Friday, 30 September 2011

Marshall, importer of segars, Finsbury Park

The vast majority of signs posted on this blog are directly painted on walls. However the one advertising Marshall's business consisted of cement letters, painted in white, and inserted into a thin concrete layer resting against a brick wall.

Importer of Segars
Wholesale & Retail

A couple of letters have fallen, showing the recess in which they were fitted. Some letters may have been replaced at some point as some look slightly newer and the level of finish is not the same everywhere.

The rather unusual spelling 'segar', instead of 'cigar', was actually relatively common until the second half of the 19th century, even if several publications pointed it was incorrect as the word came from the Spanish 'cigarro.'

Location: Finsbury Park Road / Pictures taken on: 01/04/2008

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Holmes, plumber & decorator, Greenwich

Once more, here is a business whose only trace seems to be this ghost sign. The alternance of typefaces gives it a certain character.

C. Holmes
Plumber &
Contractor For
And Repairs
Sanitary Work of Every Description
Estimates Free
Phone GREEN. 1187

I am not absolutely sure about the initial of Mr Holmes's first name. It may as well be a 'G.'

Location: Siebert Road / Picture taken on: 1305/2011

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Chaussures, La Rochelle

This series of posts about the ghost signs found along Rue des merciers in La Rochelle started with a shoe shop and ends with another shoe shop. However this time there is no palimpsest nor name on this façade, just what was being sold at this address.

Nine ghost signs for a street that is barely 200 meter long, that's not bad!


Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 18/08/2011

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Bergevin, La Rochelle

Raymond Alphonse Bergevin is a name a few collectors of old French postcards may be familiar with. Born in 1878 in La Châtre, a small town in central France, he moved to Rue des merciers in La Rochelle, where he started working as a watchkmaker, jeweller, and art dealer alongside his father. An invoice dated from 1904 shows he continued in his father's steps after his death. However Bergevin's passion was photography. Some of his early pictures were printed as postcards by Charles Collas in Cognac but around the mid-1910s Bergevin decided to give up his original activities and become a full-time photographer and printer.
Bergevin's first postcards were printed on rather grainy paper in blue or green. By the early 1920s though, he had developed his photo and printing techniques and was specializing in luxury postcards and illustrated art books. His postcards showed not only the buildings and scenery in the départements of Charente-Maritime, Vendée and Vienne but also daily life in the villages of the region. These were often signed 'Ramuntcho.' Ramuntcho was the hero, and title, of one of Pierre Loti's most famous novels, published in 1897. Set in the French Basque country, it included detailed accounts of the Basque culture and traditions. The name may have been chosen because Bergevin also ambitioned to record the way of life and customs of his region. Additionally Bergevin was friend with Pierre Loti, who, when he wasn't travelling around the world (he was an officer in the French navy) spent some time at his house in Rochefort, just south of La Rochelle. Finally, and more pragmatically, the name Ramuntcho was well-known across France: the novel had been a best-seller, a theatrical version had been staged at the Théâtre de l'Odéon in Paris in 1908 and in 1918 it had been turned into a movie.
Bergevin's work was rewarded with a Gold Medal at the 1937 World Exhibition held in Paris. He kept publishing postcards and art books until the end of the Second World War, when he retired. He died in October 1953. Most of his personal archives are now kept in the departmental archives of Charente-Maritime, while those of Vendée hold around 3,000 postcards depicting life in 79 villages and small towns of that département.


Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 18/08/2011

Monday, 26 September 2011

Sabots et galoches, La Rochelle

This is my favourite ghost sign from Rue des merciers in La Rochelle. It promoted the clogs factory Cadot. It was certainly painted either under Napoléon III or during the first years of the Third Republic as it appears on a picture of the street taken in 1876.

Fabque de sabots & galoches
Gros - Detail
[Clog & Wooden Soled Shoes Factory
Wholesale -Retail]

Although in most dictionaries 'galoches' and 'sabots' are translated as 'clogs', there is a difference between the two: the sabots are made entirely of wood while the galoches combine a wooden sole with a leather upper.

This ghost sign also include a picture of a galoche.

Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 18/08/2011

Friday, 23 September 2011

Félix Potin, La Rochelle

A few metres from the Mercerie along the Rue des merciers is a shop many people in France would have been familiar with: Félix Potin. The origins of this chain of food stores go back to 1844, when Félix Potin, then aged 24, opened his first outlet in Paris. At a time when it was relatively common for grocers to add flour to sugar or chicory to coffee, or to sell sugar loaves that never reached the right weight, Félix Potin rapidly became well-known for selling "the right weight at the right price." Indeed from the very start, this was one of the four principles of his business, the others being good quality products, lower profit margins, and fixed prices on display. In order to attract customers, some basic goods were sold at a loss but that was covered by higher margins on some sweets or luxury products like cocoa. Within a few years Potin opened a few outlets across Paris. Then in 1860, at the corner of Boulevard de Sébastopol and Rue Réaumur, he inaugurated his flagship store: behind its 22-metre long display windows, customers could find on two floors all the foodstuffs they could imagine and even more. One year later Félix Potin inaugurated his first factory in La Villette and became the first grocer to manufacture his own products bearing his own label. Within one year twenty-one tons of sugar were crushed, seven tons of cocoa were processed, and tons of peas were automatically shelled at La Villette. All these foodstuffs were packed and labelled "Félix Potin." In a drive to cut down on intermediaries and keep prices down Potin purchased orchards in the south of France, vineyards in Champagne, and even extended his reach beyond the Mediterranean Sea. In Tunisia he acquired what would become Potinville, an estate of 3,000 hectares near Tunis, one fifth of which was planted with vine. Expansion continued but in 1870 the Second Empire collapsed and the Prussian army surrounded Paris. Without supplies the population of the French capital faced starvation. Dogs, rats, anything that could be eaten ended in cooking pots. That's when Potin bought for 27,000 francs Castor, one of the two elephants of the Jardin d'acclimatation and sold the meat in his stores. Félix Potin died one year later, leaving a fortune of 6 million francs, two large stores and several small outlets.
Far from resting on their laurels, the heirs of Potin continued to develop the family business: new factories were opened, the flagship stores of the Boulveard Sébastopol and Boulevard Malsherbes were rebuilt, home deliveries were introduced, and new stores bearing the name Félix Potin opened throughout France. These were franchises granted to well-noted office workers who married a cashier, and often came with a small flat above the shop. In 1904 a new, luxurious store, ten-floor high, opened Rue de Rennes in Paris. By the late 1920s, the company Félix Potin owned 70 subsidiaries, ten factories, and controlled hundreds of shops.
However by the 1920s the arrival of new competitors selling foodstuffs at even lower prices reduced the company's profits. Additionally in 1930 the family was forced to sell a villa in Bagatelle for 28 millions after the shady actions of one of the directors had left a huge hole in the accounts. Following the death of Jean Potin just after the Second World War, his wife inherited the company but she lacked the business sense of her predecessors. Running it according to her mood, Félix Potin declined rapidly. In 1958 the company and its 1,200 shops were bought for 5 millions by André Mentzelopoulos, who split the company in two: trade and real estate. Even though over the following decaces Félix Potin acquired several small competitors, it faced growing competition from supermarkets. In 1996 the company was liquidated.

I haven't found any specific information about the Félix Potin store in La Rochelle. Before Félix Potin moved in, the building housed another grocery store, owned by E. Garnier.


Félix Potin

E. Garnier


It is rather unusual to have a name written sideways on both sides of the windows.
Below are some details of the façade.

Félix Potin
There is a real palimpsest where 'Potin' was written, with a total of three different layers. However, apart from a few letters here and there, all I managed to decipher is:
... Argent
...ur V...illé

E. Garnier

Actually these were not the only ghost signs for Félix Potin and E. Garnier in La Rochelle. Indeed the building had two entrances, one, above, on Rue des merciers and another one on Rue Saint-Yon, where the name and nature of these two businesses were clearly indicated too.

Félix Potin

Produits alimentaires
Produits Félix Potin

E. Garnier

Below are some details of the ghost signs on this second façade.

Félix Potin

Produits alimentaires
Produits Félix Potin

Produits alimentaires
Produits Félix Potin

E. Garnier

It seems 'E. Garnier' was written twice.

Location: Rue des merciers, and Rue Saint-Yon, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 18/08/2011

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Mercerie, La Rochelle

What could be more normal than a ghost sign for a shop that specialised in haberdashery in Haberdashers' Street?


A very simple sign written in a dark red tone often used in the late 19th century.

This business competed directly with the one of E. Marthe a couple of hundred meters away.

Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 18/08/2011

Friday, 16 September 2011

R.I.P. Ingersoll, Aldwych

Ever since I first noticed it, I always have a look at the Ingersoll ghost sign when I make my way from the City Lit to the bus stops on Aldwych. That was the case last Thursday, when I even wondered if the man smoking by the door had ever paid any attention to what was written just above him. Little did I know then that it would be the last time I would see it. Earlier today I noticed the ground and first floors have been completely repainted and in the process the ghost sign disappeared, certainly for good.
For those who missed it, here is a picture again, slightly larger this time. For more information about the Ingersoll Watch Company, go to the original post.

Ingersoll Watch Co Ltd
Goods Entrance
4 Kean Street

Location: Kean Street / Picture taken on: 08/10/2008

Au chic parisien, La Rochelle

Au chic parisien: it's all in the name! Just when I was taking my pictures, a man stopped to tell me his mother used to come here to buy her lingerie and clothes. Indeed for decades this shop supplied the wealthy inhabitants of La Rochelle, and especially the ladies, with all the latest and best in fashion.


This ghost sign was written twice. The original dark letters were replaced by much more visible red ones with an ocre shadow.

This ghost sign is slowly disappearing as the paint cracks more and more.

Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 18/08/2011

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Bussonière, La Rochelle

Since the old harbour and the bassins of the Marans to La Rochelle canal are not too far from the Rue des merciers, it is not that surprising to find among its shops one that specialized in cordages. Bussonnière also sold strings, which other shopkeepers in the street might have purchased in order to wrap their parcels.

Cordages Ficelles [Cordages Strings]

Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 18/08/2011

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Au bon accueil, La Rochelle

'Au bon accueil' (literally "At the good welcome") is a name usually associated throughout France with restaurants or hotels but in La Rochelle it seems to have been chosen by a clothes shop for men and children. Unless, of course, the two parts of this ghost sign referred to two different businesses.

Au bon accueil
Confection pour hommes et enfants [Clothing for Men and Children]

Note that 'Au' was written vertically at a slightly higher level. Doing so left the whole space under the windows for 'Bon accueil' but when the sign was still colourful, it might have looked a little bit imbalanced. With regards to the second part of this sign, the writer made good use of the arch.

Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 18/08/2011

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Chaussures Richard, La Rochelle

Rue des merciers, or Haberdashers' Street, is one of the most typical streets of La Rochelle: timber-framed medieval houses, with their wooden parts protected by slate, and Renaissance buildings, with elaborate gargoyles, alternate with the more sober façades of houses built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Originally laid c. 1100 when Guillaume X, Duke of Aquitaine, fortified the city, it was then known simply as the Grande rue. In 1286 a charter granted tax exemptions to the cloth merchants who traded along its course. As a result their numbers increased and the street became rapidly known as Rue des merciers. In the 17th century this was changed to Rue des drapiers, or Drapers' Street, before its two first names were combined in the early 19th century into Grande rue des merciers. A few decades later 'Grande' was dropped from the name but the street remained as popular as ever with the inhabitants of La Rochelle and the surrounding area, who continued to buy their clothes and, increasingly, other goods in its shops.
Walking in a northward direction towards the covered market, it doesn't take long to spot the first ghost sign, or rather ghost signs as there are at least three layers on this façade.

Two signs can be read without much difficulty. The difference in style seems to indicate they advertised two different businesses.

Chaussures Richard

The sign for the shoe shop Richard was painted twice. For the second version, the sign painter used smaller letters.

A close look at the sign written on the first floor between the two windows reveals something was written before Maison de confiance (Trustworthy Shop) was painted.

The words that can still be deciphered are:
Ancienne maison [Formerly]

I haven't found what business was Pellereau in. Maybe this was one of the fashion shops found along the Rue des merciers?

Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 18/08/2011

Monday, 12 September 2011

Miroiterie Langevin, La Rochelle

Documents reveal that the Langevin mirror workshop was already trading in 1898. This is the only information I found about this particular business, which targeted especially car owners.

Miroiterie [Mirror Workshop]
5 rue du palais
Glaces pour autos [Rear-view Mirrors for Cars]

The different letterings, the pastel-like background and the old-style street light really take us to another era.

Over the past couple of years I posted a few ghost signs from La Rochelle. The city is actually full of them and over the next days I will introduce some seen along one particular street.

