Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Dubonnet, Bréhémont

Here are not one, not two, not three but four ghost signs for French aperitif Dubonnet. Each sign is different, keeping up with the different designs of the brand name, from the classic white on blue up to the more modern black on white with an orange stripe above and a red one below. This latter design, with the 'U' in the shape of a glass (but without the base or stem) and the inclined 'O', includes the upper part of a bottle of the aperitif to the left of the name.


Location: Avenue du 11 Novembre, Bréhémont, Indre-et-Loire / Pictures taken in May 2009

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Hosier and outfitter, Acton

Even when this ghost sign was in good condition, I doubt many people passing along Churchfield Road would have noticed it. It is far too high and too small to be spotted easily.

Hosier & Outfitter
According to the 1889-90 edition of Kelly's Directory, hosier Edwin Walker Garthwaite carried out his business at 21 Churchfield Road. Three years later the premises were occupied by A. Van der Vord, hosier and outfitter. Van der Vord traded at least until the outbreak of the First World War as his name appears in successive editions of Kelly's Directory. His business seem to have been successful enough for him to pay for a full page advert in the 1907 edition of the aforementioned directory (right). My guess is that this ghost sign dates from the time of A. Van der Vord.

It was quite clever of the sign writer to insert the ampersand into the roundel.

Location: Churchfield Road / Pictures taken in July 2011

Monday, 27 February 2012

Cash store, Willesden

Most of the space available at this corner shop was used to advertise the products on offer inside, including a whole range of drinks manufactured by R. White, of Camberwell. As precised on one of the ghost signs below, these and other goods were not sold on credit but had to be paid straight away as this was a 'cash store' (see the post about Fred Palmer, the cash butcher).
R. White was founded by -you've guessed it- Robert White and his wife Mary in 1845. It produced mineral and aerated waters, cordials, lemonade and ginger beer. Their sons Robert James and John George became partners thirty years later. Under their leadership the family firm expanded, taking over in 1891 H.D. Rawlings Ltd, a company that had been making mineral waters and ginger beer for more than a century. In 1894 the company was incorporated as R. White & Sons Limited. Over the following years, in order to cope with the growing demand for its drinks, it acquired several manufacturing sites around the country. As a consequence of some take-overs, R. White also became involved through its subsidiaries in the production of a greater range of products, including vinegar and sauces (White, Cottell & Co, of Camberwell) as well as fermented liquors and spirits (London Essence Company, of Peckham).
In 1970 R. White & Sons Ltd was taken over by Whitbread & Co Ltd. Sixteen years later the brand was acquired by soft drink manufacturer Britvic.

This is a real palimpsest, with two ghost signs relatively easy to read, plus one where only a few letters still appear.
The older ghost sign was painted in black on a while background. It reads:
V. & ...
Cash Store
& Provision
Agent For
R. White's
Mineral Waters
Ginger Beer
Stop ... Cheapness

The more recent ghost sign, in yellow letters against a dark red background, reads:
Uncle Tom
For R. White's
Lemonades Sodas
Or Mixed ...
All Pints ...
Sent Home

I am slightly puzzled by the first lines of this sign. Maybe the owner of this cash store was known as Uncle Tom?

This was the first time I saw a ghost sign advertising R. White's drinks. It seems the company preferred to use enamel signs, which lasted for longer and could be moved easily if necessary. Two pictures of H. Wilson's and George Adnams's shops taken in Brentford in the 1910s and 1940s respectively show such enamel signs. Many, such as the one on the right, have survived and can be seen around the country.

Location: Villiers Road / Picture taken in November 2011

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Hovis, Clapham

If the Hovis ghost sign posted earlier this week is well preserved, possibly thanks to the initiative of an Islington councillor (check here), it is certainly not the case of its Battersea counterpart. Yet it is still possible to decipher enough letters to reconstitute what the message was. The only part that remains incomplete is the name of the bakery.
The peculiar spelling of 'Hõvis' with the dash or tilde on the 'o' suggests this sign, like the ones in Islington, Clapham, Guildford and Tonbridge, was painted during the inter-war years (although the branches of the tree hide the dash or tilde, the 'o' is much smaller than the following letters).

