Saturday, 30 June 2012

Kronenbourg, Saint-André-de-Cubzac

The Noilly Prat ghost sign posted yesterday is not the only one on the wall. Indeed there are three more next to it!

However these three ghost signs overlap and if two are easy to identify, the third one is trickier - but not impossible after a closer look.


Le grand nom des bières d'Alsace

Could anything else have been written with 'Royan'? I think so but I am not sure. Maybe the name of the popular seaside town by the mouth of the Gironde estuary about 100 km from Saint-André-de-Cubzac was enough to attract visitors?

Below, in blue, is the name of France's leading beer brand: Kronenbourg (commonly known as 'Kro') with the slogan "Le grand nom des bières d'Alsace" ("The famous name among Alsace beers"). The brewery was founded in 1664 by Geronimus Hatt in Strasbourg. Being close to the River Ill, it was flooded on several occasions. In 1850 Frédéric-Guillaume Hatt relocated it to higher grounds in Cronenbourg, just to the northwest of Strasbourg city centre. The site also had the advantage of being near railway tracks and from 1857, weekly first and then daily beer trains ran between the brewery and Paris. The beer known today as Kronenbourg was first brewed in 1922. That year the Hatt family bought the famous restaurant Grand Tigre and launched a new beer, Tigre Bock, to celebrate this acquisition. In 1947 Jérôme Hatt changed its name to Kronenbourg. Sold in returnable 33cl bottles, it was an immediate success not only in France but in other European countries as well. In 1970 the family brewery was bought by BSN (nowadays Groupe Danone). Sixteen years later BSN merged its two brewing concerns, Kronenbourg and Européenne de Brasseries (Kanterbräu), to create Brasseries Kronenbourg.
In 2000 BSN sold the company to Scottish and Newcastle at a difficult time. By the turn of the 21st century sales of Kronenbourg were dropping sharply indeed. If 10 m hl were brewed in 1999, by 2007 the figure was down to 7 m hl. In that context the new owners decided to concentrate the production at the Obernai brewery opened in 1969 and disposed of other production sites. In 2006 all activity ceased at the Cronenbourg site and within a few months most of the buildings were demolished. In 2008 Scottish and Newcastle sold Kronenbourg to Danish brewers Carlsberg.

The most visible part of the third ghost sign is the word 'pellicule' (film) in a rectangular frame. A closer look shows 'Royan' hides the name of the company advertised there: Altipan Lumière. Founded by cinema pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière, it manufactured photography equipment. In the 1960s it was taken over by Ilford Photo.

Location: Rue Nationale, Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde / Pictures taken in May 2012

Friday, 29 June 2012

Vermouth Noilly Prat, Saint-André-de-Cubzac

In 1952 the French parliament repealed a 1943 law passed by the Vichy regime prohibiting advertising for aperitifs. Painted signs for alcohol brands appeared immediately everywhere across France. Dubonnet, Suze and St-Raphäel were by far the most frequent along French roads but others, such as Noilly Prat vermouth, managed to find a place on the walls.

Joseph Noilly first developed his recipe for vermouth in 1813. The aim was to replicate the ageing process of the wine carried on board ships bound for far away destinations and exposed to natural elements. Thirty years later, from the little village of Marseillan on the Mediterranean coast, his son Louis founded a company to handle the production and marketing of his vermouth. In 1855, after his manager Claudius Prat married his daughter, the two men entered into a partnership: Noilly Prat & Compagnie was born.
Following the death of her father Louis in 1865, Claudius's widow Anne Rosine Noilly-Prat took over the running of the company. Over the following 37 years, she successfully developed the brand, especially abroad. The castles built and bought by the family testify to the success of their vermouth.
However the popularity of the Noilly Prat vermouth declined after the Second World War. In 1971 the company was taken over by its main competitor, Martini & Rossi (now Bacardi-Martini). Noilly Prat is still produced in Marseillan today, with a good share exported mainly to the US.

