Tuesday, 20 August 2013

E. Blomme, Jonzac

Thanks to the lovely colours of the façade, this ghost sign painted in the 1960s or 1970s on Mr Blomme's shop is hard to miss.

E. Blomme

Something else was previously written above Mr Blomme's name but I did not manage to decipher it.

Teinture & Nettoyage
[Dyeing & Cleaning]

Location: Rue des Carmes, Jonzac, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken in April 2013

Monday, 19 August 2013

A la Belle Botte, Jonzac

On one of the houses built on the banks of the River Seugne in the small town of Jonzac in the south of the Charente-Maritime département is a double ghost sign.

A couple of letters from the original sign, in black, can still be seen on the façade but that is not enough to be able to identify the business behind it.
The more recent sign, wich is certainly nearly one century old, advertised a shoe shop by the rather attractive name A la Belle Botte.

A la
[At the

Location: Rue des Carmes, Jonzac, Charente-Maritime / Pcitures taken in April 2013

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bäckerei, Hohnstein

Dominated by its castle, the little town of Hohnstein in Saxon Switzerland has a couple of ghost signs, including the one below for a former bakery.

Bäckerei [Bakery]

Location: Obere Straße, Hohnstein, Sachsen / Picture taken in October 2011

Monday, 12 August 2013

Furniture depositories, Kentish Town

House furnisher Alfred Marsh & Co was established in 1857. Alfred Marsh's original furniture making business was based at 9 Warden Road but by 1891 he had moved to 116 Kentish Town Road. Within a couple of years he had tripled his surface by taking over 114 and 118 Kentish Town Road.

A. Marsh & Co became well-established during during the first decades of the 20th century and its patrons included the Crown agents for the colonies. The company offered a wide range of new and second-hand furniture.


Advertisements published in the press kept the public informed about some of second-hand pieces available. In 1930 those included, among others, a walnut bedroom suite, two weathered oak bedroom suites, chesterfields in silk cover, as well as drawing and dining rooms in lacquer or walnut.

A. Marsh & Co seems to have disappeared during the economic crisis of the 1930s.

Largest Stock
Of New & Second-hand
In London


Location: Royal College Street / Pictures taken in November 2012 and July 2013

Friday, 9 August 2013

Drapery stores, Kingston

This drapery shop in Kingston may have been fairly modest but the ghost sign that once advertised it is rather elegant with its different typefaces and curvy lines.

& Good
... By

The style of this ghost sign would suggest it is more than a century old but I have not found any mention of a draper on Acre Road in trade directories or in any other document.

Unfortunately both the 1878 edition of the Post Office Directory of Surrey and the 1891 edition of Kelly's Directory of Kent, Surrey & Sussex do not include street numbers (several shopkeepers and a dress maker -no draper though- had their premises on Acre Road and one might have been behind this sign) and by 1913, the wall this sign was painted on separated a grocer from a furniture dealer according to Kelly's Directory of Surrey.

Location: Acre Road / Pictures taken in June 2013

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Undertakers, Camden

Of the two ghost signs on this façade, only the lower one -"Undertakers"- can still be read. The upper one, which would certainly have included the name of the owner(s) of the business, has faded too much to be able to decipher anything.

The only undertaker at this address I came across is Edwin Howard Terry. Prior to becoming an undertaker, E. H. Terry was working as a carpenter at Sussex Place (nowadays Ferdinand Place), Camden. However he went bankrupt in 1865. He later moved to 232 Great College Street (nowadays Royal College Street), where he opened a funeral parlour. For several years everything went well but by the late 1870s his financial situation deteriorated. In 1879 proceedings for the liquidation of his company began. They were completed in 1880 but E. H. Terry may have continued to work as an undertaker for a few more months. He was still listed as such in the 1882 edition of the Post Office London Directory. After that his name no longer appears in any trade directory.


