Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Court Hairdresser, Haslemere

Here is a sign I first saw several years ago but whenever I passed by it, it was always quite dark. Yesterday, at the end of a walk through the southwest corner of Surrey, I finally managed to get a decent picture.
This stylish sign was painted most certainly in 1920. Indeed a 1933 issue of The Law Journal Reports mentions the business of a hairdresser established by one Kingsley in 1920 at The Pavement, Haslemere. In 1925 it was taken over by Miss Stevens, who in 1932 sued the local electricity company, hence the reference in a journal that isn't found usually in hairdressing salons. Miss Stevens took the Hindhead Co. (previously the Hindhead Electricity Co, with whom Kingsley had signed the original contract) to court after it increased in 1929 the pressure on the mains from 100 to 220 volts and the transformer it had installed to cope with it allegedly damaged the permanent waiving machines, hair-driers and other electrical equipment she used.

Court Hairdresser
...son Kingsley
The Pavement

Location: High Street, Haslemere, Surrey / Picture taken on: 30/08/2010

Friday, 27 August 2010

Cognac: the northern part of the city centre

The ghost signs that make up this series can be found in the northern part of the city centre, roughly to the northeast of the Place d'Armes and along the northern stretch of the Boulevard Denfert-Rochereau.

The Rue du Canton may be short, but traces of two bygone shops can be spotted there. The one at the corner with the Rue Emile Albert was most certainly a favourite with children as on both facades, it said...

Jouets d'enfants
[Toys for Kids]

Jouets d'enfants

A few metres away, those who needed to do some decorating could have purchased the necessary paints and tools.


Hardware Shop
Paint Brushes

The Rue du Canton leads to the Place du Canton, where only a fraction of a painted sign has survived.

Unfortunately too much of it disappeared when the first-floor window was opened for me to be able to recognize this logo. The entrance to the shop though is worth noticing.

Actually the premises of Drouneau & Fils continued down the Rue Henri Germain but they may not be behind the ghost signs there.

A difficult one to read as there are two signs.
Au Bon Bou...n


Apart from a few letters, I really can't make anything out of the one found further down the street

From a distance, the sign at the corner of the Rue Magdeleine and the Rue Duplessis with its ornage-ish tones reminds me of some examples from Bath.

The premises housed once a
Photographe [Photographer]
However a completely different range of goods were sold there at a later stage:
Chaussures [Shoes]

Sometimes it is amazing how many letters a sign writer can cram in a given space. The ones for this sign in the Rue Duplessis are high but extremely narrow. Having several layers doesn't make any reading easy.

Here as well, I can spot many letters but they don't make much sense.

After passing through little winding streets, one comes on the Boulevard Denfer-Rochereau, where all the signs below can be seen.

Hotel-restaurant Central

The local office of Sud-Ouest, the regional newspaper based in Bordeaux but with several local editions, was conveniently located not too far from the town hall.


The next sign, which has been slightly amputated, takes us back to a time when France was still a colonial power. It must have been painted before 1960, the year most colonies in Africa gained independence.

Denrées coloniales
[Foodstuffs from the Colonies]

I was a bit late to avoid the sharp contrast on this former garage.

There are at least three superimposed layers there. The oldest one ended with
The only other fully legible part gives us the name of the garagist:
Roger Archibaud

Finally just before reaching the bridge over the River Charente and leaving the centre of Cognac, one can admire the Château de Cognac, birthplace of King François I. Although the fortifications and the cellars were built between the early XIth and the XIVth centuries, most of the castle was actually rebuilt between 1450 and 1517. During the French Revolution the castle, which belonged to the brother of Louis XVI, the Comte d'Artois (future Charles X) was sold to Otard and Dupuy, owners of one of the most successful trading houses of Cognac. The castle is open to the public as this sign, just behind the gate, indicates. For those who can't make it to Cognac, the website of Otard offers the possibility of a virtual visit.

Les ... ...e
Château de Cognac
Musée François Ier
S'adresser au concierge
The ... ...
Cognac Castle
François I Museum
See With the Caretaker
Something else was painted in black letters, including 'Public'.

All pictures taken on: 03/06/2010

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Cognac: from the Place François Ier to the Place d'Armes, via the Rue d'Angoulême

Today we will continue our exploration of Cognac, from the Place François Ier to the Place d'Armes, passing through the other main shopping street of the town: the Rue d'Angoulême.