I should mention that originally this ghost sign was not yellow but green! Several decades of exposure to the sun have completely altered the colours.


Noilly Prat produces two varieties of vermouth: dry, which is still based on the original recipe, and red (rouge), which is exported. You can find out more about the production process for the two by visiting the wikipedia page.
Since 1986, the company also makes the Noilly Prat Ambré, which is slightly softer thanks to the addition of vanilla, cinnamon and the zest of bitter oranges.

'Dry' and 'Rouge' were written on the shield to the left of 'vermouth.' The upper left and lower right quarters were green while the upper right and lower left ones were painted red. None of the original colours remains.

Location: Rue Nationale, Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde / Pictures taken in May 2012

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Imprimerie, Saint-André-de-Cubzac

Saint-André-de-Cubzac owes much of its prosperity to its market and the vineyards of the area. The small town also benefited from its location, at the junction of several important roads. Until the opening of the motorway in the mid-1970s, the town was a welcome stop before crossing the River Dordogne on the Paris to Bordeaux road (the former Route Nationale 10). Another road linked Saint-André with the other towns and cities along the northern bank of the River Dordogne. Finally it is at Saint-André that the road towards Saintes, La Rochelle, Nantes and Saint-Malo (the former Route Nationale 137) branches off from the Bordeaux road.
This explains the presence in town of several ghost signs for major companies. But these are not the only ones. Some local trades have also left their marks on the walls of the town.
One of them, across the road from the chancel of the romanesque church of Saint-André-du-Nom-de-Dieu, is a former imprimerie (printing works). Strangely, the central part of this ghost sign has completely disappeared and while 'imprimerie' was easy to guess, I have no idea who was running it.

Imprimerie ... ...inger



Location: Rue Nationale, Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde / Pictures taken in May 2012

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Chateau de Terrefort Quancard, Cubzac-les-Ponts

Cubzac-les-Ponts is within the Bordeaux wine region and shortly after leaving the centre of the small town one is rapidly surrounded by vineyards.

Wines produced in this part of the region belong to the Bordeaux and Bordeaux-supérieur AOCs (Appelations d'Origine Controlée, literally "controlled designation of origin"). These are not the most famous Bordeaux wines but some are enjoyable enough. One of these is the Château de Terrefort-Quancard.
Originally built in the 16th century on the highest hill of the area and much modified later, the castle of Terrefort was bought in 1891 by Jean and Eugène Quancard. By then the vineyard, decimated by the phylloxera, laid abandoned. The brothers set to clear the 61 ha estate and to replant it with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Their heirs still own the vineyard, which produces a Bordeaux-supérieur.

Ideally painted on the former windmill, where cereals were once ground, the name of the château can be seen from far away across the vineyard.


Location: Avenue de Paris, Cubzac-les-Ponts, Gironde / Pictures taken in May 2012

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

L'inusable, Cubzac-les-Ponts

As the estate agent's sign indicates, this building formerly used by the firm Fonteneau is now for sale. As for the brand of prefabricated cement elements "L'inusable" (literally 'The Hardwearing'), it does not seem to exist anymore.

Abris de jardin
Clapiers & poulaillers
Eléments préfabriqués ciment

This translates as

Garden Shelters
Hutches & Henhouses
Prefabricated cement elements

Location: Avenue de Paris, Cubzac-les-Ponts, Gironde / Picture taken in May 2012

Monday, 25 June 2012

Chez Anatole, Cubzac-les-Ponts

After some ghost signs from different countries last week, from today we shall move to southwest France and have a look at some of the ghost signs that can be seen when following the northern bank of the Dordogne and the Gironde estuary between Cubzac-les-Ponts and Blaye. This will not be an exhaustive list as it was not always possible for my dad to stop but it should be a good sample of what can be expected while driving through the French countryside.

