Friday, 27 January 2012

C. Hawkes, Leytonstone

Looking for low-priced furniture around Leytonstone? A few decades ago you might have been able to find something at C. Hawkes's. Nowadays the premises are occupied by an electrical appliance retailer.

C. Hawkes
Cash Furnisher
A Wide Choice of
New Designs at
Keen Prices
Household Removals

Given the typeface used on the central part of this ghost sign, I would say it dates from the 1950s (but I may well be wrong). Its design is reminiscent of the one used on the bottom line of the London Co-op sign in Walthamstow.

Location: Harrington Road / Pictures taken in May 2011

Thursday, 26 January 2012

John Hill, Islington

John Hill & Co was founded between 1898 and 1900 (both dates have been suggested) by F. H. Wood, a former employee of William Britain, the country's largest toy manufacturer at the time. John Hill's hollow cast metal figures were originally manufactured in Islington, at 2-22 Britannia Row. However most of the factory was damaged beyond repairs during the Second World War and in 1946 the company relocated from London to Burnley in Lancashire. The building close to Essex Road survived though, and with it the ghost sign that once promoted the company.
John Hill's figures became rapidly popular, largely because they were sold individually rather than in more expensive box sets of ten or eight like Britain's (Britain remained the market leader though). They were also cheaper than Britain's but the sculpture was less detailed and the painting less meticulous. Thus John Hill's figures were often found in more modest households while better-off families offered their offsprings Britain boxes. On a plus side, their postures were often deemed to be more realistic than the martial ones of Britain's toy soldiers. If Indians and cowboys sold well, by far the most demanded figures were those of soldiers and John Hill, who at some stage began marketing its toys under the more fashionable name Johillco, offered a wide range of regiments, both British and foreign. The demand for military toys increased with the Boer War but the heydays were between the First World War and the 1950s, when they were superseded by space toys.
In 1956 Johillco released its first plastic figures under the name Hilco. Yet with a catalogue that didn't adapt rapidly enough to kids' changing tastes, the company's share of the toy market began to decline. Coronation memorabilia and some movie tie-in figures didn't compensate for the diminishing sales of toy soldiers and their equipment. As a result John Hill & Co closed in the early 1960s.
Nowadays some of their figures are sought by collectors and can be seen in toy museums around the country.

John Hill
& Co
Metal Toys

Location: Britannia Row / Picture taken in April 2008

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Schuhmacher, Aue

Amazingly the façade with its ghost sign was left untouched when this house overlooking the railway tracks in the small industrial town of Aue in the Erzgebirge district of Saxony was renovated.

I doubt that shoes and other leather goods are still being made inside.
Did this ghost sign survive because no work was needed on the façade? Or was it a conscious decision by the owners? After all maybe they wanted to preserve something they considered to be part of their family's history?

Leder - Schuhmacher - Bedarfsartikel

A different typeface, which looks older, was used for 'Leder' ('Leather'). Was it to emphasize that both shoes and other goods were made of leather? Or did 'Schumacher - Bedarfsartikel' replace an earlier sign and 'Leder' was kept to save on paint?

Location: Pfarrstraße, Aue, Sachsen / Pictures taken in December 2009

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Strong's, Lymington

Half of the ghost sign painted across the façade of this cottage, one of pair built in the early 19th century, has disappeared, making it very difficult to identify Strong's activity.

Stong's Rom... ...s

Regarding the part of the ghost sign describing Strong's business, part of the third letter has faded but it looks like a 'M'. The following letter has completely disappeared but after that there seems to be the upper part of a 'E'. If that were the case, the only fitting word is 'rompers.' Was Strong a specialist in young children's clothing?

Location: Belmore Lane, Lymington, Hampshire / Picture taken in October 2009

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Norfolk Arms, Bloomsbury

It is very frustrating to see perfectly decent pubs turned into would-like-to-be trendy gastropubs. Yet in the case of the Norfolk Arms, it may have been a blessing, at least for the building. Indeed the landlords of what had become a rather seedy place seemed to care little for the premises and one could have been forgiven for not noticing the nice Victorian tiles of the façade or this lovely mosaic by the side entrance as they laid buried under layers of grime.
In the late 1970s and 1980s, patrons of the Norfolk Arms included founders of The Pogues, Shane McGowan and Peter 'Spider' Stacy. The latter once declared about the pub
I don't know why we went in there. The landlady was a real old battleaxe and I must have been barred about twenty times. I wasn't doing very much either - kissing a girlfriend at the bar or something like that. Just general drunkenness.
I wonder if from time to time the joy and rage that exude from Rum, Sodomy & the Lash and other albums by The Pogues can still be heard these days at the Norfolk Arms?