Maker of

Location: Wandsworth Road / Picture taken in June 2008

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Uniformen Ullrich, Bautzen

Here is a ghost sign that may well disappear pretty soon. Indeed I doubt anybody would restore the house where Herr Ullrich once cut and sewed uniforms. It will most certainly be pulled down and a new building erected in its place.

This is really a typical German painted sign: sober, written with a blackletter typeface and with the long s of Schneidermeister in the shape of a f.

Schneidermeister [Tailor]

Location: Töpferstraße, Bautzen, Sachsen / Pictures taken in October 2011

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Continental garage, St Giles

While abroad, many travellers look for places where their mother tongue is spoken and the French who came to London during the first decades of the 20th century were certainly no different. That's why many of them would have stayed in and around Soho, home until the 1920s to a large French community, and at places like the Hotel de Boulogne. It was undoubtedly to attract these visitors, or at least those wealthy enough to rent a car, that the Continental Garage and its successor the Prince's Garage included a few French words on their painted advert.

The upper part of this ghost sign overlooking the churchyard of St Giles in the Fields is dominated by the names of the two garages successively advertised there:
Continental Garage
which was replaced by

The lower part of the sign may have been painted for Continental Garage but was kept when Prince's Garage took over:
Open Day
Cars on HireOuvert
Jour et nuit

Although there are only two garage names, it is possible this wall was painted on more than two occasions as letters can be seen here and there. However I have not managed to decipher what else was written, apart from what could be the name of the sign writer. Indeed in the upper left hand corner, written in small letters, one can read:
R. Sandland

Next to the French part of the text is an elaborate manicule, for once in colour.

This is not the only ghost sign in London where part of the text is in French. The 2 Little Crown one is another fine example.

Location: St Giles High Street / Pictures taken in March 2008

Monday, 20 February 2012

Hovis, Islington

When Hovis paid for this painted sign, electric baking machines were still relatively new (*) and worth advertising. Electricity was associated not only with modernity but also with cleanliness. No more potentially dirty hands mixing the ingredients and kneading the dough! Machines also suggested constant quality. Add the Hovis name (a brand whose success in the late 19th century was built on quality at a time when most of the loaves sold in Britain were rather bland, with little nutritious value and sometimes plain unhealthy), the slogan "Builds Health", and here is an advert that would have attracted modern, hygiene-conscious, and nutrition-aware customers.
This ghost sign was most certainly painted during the inter-war years, as indicated by the presence of the dash on the 'o' of Hovis. Hovis slogans with a particular emphasis on and featuring the word "health" were also characteristic of that period.

Electric Machine
Maker of
Builds Health

Since bread had had a bad reputation throughout most of the 19th century, bakeries that introduced modern technologies were usually keen on advertising it. For such a ghost sign, see the post about the Hygienic Bakeries in Richmond.

*: the first electric baking machines used in British bakeries seem to have been introduced towards the end of the first decade of the 20th century, once the production and distribution of electricity had become more reliable, but it was only after the First World War that their numbers really increased. Click here to see a picture of the Electric Machine Bakery of A. W. Davis in Herne Hill taken in 1910.

Location: Islington High Street / Picture taken in August 2008

Friday, 17 February 2012

Kiddies Korner, Farncombe

This wall was painted twice but while Kiddies Korner is no more (a photo taken in 1964 shows part of the shop), the estate agent previously advertised here is still in business in Godalming, a couple of kilmetres away.

The most recent sign reads:
Kiddies Korner
Everything for the Baby
Baby Wear - Wool - Prams - Push Chairs - Carry Cots - Nursery Goods

As for the previous sign, it advertised:
J. Nugent
Debenham & Co Ltd
Estate Agents
Phone Godalming 2679

Location: Farncombe Street, Farncombe, Surrey / Picture taken in October 2008

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Ingersoll, Clerkenwell

Since the Ingersoll ghost sign disappeared, the only other trace left by this watchmaking company still visible in London is, as far as I'm aware, the mosaic on the top of its former factory in Clerkenwell.