Cubzac-les-Ponts owes part of its name to the three bridges over the River Dordogne. While the vast majority of drivers take the one of the A10 motorway, driving over the Eiffel Bridge, an elegant and impressive piece of engineering, is much more pleasant. Coming from Bordeaux, it also has the advantage of taking people straight into the small town of Cubzac-les-Ponts, where the first ghost sign of this series can be seen.

Located near the northern end of town, this ghost sign was painted for drivers coming from the north. Indeed the hotel and restaurant advertised on this wall were in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, on the southern bank of the Dordogne. The building still exists, with 'Hotel-Restaurant Chez Anatole' painted across the façade, although it is no longer a hotel. Unfortunately in the absence of hard shoulder and with cars just behind us, it was impossible to stop to take a picture. Maybe I will be luckier next time I fly to Bordeaux and we take this route to go home.

The small hotel and restaurant 'Chez Anatole' was founded by Anatole Coulon. Coulon fought during the First World War and may have opened his business upon his return from the trenches. He was succeeded by his son Claude, born in 1918. The hotel and restaurant may have closed down when he retired.

Hotel Restaurant
2 km
Chez Anatole

There was another sign painted on this wall but I cannot identify it.

Location: Avenue de Paris, Cubzac-les-Ponts, Gironde / Pictures taken in May 2012

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Akbank, Istanbul

Running between the Grand Bazaar and the area to the back of the Spice Bazaar, Mahmutpaşa Yokuşu is one of the busiest shopping streets of the Eminönü district. This is where Akbank advertised its banking services, with not one but two large painted signs rising above the crowds. Indeed both sides of the same house were painted, most certainly in the 1980s or 1990s.
Founded in 1948 in Adana, in southeast Turkey, by entrepreneur Hacı Ömer Sabancı, Akbank (for Adana-Kayseri Bankası) is now one of Turkey's largest banks.

In spite of their relatively young age, both signs have almost disappeared. A poor quality job combined with unfavourable weather conditions are to blame. This is not unique to these Akbank signs. Other modern ones across Istanbul, such as those for Konica-Minolta or Karbosan, Oerlikon and Teka, also look older than they really are.

... ...asi.
24 .tt..
Akbank [*]Akbank
Güvenini ...

*: "Akbank" was originally written across the whole width of the wall but half of it disappeared when "Akbank / Güvenini ..." was added. The same happened on the other wall. Why was a smaller logo chosen?

"Güvenini" means "confidence."

.8 Tre...
Kredi Karti ...
Akbank s.y...
Güvenini ...

The picture below has been enhanced to make what is left of the text come out slightly better.

Location: Mahmutpaşa Yokuşu, Eminönü, Istanbul / Pictures taken in June 2011

Friday, 22 June 2012

Ferreteria, Havana

Since few limited companies were formed in Cuba after 1959, we can reasonably assume the ghost sign for ironmongery company Alba Ltd predates the triumph of the Cuban revolution. The 1949 edition of the Cuban phone directory lists a Ferretería Alba but in Calle Monserate. Maybe it moved to a new address at a later stage or the store in Calle Brasil was just a branch of the same company?
The Art Deco metal plaque above the door is worth a look.

Barely noticeable between the door and the metal shutter is another ghost sign. It says simply "Billar" ("Billiards") and was painted most certainly after the ironmonger's closed down. Was this a workshop where they made billiard tables, or simply a place where people could come and play? With the shutter closed, I couldn't check.

Alba S.A.

Location: Calle Brasil, Havana / Picture taken in April 2010

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Painted sign, Yangdi (2)

Many painted signs can be seen across rural China and the small village of Yangdi on the western bank of the River Li, between Guilin and Yangshuo, is no exception. Several signs are of a political nature but a few are adverts for Chinenes companies.
This is the case of the painted sign below. Political messages tend to be much more sober. Unfortunately I haven't managed to identify which company is advertised on this wall. The only character I could recognise is the one on the left on the first line: "guó", which means "country."

