Friday, 30 December 2011

Bosch, Phnom Penh

The location of this painted sign will tell you why I didn't post anything over the past three weeks. Indeed I was travelling in Cambodia, where I came across a few painted signs. Most were modern ones, painted on metal sheets to signal repair shops, hairdresser saloons and the like. More interesting, from a historical perspective, were the very faded signs of businesses and shops painted on the façades of unrestored colonial buildings. These were written either in French or in Chinese (in the 18th and 19th centuries many Chinese migrated to Cambodia, where, until the Khmers Rouges seized power, they played an important role in commerce, banking and transport). Needless to say, given the destructive madness of the Khmers Rouges, there aren't many left. Those that survived were certainly already barely legible in 1975.
Yet today's sign is of a different nature and, actually, it is the only advert for a product painted on a wall I saw in three weeks. I spotted it while on my way from the train station to Psar Thmei, the Central Market (both are lovely Art Deco buildings). It promotes Bosch's thermo-elastic spark plug and was painted there certainly because many motorbikes, remorks (the local version of Thailand's tuk-tuks), taxis, and buses congregate around Psar Thmei.

The company founded by Robert Bosch in 1886 in Stuttgart patented the first spark plug in 1902. The particular model advertised here was launched in 1976.
According to the company's documents, Bosch first ventured in Cambodia via its power tools business division in 2004. The automotive aftermarket and security systems divisions followed one year later. Then in 2010 Bosch opened its first representative business in Phnom Penh. Was this sign painted in or after 2005? Parts of it do look relatively recent and given the high humidity levels in the capital for most of the year, one could expect it to look older than it actually is. However Bosch may have had a small presence in Cambodia for some years through its Thai subsidiary (Bosch has been present in Thailand since 1923).


Note the words "Bosch / Germany" on the body of the spark plug.

A few words in Khmer are written above the drawing but I really don't know what they say.

The lower part of the sign includes drawings of a boat engine as well as a whole series of road vehicles that could require Bosch's Thermo-elastic spark plug.

To conclude, I should mention that this painted sign also includes four Chinese characters, arranged vertically to the left of the spark and visible on the second picture. Judging by their darker colour and state of preservation, it seems they were painted at a later stage. Why they are so small is strange since there was quite a bit of space available.

Location: Street 118, Phnom Penh / Pictures taken in December 2011

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Horses, brakes and carriages, Alton

Unfortunately I don't have any information about this particular business, which supplied horses as well as brakes and carriages. Before horses could pull a carriage safely, they had to be trained and a brake -a simple four-wheelled carriage frame with only a seat for the driver- was used for that purpose. Maybe some of their customers included the managers of the breweries attracted to Alton by the quality of its water, the extensive barley fields and hop plantations found in the vicinity, and the proximity of the London market?
Sadly a window was opened when the building was converted to other uses and a large part of this ghost sign, including the name of the owner, disappeared.

Horses, Brakes and Carriages, ...

Below is a larger version of this ghost sign.

Location: Turk Street, Alton, Hampshire / Pictures taken in April 2010

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Redfern's rubber heels, Islington

Dominating the western end of Chapel Market, a (former) working-class street market, in Islington, this large painted sign reminded shoppers, and certainly sellers, that they could have a much more comfortable experience if their shoes were fitted with Redfern's rubber heels.
Compared to other ghost signs promoting Redfern's products posted on this blog, the design of this one is very different. These so far include a barely visible example in New Cross as well as two very neat and well-preserved ones for the company's rubber mats in Wandsworth and its rubber heels in Fulham. The post about the Wandsworth sign includes some information about the company's history.

Make Walking a Pleasure

Location: Grant Street / Picture taken in March 2008

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Casa Rivero, Havana

The Casa Rivero no longer imports electric goods but its ghost sign still hangs on the façade. The texture of both the wall and the rusting metal sheet on which this ghost sign is painted combined with the fading colours make it pretty unmissable.