E. H. Terry himself does not really account for the plural "Undertakers" (it does not look as if there could be an apostrophe before the "S"). Yet after him the premises were occupied by the Royal London Friendly Society and later by a bootmaker. I could not find any undertaker who could have been there before either.

Location: Wilmot Place / Pictures taken in November 2012 and July 2013

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The monster ready made and bespoke clothing establishment, Borough

"The monster ready made and bespoke clothing establishment." This is a most bizarre formulation. If they wanted to say this was a very large shop, why not use "the largest" instead. "Monster" seems slightly off-putting. But maybe it's just me.

The earliest document about the Albion House Clothing Company I could find dates from 1890. However this clothier does not appear in the 1891 edition of the Post Office London Trades Directory. One possible reason may be that the company was founded in 1890, too late to feature in the Directory. By 1895 the Albion House Clothing Co was operating from three locations in London: 161, 163, 165 and 167 Borough High Street (where the name "Albion House" was proudly displayed on the façade at number 163), 83 Aldgate High Street and 157 Minories. Actually this should only count as two locations as 157 Minories is adjacent to 83 Aldgate High Street.

By 1899 the company's premises on Aldgate High Street had been extended from the original number 83 to numbers 84, 85 and 86 (buildings along Aldgate High Street are numbered consecutively, starting on the north side and then continuing clockwise back down on the south side. Strangely, in later editions of the Directory, the address given is 83, 85, 87 and 89 Aldgate High Street, even though no renumbering had taken place). The shop in Borough High Street had a different fortune though. In March 1899 the company instructed Debenham, Tewson, Farmer and Bridgewater to sell the buildings at 163, 165 and 167. The notice published at the time indicated the premises covered about 7,000 square feet. Yet in the end only two out of the three buildings were sold: according to an advertisement that particular branch was still made of 161 and 163 Borough High Street in 1906. Part of the money generated by the sale of the two buildings at 165 and 167 went towards the acquisition of 37 Jewry Street, the building round the corner from 89 Aldgate High Street.

The Monster

Ready Made & Bespoke




The 1900s marked the heyday of the Albion House Clothing Co. According to the aforementioned advertisement printed in 1906, it had branches not only at 83-86 Adgate High Street and 161-163 Borough High Street, but also at 59-61 New Oxford Street, on Rye Lane in Peckham (opened between 1896 and 1901), and at 86 Western Road in Brighton (opened between 1899 and 1905). However this apparent success was short-lived. By 1910 the branches at both Borough High Street and New Oxford Street had been closed and the one in Peckham followed suit at some point between 1911 and 1914. The Brighton branch was kept open for longer but I do not know exactly for how long.

The Albion House Clothing Co remained in business during the depression of the 1930s but did not withstand the War. In August 1942 its members appointed a liquidator and by November that year all the company's assets had been disposed of.

Two advertisements from 1906 show some of the clothes the Albion House Clothing Co sold to men and boys and to women and girls. Looking at these, its seems it targeted upper-middle class customers. Interestingly, in his book A brief outline of the Surinam gold industry: Geology, technique, hygiene. Description of the gold placer and the prospects at the Guiana gold placer, published in 1911 (the original version in Dutch dates from 1909), J. H. Verloop mentions another kind of garment available at the shop of the Albion House Clothing Co on Aldgate High Street: thin oilskin, ideal for the tropics. He even precised it came in different colours.

Unfortunately I have not found any information, whether in English, Flemish or French, about the company's branches in Belgium (in Ghent and Antwerp) and in France (in Paris).

Since the Albion House Clothing Company had a branch in Borough High Street during the last decade of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century, this ghost sign was painted more than 110 years ago.