Location: Yangdi, Guangxi province, China / Picture taken in September 2009

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

J. Torrens, Barcelona

In June 1910, the magazine Nuevo Mundo published an advert for Barcelona's high-end shops, disguised as the results of "the Barcelona commercial competition." To the question "which luxury shoemaker offers the most comfortable bespoke shoes?", the answer was J. Torrens. This is the earliest mention of Torrens I found but we can assume his shop on the Rambla de las Flores had already been opened for a little while.
Over the following two decades, several printed adverts appeared in Catalonia's best selling newspaper La Vanguardia. Some invoices from the same period are also on sale on the internet. The last time the name appeared was in 1936, on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. Did this dramatic event have an impact of J. Torrens's business, or did it simply closed after its owner retired?

As luxury bespoke items, Torrens's shoes were not cheap. In January 1936, Jaume Armengou, from Manresa in central Catalonia, purchased several pairs for himself, his wife and his children. Prices for adults were between 70 and 80 pesetas, and 24 pesetas for kids. Eighty pesetas was equivalent in 2001, before Spain's national currency was replaced by the euro, to 17,650 pesetas. Converted into euros, the price would have been just under 110 euros. This may seem pretty reasonable for bespoke shoes but it is worth remembering that in 1936 in Spain the average daily wage in the industrial and service sectors was 11.79 pesetas for a skilled worker and 8.36 for an unskilled one. In the agricultural sector, daily wages on average only reached 7.03 pesetas. Additionally, by 1936, 60% of a household's income was spent on food and 14.6% on housing, while 9.4% went towards shoes and clothing. In short, Torrens's shoes were well beyond the means of the immense majority of the population!

J. Torrens
[J. Torrens

J. Torrens
Rambla de las Flores 6.

Even though Torrens's shop was on the Rambla de las Flores (also known as the Rambla de Sant Josep), the stretch of the famous Barcelona street between the Carrer del Carme and the Carrer de l'Hospital, these ghost signs can be seen in a narrow street of the Barri Gòtic. His workshop was certainly located in this building, and looking at an aerial view of the city, it probably communicated with the shop.

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

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Hotel Burgberg-Garagen, Dresden

I first noticed this ghost sign near Dresden's Blaues Wunder (the common name of the 1893 Loschwitz Bridge) while being driven to Bautzen. Since I wanted to take a few photos in the area I didn't ask my mother-in-law to make an emergency stop on that occasion. Two days later I was back, and just as I alighted from the tram, the rain started. Bad luck.

The design of this ghost sign for the garages of the Burgberg Hotel is not amazing but I just love the red letters on the fading pastel orange of the façade. Great colours!

Hotel Burgberg-Garagen.
<--- Einfarht hier [Entrance here]

The Burgberg Hotel was located on the wooded hill behind the garages. The lane leading to the hotel was rather steep and narrow and that may explain why cars were left in a building by the main road. A path must have linked the two and it is possible the hotel operated a shuttle for its patrons.

The hotel and its restaurant were built by wine grower Gottfried Bormann in 1853 and enlarged six years later. In the late 19th century Loschwitz became extremely popular and at weekends people flocked to the hills dominating the valley of the River Elbe. The Burgberg was famous for its gastronomy and its restaurant, with its terrasse overlooking the river and the Blaues Wunder, was very often full.
The hotel was completely rebuilt in 1926-1927. A ballroom was added to the delight of visitors.

Sadly the hotel burnt down during the bombing of Dresden between 13 and 15 February 1945. If the city centre bore the brunt of the bombing, with more than 90% of the buildings reduced to rubbles, the suburbs were also hit. Lack of resources and the new political situation after the war meant the Burgberg Hotel was never rebuilt. In 1967 the few walls still standing were pulled down.
Nowadays trees have reclaimed the area and few traces of the hotel remain. The building that housed the garages is one of them.