Casa RiveroTel.
Importador efectos eléctricos

Location: Calle Muralla, Havana / Picture taken on: 04/04/2010

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Woollons, dispensing chemist and photograpic dealer; Kensal Green

Since photographic processing and printing involves different chemical products, it is hardly surprising that these operations were conducted originally mostly by chemists. A couple of ghost signs posted on this blog, from Bath and Islington, illustrate this association between pharmacy and photography. Recently I discovered another one, this time in Kensal Green.
I could not find when Charles H. F. Woollons, MPS (Member of the Pharmaceutical Society), opened his store on Kilburn Lane. Since his widow Louisa died in 1937, aged 78, it seems reasonable to assume he was born in the 1850s. After graduating he might have worked for another chemist before opening his own business. In any case Woollons's name and address, 28 Kilburn Lane, appear in a 1906 issue of The Pharmaceutical Journal and in the 1908 edition of Yearbook of Pharmacy. Interestingly Woollons is also mentioned in a 1906 issue of Photographic Monthly. When C. H. F. Woollons retired or died, his son Charles B. Woollons, MPS, took over the Kilburn store. By 1937 he also owned a branch at 254 Hendon Way, which was managed by his new partner, chemist and druggist Leopold Barnato. Actually Barnato was also deeply involved in photography and filming. In 1936 he photographed and edited the two-reel documentary "Airport" by Ellis E. Somake, which "was judged 'the most efficient production viewed' in the 'Amateur Cine World's' the ten best films of 1936." This documentary was also awarded a certificate at the 1936 Royal Photographic Society Exhibition of Cinematography.
Did the Kilburn branch survive Charles B. Woollons? This seems unlikely. Indeed by the 1960s Leopold Barnato had given up the chemist and druggist side of the business to concentrate fully on photography and traded under the name "Woollons of Hendon." The company was trading until recently at 256 Hendon Way but no longer seems to.

C. Woollons
Dispensing ... Photographic Chemist
Fo... [?] ...m
... ...s

At least the sign at the back of the building has not been painted over.


Given the style of the lettering, this ghost sign certainly dates back from the time of Charles H. F. Woollons.

Location: Kilburn Lane and Ilbert Street / Pictures taken in November 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Good things to eat, Salisbury

Somehow I wonder whether the message on this ghost sign can be trusted? "Things" makes me suspicious.

To Eat

This was painted over another sign, of which only a few letters still appear here and there.

Location: Fisherton Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire / Picture taken in August 2009

Monday, 28 November 2011

Millbridge motor & cycle works, Walthamstow

All this company seems to have left is this ghost sign south of Walthamstow centre.

Motor &
Cycle Work

Location: The Crescent / Picture taken in February 2010

Friday, 25 November 2011

Berens Garage, Kensal Green

As I passed through a quiet residential street of northwest London earlier today, I stumbled across this ghost sign for the Berens Garage. The only mention of this particular workshop I could find is in the 1937 edition of The Royal Automobile Club Guide and Handbook.

Berens Garage
Automobile Engineers

Location: Berens Road / Picture taken in November 2011

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Tailor and habit maker, Putney

The tailor and habit maker may be long gone but the attractive if rather sober mosaic survives to this day. Somehow the overall shape reminds me of the patterns used by tailors to create suits and other garments.

Location: Upper Richmond Road / Picture taken on: 15/08/2008

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Money lent, Clapham

This ghost sign for a pawnbroker may be barely visible nowadays but decades ago people getting off at Clapham High Street station could hardly have missed it as they made their way down Voltaire Road towards the High Street.

Money Lent

This sign was painted twice, using a slightly different typeface. It is possible these were actually painted over an earlier sign as traces of other letters can be seen here and there.

If the written part of this ghost sign is very basic, the traces of paint to the right are far more interesting. These appear to represent three hanging spheres, the symbol of pawnbrokers. The bars holding the spheres, with their volute ends, are even relatively elaborate. Was this painted sign enough or did the pawnbroker also had a proper three-dimensional version hanging from the façade?

