Monday, 28 February 2011

Fred Palmer, South Wimbledon

Inspired by the amazing work of Peter Vogel at Nutmegger Workshop across the pond, this week is going to be about shop signage painted on wood.
The series starts with Fred Palmer the cash butcher. Sadly this very attractive example of Victorian shop signage, which had been hidden behind a more modern one, re-emerged for a few days only in early 2009, when the new owners of the shop converted it to office use. Then, instead of covering it again, Yelfy at Faded London tells us they removed it and certainly dumped it in some rubbish tip. Vandals!
In Victorian times many customers had accounts in the shops they visited regularly and only paid once a week, a fortnight, or a month. This system may have worked well in middle and upper middle-class areas, but in poorer parts of the country, where people struggled to make ends meet, shopkeepers didn't want to risk losing out and demanded each purchase was paid immediately. Fred Palmer was one of these, hence the "cash" added to the nature of his trade.

Fred Palmer's customers may not have been extremely wealthy but that did not prevent him from getting an elaborate signage. Click on the pictures below to check the complexity of the lettering, with its black and red shades. A close look also shows the sign painter had originally thought of a different design.

Location: Merton High Street / Picture taken on: 20/02/2009

Friday, 25 February 2011

Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society, South Wimbledon

As mentioned yesterday, there is nothing left of this sign at all. It promoted the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS), a consumer co-operative whose origins dated back to 1868. Then called the Royal Arsenal Supply Association, it changed its name four years later to RACS. It offered a whole range of products and services to its members, and paid them a dividend, which depended on how much they had spent in its outlets. From its base in Woolwich, the RACS expanded throughout South London (they opened only one shop north of the Thames, in North Woolwich) and the surrounding counties. At its peak, it had more than half a million members. However by the 1970s, like many co-operative societies, it faced growing competition from supermarkets and experienced a sharp decline in members and revenue. In 1985 it merged with the South Suburban Co-operative Society to form the Co-operative Wholesale Society. To find out more about the RACS, you can check the wikipedia page.
This sign was painted on two occasions at least.

Interest [*]
Royal Arsenal [**]
Co-operative Society

*: 'Divident & Interest' was painted twice.
**: only the 'A' of Arsenal is still visibile. The rest of the word was covered by 'Interest'. To the right of 'Interest' is a 'Y' but I can't connect it with anything else.

As for the big white 'bubble' with a black shade, I don't know what it does there.

Location: Haydon Road / Picture taken on 14/03/2008

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Mixed news from Merton

I've just spent the afternoon around Wimbledon and Tooting, where unfortunately three ghost signs are gone.
  • Gillette on Coverton Road wasn't an easy one to spot, but now an extra coat of white paint has been splashed on it,
  • a house has been built next to Tooting station on Mitcham Road. It rests on the wall on which the sign for Gorringe Park was painted,
  • the sign for the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society at the junction of Haydon Road and Merton High Street has been completely erased (check tomorrow's post). The billboard, which hid most of it, is gone as well, but the wall has been thoroughly cleaned with a Kärcher. There's hardly a trace of paint left.
On a slightly more positive note, the billboards that hid the signs on Hartfield Road and Rogers Road have been removed. However if you thought something quite amazing would emerge, you may be disappointed. Both walls were painted black before the billboards were put and only fragments can be deciphered. I'll post some pictures and let you know whatever I managed to read soon.

Glass cut to size, Bermondsey

If the phone number was painted at the same time as the other parts, then this sign was painted after 1990. Indeed it was in May that year that the London 01 area code was replaced with 071 and 081. Still, the different letterings and colours - all of which work very effectively - and the figure of the glazier seem to give this sign a slightly older touch.

Glass Cut To Size
While You Wait
Made to Order
24 hrBoarding & Glazing
Glass Processing
Framed Pictures
& Mirrors Made to Order
071 - 237 1219

Location: Rowcross Street / Pictures taken on: 23/07/2009

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Maides ironmonger, Haslemere

It looks like this wall was painted on two occasions but only one ghost sign can still be read:
& Co.

The forge of William Maides, a famous blacksmith, once stood across the road from this sign. The guide published by the Haslemere Society and the Haslemere Visitor and Local Information Centre in which this is mentioned does not provide any date but the name appears in an article of The Surrey Advertiser published in 1864 about a meeting that took place at Haslemere Town Hall. Was it the same William Maides though? As it was relatively common to give the first name of the father to the first male child, it is not possible to be sure. In any case, since the sign refers to an ironmonger rather than a blacksmith, it may be that this particular business was started by a heir of the famous blacksmith rather than by William Maides himself. Or maybe it operated in conjunction with the forge?