Location: Borough High Street / Pictures taken in April 2008

Monday, 5 August 2013

R. F. Stevens Ltd, Kentish Town

This ghost sign was certainly painted in 1951, the year organ builder R. F. Stevens Ltd moved to Leighton Place. The company was much older though, having been founded by Richard F. Stevens in 1853. Orginally it was based near Euston Square, first at 180 Drummond Street, then from 1887 at 180 Drummond Street, and finally from 1896 at 42b Hampstead Road. In the last decade of the 19th century R. F. Stevens also had a showroom at 343 Euston Road nearby. In 1906 it moved north to Kentish Town, settling first at 82a Leighton Road. In 1929 it moved to Royal Mail Yard, Kelly Street. Finally two decades later, in 1951, the company moved to what would be its last address, 9-11 Leighton Place.

For more than a century R. F. Stevens manufactured and restored both harmoniums and reed (also known as American) organs. The company also made reed pans and bellows for amateurs or other builders. While many organ manufacturers were rather small (there were over 200 reed organ builders in London alone in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), R. F. Stevens was one of the largest companies in its field, with up to 50 employees. It also offered more portable organ styles than any other company, not only in Britain but certainly in the world. However high numbers do not guarantee quality and R. F. Stevens's organs did not always compare well with those of its competitors, musically and above all aesthetically.

In spite of this R. F. Stevens's portable organs were particularly popular and the company counted amongst its customers the Salvation Army, the prison service and the armed forces. Indeed all Royal Navy vessels had to have an organ on board for playing hymns on Sunday and to entertain the troops from time to time. Portable organs would also have been used to celebrate mass near the front line whenever possible. Thanks to these contracts, R. F. Stevens did remarkably well during both World Wars.

R. F. Stevens managed to remain in business long after most organ manufacturers had closed down. However, due to a lack of demand, production ceased in 1966. The company continued to carry out restoration work but its financial situation deteriorated. In late 1978 it appointed a liquidator and in 1980 R. F. Stevens Ltd officially closed down.

R. F. Stevens Ltd
<--- Organ Works

Part of the ghost sign disappeared when the house next door was built but it is easy to reconstitute the missing part.

Location: Leighton Place / Pictures taken in July 2013

Friday, 2 August 2013

Printing Works, Walthamstow

The printing works in Walthamstow High Street were established between 1882 and 1896, most certainly by George Oscar Dawson (according to the 1882 edition of Kelly's Directory of Essex, the only printers in the area were Phelps Brothers of Beulah Road, whose origins went back to 1862, and Robert Willis and Frederick Smith both of Orford Road. Dawson appears in the 1896 edition of Kelly's London Suburban Directory). By 1901, the printing works were owned by Everett Brothers according to Kelly's London Suburban Directory published that year. Everett Bros. remained in business until the death of W. H. Everett in 1923. Following this tragic event, the premises were bought by The Walthamstow Press Ltd, a company formed the very same year with a capital of £8,000 in £1 shares. It seems the main purpose of The Walthamstow Press Ltd was to print the Walthamstow and Leyton Guardian, a newspaper founded in 1876 by Robert Willis (the aforementioned printer), Walter Booth and Samuel Herbert. In 1935, the company moved to new premises, Guardian House on Forest Road. What happened to the High Street printing works after that date is unknown to me. However by 1956 the premises were occupied by brassfounders Swinburne and Sons.

Printing Works.

The style of this ghost sign is reminiscent of others painted in the late 19th or early 20th century but who, between Dawson and Everett, was behind it is impossible to tell.

Was W. H. Everett related to the Everett who owned the drapery and millinery store on St James's Street, Walthamstow?

Location: High Street / Picture taken in February 2010

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Warung Makan, Ubud

With temperatures soaring in the UK today, I thought this painted sign for cold drinks would be quite appropriate.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, a warung is a family-owned business. The term often applies to small shops that sell cigarettes, candy, bottled drinks and a few basic products, to cafes, or to restaurants. At this warung in Penestanan, a hamlet just to the west of Ubud, Bali's "cultural capital", there was certainly more than just cold drinks on offer. Indeed makan (litterally "to eat" or "eating") would suggest some food of some sort was also available, maybe some bakso ayam (chicken noodle soup), some nasi goreng (fried rice), or some mie goreng (fried noodles).