This particular symbol has been used since the Middle Ages but its origins are a matter of debate. In A History of Pawnbroking, Past and Present (1847), William A. H. Hows looked at some likely and unlikely origins of this symbol (pages 44-48). The link with Lombard traders and merchants, whose activities also included banking, is the one generally accepted.

Location: Clapham High Street / Pictures taken on: 09/04/2008

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Merceron, Tonnay-Charente

Even though shoe retailer Merceron is now closed, this 1970s-style ghost sign, by the railway tracks, can still be seen by those coming from the west and going towards the center of the small town of Tonnay-Charente. Passengers on the La Rochelle - Rochefort - Saintes line can also catch a glimpse from passing trains.

Chausseur [Your Shoe Retailer]

Since a visit by a cheeky graffiti artist, it now looks as if Bart Simpson has been caught in the act of painting illegally this Merceron sign on the wall.

This ghost sign is also visible from the other railway crossing on Rue de l'église.

Originally a completely different product was advertised on this wall: Valentine paints (for more information, see this better-preserved Valentine ghost sign from Saintes). The letters can hardly be seen nowadays but this is confirmed when the picture is modified through Photoshop.

Location: Rue d'Alsace-Lorraine, Tonnay-Charente, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken in August 2011

Monday, 21 November 2011

W. English & Son, Manor Park

For more than 130 years W. English & Son has been arranging funerals and supplying memorials to people of East London. According to the company's website, it has been doing so since 1880 but that clashes with the date painted on the wall below. One explanation could be that originally W. English dealt solely in memorials and only became a funeral director in 1880.
Nowadays W. English & Son has two branches, in Bethnal Green and South Woodford. Did they have another office at some point in Manor Park?

A close look at the first and penultimate lines of this ghost sign shows this wall was painted on two occasions. Originally these two lines read

The English ...
Branches In All Parts Of London
This last line was a bit of an overstatement, unless W. English was already part of a wide network of monumental masons. Note that a rather elaborate Gothic-style typeface, of the kind more often associated with newspapers' titles, was used for 'The English.'

As for the more recent sign, it reads
W. English & Son Ltd.
Est. 1871 [or 1817 *]
Beautiful & Lasting Memorials
Erected in any Cemetery
or Churchyard
Inscriptions & Renovations
Phone Ilford 0.32

* It seems the sign painter got the last two digits mixed up. Having realised his mistake, he painted them again but the result is confusing, thus the date could be 1817 or 1871 (when the paint was fresher the original error was certainly properly hidden).

To conclude on a humoristic note, when I discovered this ghost sign, which brings together 'English' and the idea of death, I was reminded straight away of a video advertising a French school in the US: click here to watch it.

Location: Rabbits Road / Picture taken in May 2011

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dining rooms, Acton

A very modest painted sign for one of Acton's former dining rooms.


Location: Horn Lane / Picture taken in July 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

J. W. Webb's dental surgery, Dulwich

Sadly, if Google street view is to be believed, it seems this ghost sign is now largely hidden by a billboard.

J. W. Webb's

Location: Heber Road / Picture taken in August 2009

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Bodega cervecería, Barcelona

This painted sign crowned by the cheerful face of a cook promises customers tasty tapas, good serrano (dry-cured) ham, and, obviously, since we are in Barcelona, pan con tomate. This simple dish is a classic and easy to prepare Catalan tapa. First toast some slices of rustic bread. Then rub some garlic cloves and after that some tomatoes cut in half until the tomato juice softens the bread a little. Finally sprinkle some olive oil and a bit of salt. That's it, the pan con tomate, or more appropriately the pa amb tomaquet (in Catalan), is ready to be eaten! As this place is both a bodega and a cervecería, the tapas can be washed down with either wine or beer. Now I'm hungry!