Zimmer Frei [Rooms Available]
Hotel Burgberg

The passageway to the left of the building leads to a courtyard, with six garages arranged on two sides. This may sound rather small but, at weekends at least, most patrons would have arrived by public transport, taking either a tram or one of the popular steamboats that cruised along the Elbe.

Location: Grundstraße, Loschwitz, Dresden, Sachsen / All pitures taken in October 2011

Monday, 18 June 2012

H. Law, baker, and Memory Makers, Exmouth

To conclude this series of signs and mosaics from southeast Devon, here is a building displaying ghost signs for two, maybe three, completely different businesses, including one with a great name.

This building was originally a bakery, as advertised high up on the gable.


To find out more about hygienic bakeries, please check these earlier posts about Hygienic Bakeries Ltd and Hovis.

The ghost sign on the lower part of this wall is much more recent. Indeed Memory Makers, the photo studio of Julian Francis Bates, is mentioned on several occasions in professional magazines and in Country Life between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s.


This is such a great name, and such a nicely designed sign! The curlicues remind me of ribbons. Did they wrap photo prints with ribbons? Maybe not.

More information about H. Law can be found on the façade of the building.

H. Law
Tea Dealer
Corn Factor

Another ghost sign appears on the wooden part between the ground and first floors.

Oil Fired Heating

This is surrounded by the logos of Shell and of an unidentified company. Did this mean a heating engineer once occupied these premises? If so that would have been after the bakery closed down and before the early 1980s when Memory Makers moved in. Or was this simply some kind of certificate indicating the heating system inside had been installed by a qualified professional and not some kind of rogue trader? Given the small size of this ghost sign, I believe the second option to be right.

Location: South Street, Exmouth, Devon / All pictures taken in April 2012

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Institute Pharmacy, Exmouth

This beautiful ghost sign reappeared only recently and I wonder whether more won't be uncovered in a near future.
Its design would suggest it was painted during the reign of Victoria but in the absence of any document mentioning this pharmacy it isn't possible to be more precise.

Dispensing Chemist
... ...mination...

This is such a great ghost sign that I can't resist posting more pictures showing the elaborate lettering surrounded by Arabesques and other decorative patterns. The part on the pillar is particularly amazing and shows Gothic Revival influences.

Location: Rolle Street, Exmouth, Devon / All pictures taken in April 2012

Saturday, 16 June 2012

J. Denford, Exmouth

For the last three posts of this series from southeast Devon, I take you back to Exmouth for some more ghost signs.

Even though this ghost sign seems barely readable at first sight, it is still possible to recognize enough letters to be able to reconstitute what was written on this wall.

J. Denford
Fish & Potatoes

Location: Fore Street, Exmouth, Devon / Pictures taken in April 2012

Friday, 15 June 2012

Olivers, Tiverton

With such a name I expected to find a story with a twist behind this doorstep mosaic, but alas, I drew a blank.

Update: it appears Oliver's was a shoe shop. See comments.

Location: Gold Street, Tiverton, Devon / Picture taken in April 2012

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Redline super petrol, Exeter

While large and colourful ghost signs are still relatively common in France, in Britain they tend to be rather rare. This is why I was happily surprised when I spotted this very good example. Even though this ghost sign dates certainly from the 1930s, the colours are still striking. Only the blue of the petrol pump and the yellow background have faded a bit and turned to mauve and orange respectively.

Super Petrol
The 'Top Gear'

Remains of an earlier ghost sign can still be seen. All I managed to read is:

John ...
Wholesale & Retail

In the absence of a name, the activity of John will remain a mystery.

The Redline Motor Spirit brand appeared in 1914, the year the Union Petroleum Products Co Ltd was incorporated. The name of the company was changed to The Redline Motor Spirit Co Ltd in 1927. Redline Super was its main product and during the inter-war years was widely advertised in motor magazines.