Location: Leigh Street / Picture taken in January 2012

Friday, 20 January 2012

Refreshments, King's Cross

After the Great Northern Star yesterday, here is the ghost sign left by one of its closest competitors. Found a few meters further up the street, Celestino Bertolini's refreshment rooms opened in 1916. They closed in the 1960s.


Location: York Way / Pictures taken in January 2012

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Great Northern Star, King's Cross

Taking its name certainly from the Great Northern Railway that operated services into King's Cross station just across the road, the Great Northern Star was one of several places where travellers could have something to eat before boarding a northbound train or upon their arrival into the great metropolis.

Great Northern Star
Coffee & Dining Rooms

Great Northern Star

Coffee & Dining Rooms

Location: York Way / Pictures taken in January 2012

Frozen blog

Some of you (and me) might have experienced some problems lately when trying to read posts on which comments had been left. It simply froze! I have now changed the settings from embedded to pop-up comments and it seems to do the trick. Until next time that is.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Pictorial postcards, Covent Garden

Friends from around the world who visit us often comment that finding nice postcards of London that don't cost an arm and a leg is a bit of a challenge. Were the ones available at this shop any better?


Location: Monmouth Street / Picture taken in March 2008

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Homepride wallpapers, Walworth

Before moving to a new dwelling (using Fuller's services of course) some might have redecorated the rooms with wallpapers purchased at this shop on Walworth Road.


Location: Walworth Road / Picture taken in July 2009

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Ameublement & literie, Cognac

At first sight there is nothing extravagant about this ghost sign spotted in a narrow street of Cognac. However have a second look at the lettering and you'll realise this is a very fine example of Art Nouveau design. Quite unique!

Ameublement & literie
[Furniture & Bedding]

Location: Rue Henri Fichon, Cognac, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken in January 2011

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

High class confectioner, Willesden

First of all, a very happy New Year to all the readers of this blog.

Today's story isn't that happy though. Indeed, while sometimes ghost signs emerge when modern billboards are removed or buildings demolished, the opposite is also true. Actually it even seems to be a more frequent occurence. To a certain extent this is the case with the ghost signs below, painted on a wall adjacent to the Spotted Dog on Willesden High Road. Unfortunately the last pints were poured on 20th May 2007 and the pub, which had opened in 1762, was earmarked for redevelopment in 2008. Last November, after fetching our visas for Cambodia at the embassy nearby (it saved us queueing at the border, plus I was kindly offered a CD of Cambodian music), I wandered through Willesden and noticed that work on the site was now well under way. The new complex, a combination of flats and retail units which retains the Georgian façade, extends over the alley that runs between the pub and the building with the ghost sign. That's where the problem lies. For the floors above the alleyway to stand, a massive pier has been erected and obstructs most of the ghost signs. Thus Mr Humphrey and Stepani, whose only trace left seems to have been these painted signs, are sinking further into oblivion.
Indeed the space on this wall was used on several occasions. The first sign painted there promoted a business by the name of Humphrey (the letters emerge between the larger ones of 'Stepani'). Since none of the other words found on this wall uses the same straightforward typeface, I believe the rest of this sign disappeared completely when the two newer ones were painted. The next sign advertised Stepani & Company, suppliers of ice and water (that this sign was painted next to a pub is slightly ironic). Was Stepani (but no longer '& Co') also the high class confectioner mentioned in the third sign? The absence of a name would suggest so. But then why wasn't the whole space used? Maybe a small structure, such as a hut for a newspaper seller, hid the left of the wall but didn't go as high as 'Stepani'?

. Stepani
& Company
Makers of Pure ...
Ices Supplied for Parties ...
Iced Mineral Water ...
High Class
Caterer and Tobacconist
... of Havana Cigars
Try a
Freshly Made

With regards to the last three lines, which undulate elegantly and were painted partly in black ('Try a Freshly'), partly in white ('Made Cup'), I think they related to a part of the sign that disappeared when part of the wall was rebuilt. Freshly grounded coffee maybe? Something was painted to the right of these lines but I can't identify what this is.

Location: High Road / Picture taken in August 2009