curvy and fluid. Very similar to those my school teacher drew on the blackboard when she showed us how to write capital letters. The patch on the right may hide a similar logo but I am not sure.

Location: Merton High Street / Picture taken on: 14/03/2008

Friday, 11 June 2010

G. Smith, family grocer; Worthing

Once upon a time, shortly before entering Worthing station, passengers on the eastbound trains could catch a glimpse of four neatly-framed signs. Sadly only one remains and it isn't in a very good state.

Canton House
.1 & .. Montague St. [ * ]
G. Smith
Family Grocer
Provision ...r [Dealer ?]

*: this is a bit of a guess but Montague is the only street in Worthing whose name includes the letters "TAG". Also, following the opening of the first shops c. 1820, Montague Street became one of the area's main shopping streets.

Looking at the design of the sign, we can assume that G. Smith was providing food to the people of Worthing during the Victorian period. Could searching the net tell us more about him and his business? Unfortunately not. Only three results could be relevant, and the first one is even a bit of a long shot.
The 1823 Pigot's Directory of Sussex mentions one Jas. Smith, grocer and tea dealer of Worthing (the unusual name 'Jas.' may be the result of a failure by the text recognistion software used when the pages were scanned). Could this be the father of G. Smith?
The second result could get us closer to G. Smith, provided 'G' stands for George that is. Indeed such a name appears on the register of baptisms of Heene church. On April 2, 1874, Frederick George, son of George and Jane Smith, Grocer from Worthing, was baptised in this former civil parish just outside Worthing.
Finally an article on the Worthing Herald's website about "The Changing Face of the High Street" mentions that among the many department stores and shops found in this seaside town one century ago
In George Smith Junior’s window were “extremely pretty tea cosies, as well as a selection of dainty aprons and pinafores for tiny children”.
Could it be that G. Smith's son had expanded the family business beyond comestibles?

In Montague Street, G. Smith would have faced competition from Feest & Sons, a leading fruiterer and greengrocer with branches in other parts of town. Maybe somewhere in Worthing is a ghost sign for the latter as well?

Location: Cross Street, Worthing, West Sussex / Picture taken on: 30/05/2010