Location: Cour du Temple, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 18/08/2011

Friday, 9 September 2011

J. P. Bastos & Ca, Lisbon

Here is a rather modest sign, spotted while waiting for one of Lisbon's old tramways to arrive at its terminus on Rua da Alfândega. Paint manufacturer J. P. Bastos & Ca was founded more than 100 years ago. The company was known in Portugal for its Redlac brand of paints. In August 2007, J. P. Bastos was bought by one of its competitors, Argacol – Tintas e Vernizes, S.A.

J. P. Bastos & Ca La
Tintas - Vernizes
[J. P. Bastos & Co. Ltd.
Paints - Varnishes]

Location: Rua do Instituto Virgilio Machado, Alfama, Lisboa / Picture taken on: 05/11/2010

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Gordon, Highgate

It looks as if a couple of signs could have been painted on this wall. It seems even that one business, by the name of Gordon, had signs painted on two if not three occasions. Unfortunately part of the wall is now hidden by the extension to the property and the new chimney stack, and several words have badly faded. Consequently I haven't managed to decipher anything more than that name nor been able to find any detail relating to any Gordon based on Archway Road.

Words in small letters were painted just below the roof across the whole wall but they have been fading too much to make any sense of them. One ghost sign, to the left of the chimney stack reads "char". To the right of the stack there is a barely visible "S." On the same portion of the wall, "Gordon" was written twice, using different characters: first on the lower half, and later, on the upper half. As for the large "...on" letters, they could be spelling the end of "Gordon" too. These letters were painted over an earlier sign, which ended with the word "...gers."
If anyone has any idea about this ghot sign, please leave a comment. Thanks.

Location: Archway Road / Picure taken on: 14/08/2008

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Philips, Istanbul

Even though this advert for the Dutch multinational Philips was painted in a small street, it can be glimpsed from Istiklal Caddesi (at least by my mum - thanks for pointing it to me!), Istanbul's most famous avenue located in the Beyoğlu district.
This painted sign must date from the mid-1980s as the only document with the same slogan available on the net is a Philishave advert printed in June 1985 in the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet. At that time each department within each of Philips's national subsidiaries was responsible for advertising and marketing campaigns. Thus several ran simultaneously and with different slogans. This came to an end in the mid-1990s when Philips launched its first global campaign under the slogan "Let's make things better."

Philips alın. Gelecegi yaşayın
[Get Philips, Experience the Future]

Since my Turkish is non-existent, I am not absolutely sure about the translation.

Location: Taksim Caddesi, Beyoğlu, Istanbul / Picture taken on: 17/06/2011

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Chemist, Rochester

A simple but relatively classy doorstep mosaic greated customers to this chemist's on Rochester High Street. The design seems to date from the inter-war years (but I may be wrong). It was probably laid for Gerald Arthur Morris, who had been trading as a chemist at this address at least since the early 20th century. Business must have been good and in 1904 The Pharmaceutical Journal reported he had opened a new branch pharmacy on Ordnance Street, Chatham. G. A. Morris was a keen photographer and printed several postcards before the First World War. He also offered a photographic developing, printing and enlarging service, as mentioned in a few journals from the early 1920s.
Nowadays the premises are occupied by a hairdresser whose name was certainly inspired by the doorstep mosaic: Hair Chemistry.

Location: High Street, Rochester, Kent / Picture taken on: 26/06/2011

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Skinners' Arms, Godalming

In early 1957 an advert in The Estate Gazette invited interested parties to the Kings Arms Royal Hotel, where the building at the southern end of Church Street in Goldaming would be sold at auction. Since then it has been divided into four shops but traces of its former use remain in the form of a ghost sign running high up along its façade. For some time it had been The Skinners' Arms. I didn't find when this public house opened but parts of the property date back to the 17th century, although the façade itself dates from the extension of the builing in the 19th century. The name comes from the Worshipful Company of Skinners, whose presence in Godalming goes back to 1588, the year Lawrence Atwell bequested to this Livery Company a row of small tenements with a adjoining small parcel of ground.
The Skinners' Arms was tied to Courage's Alton brewery. London brewer Courage expanded into the Hampshire market town in 1903, when it acquired G & E Hall's brewery. Actually this was the company's first venture outside London. By then Hall's brewery supplied around 20,000 barrels a year to public houses in and around Alton as well as in London but Courage came with ambitious plans. The company contracted William Bradford & Sons to design a new brewery, able to produce 50,000 barrels a year. Courage's Alton brewery, a model of the genre, opened in 1904. Over the following decades the site was enlarged and production increased. By the late 1920s it reached 120,000 barrels a year. Courage continued brewing in Alton until 1969, when it converted the brewery into a canning and kegging plant. Ten years later the site was sold to Bass who demolished the old buildings and opened new brewing facilities. Nowadays the brewery belongs to Molson Coors Brewing Company (UK) Ltd.