Bodega cervecería
Calidad en tapas
Pan con tomate
Buen jamón serrano

Location: Carrer de la maquinista, Barcelona / Picture taken in October 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

Paddock Wood printing works, Paddock Wood

Thanks to its relatively frequent train services, the small town of Paddock Wood is a good spot from where to explore on foot the Kentish countryside on a day out from London. That's why earlier this year I passed through its main shopping street, at the beginning of a walk to some villages of the High Weald and on to Royal Tunbridge Wells. To be honest Paddock Wood itself doesn't have much to attract visitors but I was happily surprised to discover a couple of ghost signs, including this one for the former local printing works.

Paddock Wood Printing Works
... Old Established ...

Location: Commercial Road, Paddock Wood, Kent / Picture taken in September 2011

Friday, 11 November 2011

Sunlight soap, Highbury

Several ghost signs advertising Sunlight Soap have already been posted on this blog. A few paragraphs about the history of the Lever company and its use of cinema to promote its soap accompany some of these posts, so please visit them to learn more about this once popular brand.

This wall also includes, below the advert for Sunlight Soap, a smaller ghost sign for a local shop. Paint retailers Murray Brothers clearly couldn't spend as much as Lever to promote their business.

Largest Sale in the World
Murray Bros.
Oil & Color Stores

Note that the painted street sign has also survived:

Location: Conewood Street / Picture taken in April 2011

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Ariel, Kennington

Many people will be familiar with this Ariel advert, one of the great ghost signs of London. Founded in 1870 Ariel first produced bicycles. Almost three decades later the company launched a motorized tricycle before moving in 1901 into the emerging motorcycle market. The company also produced some cars but its name is forever associated with motorcycles, which it manufactured until 1967. You can find more information about the history of Ariel on the website of the Ariel Owners Motor Cycle Club and on Wikipedia.

Of Design

This ghost sign was painted on the former premises of motorcycle dealer Writers, located next to the Durning Library on Kennington Lane (according to a 1927 issue of Commercial Motor, Writers Motor and Cycle Works traded at 163 and 165 Lower Kennington Lane. House numbers were not changed when the name of the street was shortened).

What makes this ghost sign really attractive is the presence of the company's logo. Designed in the mid-1930s, it represents a reared up black horse looking towards the public and its rider in a stylized form typical of the period (note how the designer cleverly placed the 'A' of Ariel on the muzzle of the horse). Unfortunately the colours of the horse rider's outfit -black boots, white trousers and red riding jacket- have badly faded. Originally it would have been pretty similar to the one on the right. However one difference was the colour of the the riding hat, which was painted black on the ghost sign. This slight change seems to have been introduced in the 1950s and can be seen on this 1955 poster.

The letters of "Ariel" seems to have been painted in either orange or red colour with black shadows. The use of this typeface by the company predates the design of the horse by about a decade as it already appears on some adverts printed in the 1920s.
However the elegantly-written slogan "Leaders of Design" (note the large 'S' for the plural) seems to have made its first appearance in a printed advert published in 1951. It doesn't seem to have been very popular though and was replaced by more engaging slogans in later adverts. Thus this ghost sign, which incorporates elements from different decades, may well have been painted in the early 1950s.

Location: Kennington Lane / Pictures taken in April 2008 and October 2008

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Saint Paul's pianos, Willesden

Saint Paul's Pianos was set up in the 1920s by Sydney Chidley, the son of composer, music instrument manufacturer and inventor Rock Chidley. The pianos he sold were usually second-hand instruments, which he repaired in his workshop located further up High Road in Willesden. Another shop was located in Birmingham. It seems Sydney Chidley gave up his business following the death of this wife and his subsequent remarriage. All this information comes from various messages left by Sydney's great grandson on several blogs and discussion forums.


This ghost sign was repainted when the current occupiers of 50 High Road moved in. I have mixed feelings about the outcome. One the one hand it looks over-restored but on the other hand one should be grateful it wasn't completely removed.

Location: Linacre Road / Picture taken in August 2009

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Salle des fêtes, Echillais

Are you looking for a venue for your wedding party? Don't worry, I've got the perfect solution: the salle des fêtes of Echillais, a charming village near Rochefort. All right, this may not be the most romantic venue and facilities are certainly a bit outdated but actually Echillais has more to offer, including a stunning Romanesque church and the Martrou transporter bridge built between 1898 and 1900 over the River Charente.