Cold Drink

Location: Penestanan, Ubud, Bali / Pictures taken in June 2013

Monday, 29 July 2013

H. Jackson, Tottenham Hale

I don't have any information about the company H. Jackson & Co., whose depot was located in Tottenham Hale.

The position of the text of this ghost sign, in comparison to the white background is slightly odd. Indeed it leaves a large space to the left empty. Was something written there?

H. Jackson & Co
Depot Tottenham Hale.

Location: Hale Road / Pictures taken in February 2010

Friday, 26 July 2013

Ludstone and Son, Southwark

Earlier this week I noticed another ghost sign had disappeared under a coat of white paint (see yesterday's post), this time in Webber Street.

I have not found what kind of business Ludstone & Son was involved in. However the street number -96- tells us this ghost sign was painted in the late 1930s or later. Indeed the section of Webber Street between Blackfriars Road and the Southwark Bridge Road and Great Suffolk Street junction used to be called Friar Street and street numbers only went as far as 58 on the south side (where the building is located). Between 1936 and 1939 several streets around London changed names. In the case of Friar Street, it was incorprated into an extended Webber Street and house numbers were changed accordingly. This would have been when this building was allocated the number 96.

96 Ludstone & Son 96

Interestingly, while this part of London was already quite built up by the late 19th century, the small triangular plot of land between Rushworth Street and the railway viaduct was still unbuilt by 1915 if the edition of The Post Office London Directory published that year is to be believed.

Location: Webber Street / Picture taken in March 2009

Thursday, 25 July 2013

RIP in Bexleyheath

On a recent visit to William Morris's Red House in Bexleyheath, I noticed the two ghost signs for Spiders Snooker and the shop that once sold radio, cycles and electrical goods, near the train station, had been covered with white paint. So now, instead of having two interesting signs that added a bit of colour to the brick wall, there are two ugly white rectangles.

If you missed the signs, you can visit the appropriate posts (links above) or simply look at the pictures below.

Location: Percy Road / Pictures taken in July 2009

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Hair cutting and shaving saloon, St Margarets

From far away, this hundred-year-old ghost sign can easily be missed. However from closer several letters and words can be spotted. They tell us that this residential dwelling was once a hair cutting and shaving saloon. Back then, this row of houses near the junction with Beaconsfield Road was home to several tradesmen, including a greengrocer, a boot maker, and a picture frame maker.

The part of this ghost sign with the name of the hairdresser is slightly difficult to read. It looks as if it was painted twice, what could indicate that ownership of the saloon changed at some point. However I managed to decipher only the name of the first hairdresser: C. Wilson. This is confirmed by the 1914 edition of Kelly's Directory of Middlesex, which list a Charles Wilson, hair dresser, at 146 Amyand Park Road.

C. Wilson's
Hair Cutting
Shaving Saloon

Location: Amyand Park Road / Pictures taken in February 2010

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Gillette and Daily Mail, Westminster

Could this be London's most easily missed ghost sign, or ghost signs to be precise as a closer look reveals two adverts were successively painted on this wall? Every day, thousands of Londoners and tourists look at the buildings of Whitehall from Trafalgar Square. Yet, how many ever noticed them? To be honest, I only spotted them last year. Since then I have been taking several photos but I have had to wait until days were long enough to get a picture of the wall lit by the sun.

The easiest ghost sign to read advertised Gillette razor blades. This is one of many found across the capital. The letters were once painted off-white and the background may well have been blue.

The other ghost sign predated the Gillette one. It promoted the Daily Mail, the conservative newspaper first published in May 1896.

British Made
Razor Blades

The building was designed in 1904 by Treadwell and Martin in a free Jacobethan - late Gothic style typical of the partnership. With its elaborate stone façade, this is not the kind of building where one would expect some adverts to be painted on!