The factory was built in the 1930s for property speculator Gilbert Waghorn. Before it was completed, Ingersoll agreed to move in. Thus the architect, Stanley Waghorn (the brother of Gilbert Waghorn, who designed several factories around Barking and Stratford) modified slightly the parapet on the St John Street façade to incorporate the green and off-white mosaic with the logo of Ingersoll.

Production of Ingersoll watches in Clerkenwell certainly stopped when the new factory of the Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. Ltd opened in Ystradgynlais, near Swansea, in 1948, or shortly afterwards. Ingersoll Ltd was one of the two shareholders of the Anglo-Celtic Watch Co., the other being Smiths Industries Ltd (Vickers Armstrong was originally part of it but withdrew in 1948).
In the 1950s, the Clerkenwell factory was bought by Condé Nast and became the pattern factory for fashion magazine Vogue. As a result, the building is now known as Pattern House rather than the Ingersoll building. In the mid-1990s, after 60 years of industrial use, it was converted into lofts.

Location: St John Street / Pictures taken in January 2012

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Franklin Homan, Rochester

Around 1903 four houses at the eastern end of Rochester High Street were demolished to make way for the brand new showrooms and warehouse of furnishers Franklin Homan Ltd. A picture taken c. 1900 shows the High Street before work began, with the original office of Franklin Homan Ltd, auctioneers and estate agents. Even though it was not stated on the façade of the office at the time, Franklin Homan was also trading as a cabinet maker and upholsterer (maybe this side of the business was conducted from another office).
One of Homan's most famous customers was Charles Dickens, who contracted him to furnish two bedrooms at Gads Hill Place. The writer, who had purchased this country house in 1856, sent his instructions while visiting the United States for the second time in 1867-1868. Yet upon his return what he discovered was not entirely to his taste and Homan undertook the necessary changes (Dickens considered this to be his, not Homan's fault). Following the death of Dickens in 1870, Franklin Homan was asked to value and sell the furniture and other domestic effects for the executors of the will. He also conducted the writer's funeral. For more information on the relationship between Cahrles Dickens and Franklin Homan, you can refer to A Week's Tramp in Dickens-Land by William R. Hughes (pp. 70-71).
I have not found when Franklin Homan retired or died, nor have I been able to establish the relationship between the two persons who seem to have succeeded him: Franklin George Homan and Hubert Franklin Homan. However I suspect the two sides of the business -auctioneering and sale of properties, and furniture supplier- were kept and F. G. Homan was in charge of the former (his name is often mentioned in relation to legal documents. He died in 1922) while H. F. Homan dealt with the latter. Thus it could be Hubert Franklin Homan who was behind the construction of the large building on the High Street.
Whatever really happened after Franklin Homan left, what is certain is that on July 6, 1938, at a meeting convened at 178, High Street, the members of Franklin Homan Ltd decided to wind up voluntarily the company.
Since then the building has been occupied by several companies and shops, including electrical appliances specialist Seeboard (part of the South Eastern Electricity Board) but none of them removed the two ghost signs found on the gable walls of the former Franklin Homan showrooms and depositories.

Since buildings partly obstruct the view, two photos are necessary to see the whole ghost sign on the west gable wall.

Franklin Homan Ltd
Removals and Depositories

Virtually nothing hindered the view of east gable wall. Consequently it was possible to paint a much longer sign, which detailed the activities of the company. Even if part of the sign was oblitarated when three windows were opened, the text can be easily reconstituted.

Franklin Homan Ltd
The Largest Furnishing
Showrooms in the County
Household Removals
And Depositories.

Location: High Street, Rochester, Kent / Pictures taken in June 2011

Monday, 13 February 2012

Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas, Havana

Spotted not too far from the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, this bright sign was painted a couple of weeks before the 9th congress of the Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas (UJC - Youth Communist League) opened in early April 2010. As with other UJC signs, it incorporates the league's emblem designed in 1962 by Virgilio Martínez with the figures of Julio Antonio Mella, Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, and the words "Estudio, trabajo, fusil" ("Study, Work, Rifle"). As for the sentence written below, "Everything for the Revolution", it is a classic slogan reproduced throughout the island.

For more information, please see the post about another sign painted by the UJC in Havana.

9 Congreso
Todo por la Revolución

I really like how the "9" has been cleverly incorporated into "Congreso", even using the first 'o' to make the proper ordinal "noveno" ("ninth").