Several grand buildings surround the Place François Ier but above one of the cafés that occupy the less ornate corner of the Place is a painted sign. A very appropriate one as it promotes an aperitif. The sign for Byrrh had been covered by one for St Raphäel in Saintes but here it is perfectly intact. This sign, with its simple, large letters must have been painted either in the 1930s or after 1952. Indeed a law passed by the Vichy regime prohibited adverts for aperitifs. It was repelled in 1952.


location: Place François Ier

Not far from the Place and just off the Rue d'Angoulême is the house where Jean Monnet, known in France as 'The father of Europe', was born on November 9, 1888. The parents of Jean Monnet were Cognac merchants so it is very unlikely they were behind the sign on the facade of the house.

Sellerie Carrosserie
[Saddlery Bodyworks]

Location: Rue Neuve des Remparts

Walking along the pedestrianized Rue d'Angoulême, one rapidly comes across several ghost signs, starting with this one at the corner with the Rue du Prieuré.


'Régime', which in most cases is translated as 'diet', can also mean 'bunch'. Did this shop specialize in bananas or dates? Somehow that seems unlikely. Maybe it was just the surname of the owners. Just round the corner is the foundation date of the business. The street was too naroow to have it all on one picture.

Maison fon...
[Company foun...]

...dée en 1815
[...ded in 1815]

On the other side of the street is a sign full of abbrevations. It was certainly a jeweller's. Indeed it appears that was the profession of Maurice Mariau (1866-1937).

Anne Mon [Ancienne Maison]
Mce Mariau [Maurice]
fondée en 1892
Maurice Mariau
Fonded in 1892

On the facade of the building at the the corner with the Rue Challais the same sign was painted twice.

Chemiserie spéciale
[Special Shirtmaker's]
Léon Jarnac

Location of three signs (five pictures) above: Rue d'Angoulême

A few meters away is a sign for a company well known to generations of gardeners across France. The origins of Vilmorin can be traced back to 1743, the year Claude Geoffroy, the spouse of Pierre Andrieux, seed supplier and botanist to King Louis XV, opened a seed shop on the Quai de la Mégisserie in Paris (the shop still exists). In 1774 their daughter married botanist Philippe-Victoire de Vilmorin. Together they created the Vilmorin-Andrieux company, which over the next couple of centuries became a leading supplier of seeds and plants in France. It remained in the same family until 1972, when it was purchased by a farmer from the Anjou region. Three years later it was acquired by agro-industrial cooperative Groupe Limagrain, which in 1981 began developing its international operations by purchasing companies in the US, the Netherlands, Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, etc. Nowadays it is the fourth largest seed company in the world.

Graines Vilmorin
[Vilmorin Seeds]

Location: Rue Challais

At the end of the Rue d'Angoulême is the Place d'Armes, where two more buidings with ghost signs can be found. Both facades were painted on more than one occasion.

Between the second-floor windows, the name 'A. Deschamps' was covered by

Across the whole facade, all I can read is
Quincaillerie Articles ...hais
[Ironmonger's Goods ...]
and I am not even sure they go together. I may have a further look later.

As for what is between the first-floor windows, I can't make anything sense of the few letters visible.

On the south side of the Place was this clothes shop.

A la Belle fermière
A. Durand
Vêtements pour hommes et enfants
At the Beautiful Woman Farmer's
A. Durand
Clothes for Men and Children
Something else was originally painted slightly below 'A. Durand' on two occasions. I can't read anything of the original layer. As for the one it was covered by, all I can see is:
... ... Durand

Just to make sure nobody would miss this shop, a small portion of the wall just round the corner was also painted. Yet one had to twist one's head to read it.

... pour hommes
[... For Men]

At the northeast end of the Place d'Armes begins the Rue du Boulevard, where the final three signs for today have survived.



Café - Bar

All pictures taken on: 03/06/2010

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Cognac: Rue Aristide Briand

The Rue Aristide Briand (*) cuts through the historic centre of Cognac in a north-south direction. Together with the Rue d'Angoulême, it is the main shopping street of the town. It is now mostly pedestrianized and a stroll along it gives the visitor an opportunity to discover the names of a whole series of signs from bygone trades.

*: Aristide Briand was a French politician who served as minister on more than twenty occasions and President of the Council (ie Prime Minister) eleven times between 1909 and 1929. He had nothing to do with the Briand family, who owned the Cognac trading house mentioned in the post two days ago.

Maison fondée en 1800
[Company Founded in 1800]

Actually this sign was painted over another one, which read:
Draperie & nouveautes
[Drapery & Novelties]

On the other side of the street was a sign for a factory. Unfortunately it was right in the sun and fences erected while they were repaving the street prevented me from getting a better picture. I will have to convince my parents to bring me again to Cognac if I want to discover what was being manufactured there.