Location: Whitehall / Pictures taken in July 2013

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Jacks, Battersea

Here are a couple of ghost signs left by two of the businesses that traded at 65 Falcon Road, near Clapham Junction station (actually regular traces of paint could suggest there was a third ghost sign on this wall).

One ghost sign was advertising Max Bridge's jewellery shop. In common with many of his colleagues, Bridge was not only a jeweller but also a clockmaker. Max Bridge opened his shop before the First World War. His name appears in the 1914 edition of the Post Office Directory (and later in the 1919 edition). He certainly took over a jewellery shop previously run by George Law. Law's name and profession are mentioned in the 1911 edition of the Directory indeed. It seems Max Bridge's real name was Morduch Bregman but he adopted an Anglicized version to run his business. In April 1922 he changed officially his name to Max Bridge.

Famous For Clothes
Famous Clocks

The other ghost sign promoted Jacks's or Jack's clothes shop. Unfortunately I have not found any information about it. I cannot even tell whether this second ghost sign was painted before or after Bridge's sign.

Location: Falcon Road / Picturs taken in July 2012

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Tailor, Yangon

A simple painted sign in both Burmese and English seen in the Bahan township of the former Burmese capital.


means literally "Sewing shop."

Location: Schwe Gone Taing Road / Picture taken in January 2013

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Hovis, South Ealing

What is on this wall is not just an advert for Hovis but a real statement by the owner of the bakery that once stood at the corner of St Mary's Road and Ranelagh Road. Sadly this statement is now incomplete, because of the passing of time and because the back of the bakery was partially rebuilt when it was converted into a dwelling.

Pa... ... ... ... ...
We Will Go Into ... ...ke Them As Fast As We Can
...y Some ... ... Have Them For Tea
...y Are So ... Please Mummy, Daddy & Me
... Recommend
Baked - HOVIS - Daily
Everybody's Bread

The name of the bakery may have been written on the first line but, if that was the case, it has disappeared. Trying to match the few traces of letters that remain to the name of bakers listed at this address in different directories did not lead to a satisfying result. According to various editions of Kelly's Directory, a succession of bakers carried out their business from these premises: Edward Wyatt in 1889 and 1893, Halls & Howe in 1907, and Charles Wilkins in 1911. The name of the latter also appears in the London Gazette. In November 1915 it informed its readers that baker and confectioner Charles Wilkins had been declared bankrupt. Unfortunately I have not found who succeeded Wilkins. Whoever it was, he might have been the one behind this ghost sign. Indeed, the slogan "Everybody's Bread" is not one often found on Hovis adverts and the only mention I found of it dates back to 1917.

... Recommend
Baked - HOVIS - Daily
Everybody's Bread

Location: Ranelagh Road / Pictures taken in July 2010

Friday, 28 June 2013

Criterion and Gillette, Kilburn

Along Kilburn High Road is a great painted wall that combines two ghost signs: one for Gillette Safety Razors and one for Criterion, the safety matches that came in from the cold.