Salle des fêtes
[Village Hall

Location: Rue de la Renaissance, Echillais, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 23/08/2011

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Albion Coffee House, Kennington

The house where this ghost sign was painted is part of a terrace built in the early 19th century. Did the Albion Coffee House open immediately after construction? I can't be sure but the style of this painted sign is reminiscent of others from the first half of the 19th century.

The Albion Coffee House.

Location: Kennington Lane / Picture taken on: 16/09/2011

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Tobacco, Camberwell

A building near Camberwell Green used to have two ghost signs for completely different products: one designed to improve one's health and one causing long-term damage. Indeed on its north side a painted sign promoted the 'miracle' medicine Beecham Pills, while on its south side another sign pointed to the main product sold by a tobacconist.


There was most certainly something written to the left of 'Tobacco' but it has faded too much to be able to read anything.

Location: Denmark Hill / Picture taken on: 11/04/2008

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Dyson, Eton

The Gothic-style lettering used on this doorstep mosaic at the beginning of Eton High Street is quite unusual. Unfortunately I haven't found any information about Dyson's business. In 1883 these premises housed the jewellery shop of Alexander Nehetnias Joseph. Was Dyson there before or after that date? Nowadays 4, High Street is home to the Rhubarb & Custard photo gallery.

No. 4

Location: High Street, Eton, Berkshire / Picture taken on: 20/03/2011

Monday, 17 October 2011

Wells & Rush, Petersfield

Back in the 1920s Chapel Street in Petersfield was a busy shopping street and the double fronted drapery shop of Wells & Rush offered ladies from this Hampshire town a wide range of cloth and garments. This piece of information comes from an article published in the Petersfield Post and is the only one I found about this particular shop.

Wells & Rush.
Sash Drapers

The picture above was taken early on a summer day. Below is the same ghost sign, ten hours later.

Location: Chapel Street, Petersfield, Hampshire / Pictures taken on: 20/07/2008

Thursday, 13 October 2011

E. F. Kutschke, Bautzen

Bautzen, in eastern Saxony, is well-known for its medieval and baroque architecture. If most buildings in the historic centre have been nicely restored, some façades in the surrounding parts of the city have been left untouched and a couple still display the names and trades of the people who lived and traded there.

E. F. Kutschke Dachdeckermeister
[E. F. Kutschke Master Roofer]

Actually there are two ghost signs on this narrow space between the ground and first floor windows. Both advertised a Dachdeckermeister, the original one being more towards the right. Not enough can be seen to be able to identify the full name but the few letters that can be spotted don't match those of E. F. Kutschke.

Location: Rosenstraße, Bautzen, Sachsen / Pictures taken on: 08/10/2011

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Fine Old Douro Port, West Ham

The Angel in Church Street, West Ham, was rebuilt in 1910, but when was this sign painted?

Old Douro
From 3/.Per

Shillings ceased to be used on February 15, 1971, when the UK adopted the decimal system for its currency. On that day, one shilling became worth five pence. Therefore three shillings were equivalent to 15 pence.
I doubt this ghost sign dates for the rebuilding of the pub. Indeed, once cumulative inflation is taken into account, a bottle worth 3 shillings in 1910 would cost between £13 and £14 today. That would have been quite pricey for the vast majority of people in West Ham, an industrial borough where many workers lived in slums. But maybe The Angel attracted wealthier patrons? Still I think a later date is more likely for this ghost sign.

The Angel has been empty since 2003. What will happen to it and to this ghost sign? I'm afraid they may both disappear in a near future if property developers move in.

Location: Church Street / Pictures taken on: 15/05/2011

Friday, 30 September 2011

Marshall, importer of segars, Finsbury Park

The vast majority of signs posted on this blog are directly painted on walls. However the one advertising Marshall's business consisted of cement letters, painted in white, and inserted into a thin concrete layer resting against a brick wall.