Manufacture française
Bo... ...s

The pharmacy in front the church of St Léger was founded in 1748. Even though the current one has a modern signage, two painted signs have survived in the little side alley. Only the part just underneath the 'sonnette' or bell button has almost completely faded away.



Further down this little dead end alley -the Impasse St Martin- was a garage.

Atelier de réparations
[Repairs Workshop]

More was written on the pillar by the garage entrance but the lower part is hard to read as there are three layers, all very faded.

...biles [Automobiles?]

Back in the Rue Aristide Briand, the two facades next to the pharmacy have kept traces of former occupiers.

The travel agent's used to be a...


The sign next door is tricky to read as the same space was used three times.

All I can properly read is
Mercerie Bonneterie
[Haberdashery Hosiery]
Of the other lines and layers I can only decipher a few letters.

After the pharmacy, further south came another place where one could get some health related products.

.eintures [most certainly 'Ceintures' -'Belts']

Next comes a palimpsest with a nice orange background.

On the very left, partly hidden by the street light, is:
A l'
but the font doesn't seem to go with any of the two layers that can still be seen:
Epicerie [Grocer's]
Alimentation [Food Strore]

For some dessert, people just needed to cross the street.

P. Thiollet
Patissier. Glacier. Confiseur
[Pastry Cook. Ice Cream Maker. Confectioner]

After all this food, people could stimulate their brain a bit by reading the different national and local papers available at this newsagent's.

Le Matin
mieux informé
L'Echo de Paris
du monde entier
Le Journal
Petit Journal
Dépôt central

Parisien ...
La Liberté


At the corner with the Rue Brémon d'Ars is yet another palimpsest, one part of which extends over three walls. Below are the three walls but first is that long sign for a printing office which was painted twice on the strip between the first and second floors ('|' indicates the limits of each wall and '/' superimposed layers):
S. N... ... Imprimeries | Pa...s / M... | Pichot réunies / Pichot ...

On the second wall above, the additional signs are:
... de vannerie en tous
[... of Basketwork in all]
This certainly continued round the corner but it disappeared when a newer sign was painted.

Usines [Factories]
.4 Rue de Clichy
8 Rue Georges
Maisons [Companies]
Fondées [Founded]
en [in]

Finally, here the facade facing the Rue Aristide Briand.

On the strip between the first and second fllors, the 'Pichot' sign covered another one which read:
... de Paris

Then just below was:
..a voitures d'enfants

'Voitures d'enfant' could mean either 'Prams' or 'Kids' Cars', usually with pedals or simply pulled or pushed by someone else.

The next sign is much easier to read.


Could this have been the same Esders as Henri Esders, the large clothes shop in the Rue de Rivoli in Paris?

Finally, just off the Rue Aristide Briand, in the Rue Challais is the last ghost sign for today.

Mercerie Bonneterie
..sse Frères
[Haberdashery Hosiery
...sse Brothers]

And all this spotted over a distance of less than 300 metres!

Location: unless otherwise stated, Rue Aristide Briand, Cognac, Charente / All pictures taken on: 03/06/2010

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Cognac: the right bank of the River Charente

Let's continue our exploration of Cognac, Charente, and look at some of the ghost signs found on the right bank of the River Charente.

First in a narrow street is a bar that certainly hasn't seen any customer for a long time...

Bar Français

Location: Rue du Vieux Pont

Next comes this mysterious advert.

Aux classes laborieuses
... à tout le monde
... Franc par semaine
At the Working Classes'
... Everyone
... Franc per Week

On the one hand, there were (and still are in a few towns) clothes shops called 'Aux classes laborieuses'. They specialized in clothes for work. So this could have been one of them. On the other hand, the last line, which quotes a price of one franc or less per week, could suggest a newspaper or magazine. Just to make it a bit more complicated, it seems there was something else painted where the second line stands.

Location: Avenue du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny

Round the next corner was a business that catered for owners of horse-drawn vehicles.

Harnachement en tous genres
[Harnesses of All Kinds]

A list of works undertaken was written on the blind window under 'genres'.

Cartwright's Work

Location: Rue de l'Abreuvoir

A few metres away, facing a shady square, stood this former bakery. It seems the premises housed another trade at some point.

Remont... [Remontant ?]
[Invigorating ?]
Two words were written in the space between the two windows but I can't decipher them. Then, in very small letters, 'Ecurie' ('Stable') was added later.

Location: Rue du Vieux Pont

Finally, just by the bridge over the River Charente, one could buy some coal.


The second line was painted twice and unfortunately I can't distinguish all the letters.

Location: Avenue du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny

Tomorrow we'll cross the bridge and look at some of the ghost signs found in the city centre.