In the 1920s the British market for matches was largely dominated by Brymay. Over the years the company originally founded by Francis May and William Bryant in 1861 had merged or bought many of its competitors. However in 1930 two new brands landed in British shops: M.S. and Criterion, which came both from the Soviet Union.
The arrival of these two brands was part of a Europe-wide strategy by the Soviet authorities to regain a foot in countries where its manfacturers had been major players before the First World War and to counter the advance of Kreuger and Toll's Swedish Match Company. Kreuger, a great and extremely wealthy businessman (who would also be known after his death as one of the world's greatest swindlers), had increased dramatically the presence of his trust across most Europe and had even managed to secure a virtual monopoly in several countries in return for awarding large loans to their governments. As a result throughout the 1920s Soviet match manufacturers lost precious markets like Germany. The answer of the authorities in Moscow was to increase production from 4,000 million boxes before the Revolution to 7,000 million boxes by 1927-28 in order to flood the markets. In a bid to increase their share and ultimately drive out competition, matches made in the USSR were often sold at reduced prices, leading to accusations of dumping. Soviet brands also ran reward schemes. Although the British market was different and the share held previously by Russian manufacturers was negligible, it was a potentially lucrative market. This explains why this Soviet "offensive" finally reached Britain in 1930.
During the 1930s adverts for Criterion Safety Matches appeared in the press and in the streets. Several, like today's ghost sign, emphasised the company's gift schemes. Criterion was sold in packets of 12 boxes of around 45 matches and customers had to collect the labels to claim their rewards. For 100 labels they would get 7 lbs of fruit bonbons. If they did not give in to their kids and managed to collect 1,500 labels, they could get either a guitar or 1 lb of Russian caviar. Finally, with 1,700 labels, they could decorate their living room with a fine rug from Turkistan. Additionally some labels could win lucky customers cash prizes of £275 (£275 in 1939 is equivalent to £15,000 in 2012).
In spite of these efforts, Criterion safety matches do not seem to have been able to gain a firm seat in Britain (at least they are barely mentioned in documents and books about the matches market). The Second World War would have disrupted both production and the supply chain and efforts to come back once the war ended do not seem to have paid. Criterion matches may have remained available for a few years after the Second World War but seem to have disappeared from British homes by the late 1950s.

This ghost sign for Criterion was painted over an earlier one for Gillette Safety Razors.

Safety Razor

Great Gift

Pack of Criterion Matches / British Made

Save the
Packet Labels

The Gillette logo (the name in a lozenge) is partly hidden by the lower left corner of the matchbox.

While Gillette emphised its razors were "British Made", on the drawing of the matchbox the sign painter has not included the mention "Foreign Made", which featured on the packs themselves. The mention "Foreign Made", which was found on the first versions of the Criterion labels, was later replaced by "USSR Made." The sign painter did not include the words "Damp Proof" either. This may simply be because it would have cluttered the matchbox.

Safety Matches
Registered Trademark
Average ... Matches

The matchbox on this wall, and in particular the design of the scrolls above and below "Safety Matches Criterion", match the one seen in a 1936 printed advert. On later designs (those with the mention "USSR Made"), the scrolls are straight and no longer rippling. The number of matches mentioned in the early designs varies between 45 and 50. Unfotunately the figure on the wall has completely disappeared.

Great Gift

Save the
Packet Labels

Location: Messina Avenue / Pictures taken in August 2009

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Royal Cinema, Kampot

The Royal Cinema in the small Cambodian town of Kampot was built during the first half of the 1950s. Whether it was before or after 1953, the year the country gained its independence from France, is unclear as both 1951 and 1955 have been suggested.

For twenty years or so the Royal's programme combined epic and musical Hindi films with martial art movies from Hong Kong, war movies from the Philippines with cowboys and Indians films from the US. However the Royal, like the three other cinemas of Kampot, shut its doors when the Khmer Rouge seized the town in April 1974. The Khmer Rouge regime fell in 1979 after Vietnam invaded Cambodia but the cinema remained shut for several more years as the country became engulfed in a dramatic war between the occupying Vietnamese army and several resistance movements.
The Royal Cinema reopened in 1984 but closed down a few months later in 1986. It was then used to store water containers. However its story does not end there. In 2009 the Royal Cinema was "rediscovered" by US filmmaker and CamboFest founder/co-organizer Jason Rosette. The same year the family who lives within its walls agreed to allow the 3rd CamboFest Film and Video Festival to take place at the historic venue. Sadly it seems nothing has been shown since then, even if the rumour of a possible reopening of the Royal can sometimes be heard.

After 60 years of troubled history, the name of the cinema, in Khmer, has almost disappeared. I am not absolutely sure but I think it says "រាជរោងកុន".

[Royal Cinema]

More traces of painted signs can be seen on the formerly green panel to the left of the entrance.

Location: Kampot / Pictures taken in December 2011