Importer of Segars
Wholesale & Retail

A couple of letters have fallen, showing the recess in which they were fitted. Some letters may have been replaced at some point as some look slightly newer and the level of finish is not the same everywhere.

The rather unusual spelling 'segar', instead of 'cigar', was actually relatively common until the second half of the 19th century, even if several publications pointed it was incorrect as the word came from the Spanish 'cigarro.'

Location: Finsbury Park Road / Pictures taken on: 01/04/2008

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Holmes, plumber & decorator, Greenwich

Once more, here is a business whose only trace seems to be this ghost sign. The alternance of typefaces gives it a certain character.

C. Holmes
Plumber &
Contractor For
And Repairs
Sanitary Work of Every Description
Estimates Free
Phone GREEN. 1187

I am not absolutely sure about the initial of Mr Holmes's first name. It may as well be a 'G.'

Location: Siebert Road / Picture taken on: 1305/2011

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Chaussures, La Rochelle

This series of posts about the ghost signs found along Rue des merciers in La Rochelle started with a shoe shop and ends with another shoe shop. However this time there is no palimpsest nor name on this façade, just what was being sold at this address.

Nine ghost signs for a street that is barely 200 meter long, that's not bad!


Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 18/08/2011

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Bergevin, La Rochelle

Raymond Alphonse Bergevin is a name a few collectors of old French postcards may be familiar with. Born in 1878 in La Châtre, a small town in central France, he moved to Rue des merciers in La Rochelle, where he started working as a watchkmaker, jeweller, and art dealer alongside his father. An invoice dated from 1904 shows he continued in his father's steps after his death. However Bergevin's passion was photography. Some of his early pictures were printed as postcards by Charles Collas in Cognac but around the mid-1910s Bergevin decided to give up his original activities and become a full-time photographer and printer.
Bergevin's first postcards were printed on rather grainy paper in blue or green. By the early 1920s though, he had developed his photo and printing techniques and was specializing in luxury postcards and illustrated art books. His postcards showed not only the buildings and scenery in the départements of Charente-Maritime, Vendée and Vienne but also daily life in the villages of the region. These were often signed 'Ramuntcho.' Ramuntcho was the hero, and title, of one of Pierre Loti's most famous novels, published in 1897. Set in the French Basque country, it included detailed accounts of the Basque culture and traditions. The name may have been chosen because Bergevin also ambitioned to record the way of life and customs of his region. Additionally Bergevin was friend with Pierre Loti, who, when he wasn't travelling around the world (he was an officer in the French navy) spent some time at his house in Rochefort, just south of La Rochelle. Finally, and more pragmatically, the name Ramuntcho was well-known across France: the novel had been a best-seller, a theatrical version had been staged at the Théâtre de l'Odéon in Paris in 1908 and in 1918 it had been turned into a movie.
Bergevin's work was rewarded with a Gold Medal at the 1937 World Exhibition held in Paris. He kept publishing postcards and art books until the end of the Second World War, when he retired. He died in October 1953. Most of his personal archives are now kept in the departmental archives of Charente-Maritime, while those of Vendée hold around 3,000 postcards depicting life in 79 villages and small towns of that département.


Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 18/08/2011

Monday, 26 September 2011

Sabots et galoches, La Rochelle

This is my favourite ghost sign from Rue des merciers in La Rochelle. It promoted the clogs factory Cadot. It was certainly painted either under Napoléon III or during the first years of the Third Republic as it appears on a picture of the street taken in 1876.

Fabque de sabots & galoches
Gros - Detail
[Clog & Wooden Soled Shoes Factory
Wholesale -Retail]

Although in most dictionaries 'galoches' and 'sabots' are translated as 'clogs', there is a difference between the two: the sabots are made entirely of wood while the galoches combine a wooden sole with a leather upper.

This ghost sign also include a picture of a galoche.

Location: Rue des merciers, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 18/08/2011