In 1931, the Redline Motor Spirit Co Ltd merged with GLICO Petroleum Ltd, a company originally called The Gas Lighting Improvement Co Ltd, which had been importing, refining and distributing motor spirit for cars and motorcycles since 1888. The merger was motivated by the economic crisis of the 1930s, which drove demand and prices down as petrol companies vied for customers. At the same time, these companies were required to keep up with improvements in engine designs and performances. Thus large investments that a small company could barely afford under such difficult conditions were needed. As a result several similar mergers occured in the sector. The new company took the name Redline - Glico Ltd and launched a whole series of colourful advertising campaigns to attract customers.

Some of these adverts included glamourous women getting their up-market cars refuelled while other used images of the company's colourful petrol pumps on a bright yellow background. These pumps, blue with a vertical red stripe, came with different glass globes. These could be round, rectangular, conical, or combine the latter two shapes.

As can be seen on this ghost sign, adverts for Redline Super included the slogan "The Top Gear Spirit."

During the Second World War, petrol brands disappeared as all production was pooled. This made it more difficult after the war for smaller companies, like Redline - Glico, to regain their share of the market. They rapidly fell prey to larger, wealthier oil companies looking to expand their presence in the British isles. In 1952 Redline - Glico Ltd ran its last advertising campaign in preparation for the reintroduction of brands the following year. However before that happened, the company was taken over by the Anglo-American Oil Co., now Esso UK.

Location: Cowley Bridge Road, Exeter, Devon / All pictures taken in April 2012

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Hotel, Exeter

After a day out in Tiverton, I got off the bus on the outskirts of Exeter to take some pictures of quite an amazing ghost sign (check this blog tomorrow!) and walked towards the city centre. By the time I passed by Exeter St David's it was getting dark but I couldn't fail to notice the letter 'L' painted on the façade of a building opposite the station. Then I saw the other letters or what was left of them. Together they spellt the word "Hotel." A search online a few days later took me to Exeter Memories, where I discovered this used to be the Elmfield Hotel and the building the ghost sign was painted on may well have been the stables. There is a whole page dedicated to the Elmfield Hotel and I would invite you to visit it to discover more about the history of the place.


Location: Saint David's Hill, Exeter, Devon / Picture taken in April 2012

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Kirk Radio, Exeter

Kirk Radio has been selling and repairing radios and other electrical equipment since 1945.

Even though the Christmas decoration on the façade would suggest otherwise, these pictures were taken on Easter Sunday!


Location: Sidwell Street, Exeter, Devon / Pictures taken in April 2012

Friday, 1 June 2012

Borwick's baking powder, Exeter

Born in Morven, Torquay, in 1806, George Borwick married Jane Hudson in 1831. It is said it was her father who gave them the formula for making baking powder. However the couple had to carry out experiments for more than a decade to improve it. Finally in 1842, George Borwick & Sons Ltd was founded and the baking powder launched on the market.

Until then people relied on home made yeast to raise cakes and breads but that gave rather random results. As a reliable rising agent, Borwick's baking powder was soon in high demand and in 1864 a factory was set up in London, possibly in Chiswell Street (over time Borwick & Sons had several factories in and around London, but since this was the company's address, it may well have been the original one). Borwick's customers included the Army, the Navy, as well as the queen's baker. The company flourished and was soon offering a whole range of products, including custard powder and even furniture cream, which "cleanses and gives the most brilliant and durable polish to all articles of furniture."
George Borwick died in 1889, leaving a fortune of £259,000. His son Robert Borwick became chairman of the family firm. Borwick & Sons later became a subsidiary of HJ Green and Co. Ltd. of Brighton. This company was then taken over by the Pillsbury Co. of Minneapolis. Nowadays the Borwick trademark is owned by the Irish company Kerry Group.

The Best In The World

On the picture below, I altered the vertical perspective.

Location: Cecil Road, Exeter, Devon / Pictures taken in April 2012