Location: Avenida de la Independencia, Havana / Picture taken in March 2010

Friday, 10 February 2012

Garage automobile, Burie

When Mr Bagonneau thought of advertising his garage, he didn't hesitate to use the whole façade of his house next door. A garage mechanic by profession, he also sold, exchanged, and rented cars. As expected tyres were also avaible. As for petrol and oil, they were of the Energic and Energol brands respectively, the name under which BP products were marketed in France.

Garage automobile

The name and occupation of the owner are still proudly displayed above the door.

BP's presence in France goes back to 1921, when the Anglo-Persian Oil Co (future BP), together with Paul Paix et Compagnie (the owners of the Courchelettes oil refinery near Douai in northern France, opened in 1863), the Société Navale de l’Ouest and Estrin et Compagnie (both involved in maritime transport) founded the Société Générales des Huiles de Pétrole (SGHP). Originally the SGHP's portfolio included, apart from the Courchelettes refinery, oil depots in Dunkerque, Calais, Le Havre, Marseille and Oran in Algeria, as well as the Lavéra oil refinery near Martigues in southern France. The same year the SGHP took over the oil refining and distribution activities of George Lesieur et Fils (of cooking oil fame). The SGHP continued its expansion over the following decades before becoming in 1954 the Société française des pétroles BP. In 1987 the name was changed to BP France.
The Energic and Energol brands appeared in the late 1920s but while Energol lubricants can still be bought today, Energic disappeared from petrol stations several decades ago.

Click on the picture below for a larger than usual version.

Location: Avenue de la République, Burie, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken in June 2010

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Commercial Buildings, Battersea

In the last quarter of the 19th century, a property developer keen to promote his two newly constructed buildings had their names painted on the end wall of the eastern unit: "Commercial Buildings." It is perhaps surprising that the name appears on the side but not on the main façades of the buildings, as it is usually the case. The two buildings, separated by Dorothy Road, are of similar design (shops on the ground floor with flats on the three floors above) but the east one, which accomodates eight retail units, is twice the size of the west one. Was there a similar ghost sign on the west building? This is highly unlikely. Even if it had been painted higher up it would still have been obscured by the Lavender Hill Post Office next door.
The Post Office and the two Commercial Buildings appear on this postcard from c. 1911. Both the Post Office and the building in the background with the neo-classical portico (largely hidden by the tramway) have since been replaced by modern horrors. However, one of these ugly modern buildings is lower than the construction it replaced and one can have a much better view of the ghost sign below than it was originally the case.

Commercial Buildings

Location: Lavender Hill / Picture taken in March 2010

Strike's Stores, Thames Ditton, update

Regular readers of this blog may remember the Strike's Stores ghost sign in Thames Ditton. I just saw a postcard from c. 1912 on which the painted sign is clearly visible. I have amended the original post and included a link to the aforementioned postcard.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Academy, Holloway

At the back of a building overlooking Digswell Street is a barely noticeable ghost sign. The main entrance to the academy it advertised was most certainly in Crane Grove. Unfortunately I haven't been able to discover what this academy was for.


Location: Digswell Street / Pictures taken in January 2012

Monday, 6 February 2012

Posada Nueva del Progreso, Barcelona

In the late 19th or early 20th century, travellers looking for a bit of modernity in the narrow streets of the Barri Gòtic, the medieval heart of Barcelona, could have stopped at the Posada Nueva del Progreso (Progress' New Inn) for some food.

Nowadays all that remains is this rather unusual ghost sign - not because of its design, but because of what is written and how it is spellt.

Nueva del Progreso
Se sirve
y a

Indeed the expression "servir a cubiertos y a raciones" is not very common. Actually it does not even appear on any document available on the net, including old books and articles. What was meant there, I believe, was that one could have either a proper lunch or dinner with food served at a table (thus available with "cubiertos" ie cutlery) or just something over the counter ("a raciones"), which could be eaten there or taken away.
As for the spelling of "ración, -es" with a double 'c' it is very odd to say the least and is certainly a mistake by the sign writer.

Location: Carrer del Cardenal Casañas / Pictures taken in November 2011