Courage AltonThe Skinners' ArmsAles & Stouts

Courage Alton

The Skinners' Arms

Ales & Stouts

Location: Church Stret, Godalming, Surrey / Pictures taken on: 02/05/2011

Friday, 2 September 2011

Sächsische Malzfabrik, Bad Sulza

As the name of the town suggests, much of the activity in Bad Sulza revolves around its mineral waters and the benefits they bring to one's health. Yet a few industries developed during the 19th century in this little town surrounded by agricultural land, 22 km northeast of Weimar. One of these was a malt factory, founded in 1864 by Ludwig Groß, an entrepreneur from Leipzig, who also opened the 'Hotel zum Großherzog von Sachsen' near the town's train station. The malt factory with its distinctive square tower was built near the River Ilm and in the proximity of the Erfurt-Halle railway line. Very little information about its history is available other than in 1912 the factory was bought by Robert Deinhardt, the owner of Weimar's brewery. This made him the largest malt producer in the region.
As for the Sächsische Malzfabrik (Saxon Malt Factory), it was founded on 29th January 1889 in the industrial district of Plauen in Dresden. Once more I haven't found much about this company. It seems it remained in private hands until the early 1950s but was certainly taken over by the East German authorities afterwards.

Looking at the ghost sign on the tower, I would assume the Sächsische Malzfabrik bought at some point the Bad Sulza malt factory from the brewing business controlled by Robert Deinhardt or, following his death in 1937, his family. However that may be totally wrong.

Sächsische Malzfabrik [Saxon Malt Factory]
Bad Sulza

Unfortunately I haven't been able to decipher what was written between "Malzfabrik" and "Bad Sulza."

Location: Bergstraße, Bad Sulza, Thüringen / Pictures taken on: 23/04/2010

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Dubonnet, Pons

Rue George Clémenceau may be a quiet dead end street now but until a few decades ago it was the main thoroughfare through the historic little town of Pons in France. The street follows the course of the Saintes-Bordeaux road originally built by the Romans. Since the Middle Ages it has been part of the Via Turonensis, one of the four French Ways of St James (the one that goes from Paris to the Pyrenees, and passes, as the name indicates, by Tours). In 1160 Geoffroy III, lord of Pons, built a hospice where pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela could rest and recover. The different parts of the hospice extend on either side of the road while the central building, resting on three bays, spans the road. Eight centuries later cars had replaced pilgrims in a street that had become part of the Nationale 137, the trunk road running from Saint-Malo in Brittany to Bordeaux via Rennes, Nantes, La Rochelle and Saintes. This explains why advertising agencies bought or rented spaces on several properties along its course and painted large signs on the gables. Needless to say, at peak times traffic didn't flow steadily through Pons. The streets were narrow and cars could barely pass each others under the arches of the hospice. That gave car drivers ample time to take in the names of alcohols, lubricants, and of other products and services promoted on the town's buildings. As for lorries they had to follow a diversion. This lasted until the opening of the Pons bypass in the 1970s. Traffic through town declined and the advertising spaces on the walls of houses ceased to attract new adverts. As a result several painted signs can still be seen in town, including the one below for the well-known aperitif Dubonnet. A French classic!

Actually it is a double Dubonnet. The original sign covered the entire gable. It was partly covered when a much smaller sign was painted on the part of the gable closer to the road. Was this because something obstructed the view of the original sign? Or did Dubonnet want to have its name on a newer red background (as in Montrichard) instead of the traditional blue background but was unwilling to pay for a whole wall?

Vin tonique au quinquina
Tonic Wine With Cinchona]

The smaller and more recent Dubonnet sign was painted just above a billboard which has now disappeared.

In 1998 the hospice was listed and was one of the 71 monuments added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the description Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. A restoration campaign followed and to prevent any careless driver from damaging the structure, including the Romanesque portal, and make the visit more pleasant, the street was blocked. What used to be a major thoroughfare is now a dead end street and only visitors to the hospice may notice this ghost sign!

Location: Rue George Clémenceau, Pons, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 19/08/2011