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

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Sociedad Cubana de Ingenieros, Havana

Although the Sociedad Cubana de Ingenieros (Cuban Society of Engineers) was disbanded in 1961, its coat of arms can still be seen by the entrance of its former offices. The building was built in 1920, twelve years after the foundation of the Society on August 11, 1908, and the mosaic was certainly laid at that time.

Location: Avenida de las Misiones (Monserrate), Havana / Picture taken on: 20/03/2010

Monday, 21 February 2011

Hampton, Kew

Unfortunately most of this ghost sign was obliterated when the door was opened.

Bro... [*]
Ha... [Hampton?]
& Ca... [Cafe or Caterer?]
Lunche. [Lunches or Luncheons?]

(*) this is written in small letters at the base of the 'M' of the first line.
The different lettering used for the fourth line ('Ha...') could suggest Hampton had their sign painted on at least two occasions.
Location: Station Approach / Picture taken on: 30/01/2010

Friday, 18 February 2011

Harry James the Bootman, Peckham

A simple but unmissabe ghost sign that covers an earlier one.

Harry James

This was painted over
Boot & Shoe

Location: Peckham High Street / Picture taken on: 23/07/2009

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Townsend, Wimbledon

For years part of this sign remained hidden by a modern billboard. As dirt accumulated between the billboard and the wall, and traces of yesteryear's air contamination didn't get washed away by rain, the formerly hidden third is darker and dirtier than the part that has been exposed for longer.

Townsend & Son
Tailors, Outfitters,
Hosiers & Hatters.

Location: Hamilton Road / Picture taken on: 30/03/2009

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Bishop's Stores, Kensal Green

The information available online about Bishop's Stores is very patchy so what follows has certainly many shortcomings. The origins of this family wholesale and retail grocer seem to go back to the first decades of the twentieth century if not slightly earlier. The first Bishop's Stores' shops opened in the Ruislip / Windsor area and over the following decades they increased their presence in West London and the Home Counties. The 1960s seem to have been a decade a rapid expansion. In addition to its local shops, the company operated four distribution depots in Willesden, Stevenage, Ruislip and Didcot. By 1975 Bishop's Stores had 75 food stores and in 1978 they opened several shops offering freshly baked products under the name Bishop's Bakehouse. However by 1979 their number of stores had gone down to 66. In the rather unsettled economic climate of the late 1970s Bishop's Stores seems to have run into difficulties and the company, which was still apparently in family hands, fell prey to its competitors. By 1985 Bishop's Group plc, the parent company of Bishop's Stores, had become part of the Booker McConnell plc group (*). Following this acquisition it is possible the new owner either rebranded or closed down the shops owned by Bishop's Stores.

This sign on this branch was certainly painted in the 1920s.

Kensal Rise
Bishop's Stores
46 Chamberlayne
Kensal Rise
N.W. 10
Willesden 183

Below are pictures of the parts between the second and first floor windows.

(*): the name was shortened to Booker plc in 1986. In 2000 Booker plc was bought by the Iceland Group and merged into the Big Food Group. However in 2005 the group was taken private by the Icelandic company Baugur, which then split them into different companies before returning Booker to the stock market in 2007 through a reverse takeover of the convenience store wholesaler Blueheath Holdings. Baugur sold its remaining assets into Booker Group plc a few months before going bankrupt in 2009.

Location: Harrow Road / Pictures taken on: 17/08/2009

Monday, 14 February 2011

Dubonnet, Chaniers

To start the week, here is a lovely ghost sign for Dubonnet painted on the side wall of a farm building on the main road between Saintes and Cognac. A classic among French aperitifs, Dubonnet was invented in 1846 and is made of fortified wine, spices, herbs, and cinchona. This simpler design, with straight letters on a blue background, certainly predates those from Cozes, Montrichard and Saintes.

Vin tonique
au quinquina
Tonic Wine
With Cinchona]

Location: N141, Bourrut, Chaniers, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 31/01/2011

Friday, 11 February 2011

Coca Cola, Santa Clara, Cuba

What are the chances of seeing in Cuba an advert for Coca Cola, a product that in many ways has come to symbolise US imperialism? Pretty slim I would have thought since there is no advertising on the island (but plenty of political propaganda) and Coca Cola ceased trading with Cuba following the nationalisation of its properties there in 1961 (*). Still, there I was, walking back towards the centre of Santa Clara from the monument and mausoleum where the remains of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and his companions who died in Bolivia are buried (the socialist-style monument has some interesting sculptures and the museum is about the man himself rather the revolutionary hero, so regardless of what one thinks about Che, it's worth a visit), when I spotted this surprising ghost sign. Actually it is located almost opposite the Firestone tiles I posted earlier.

Coca Cola
Bien fría 5c
Coca Cola
Ice-cold 5c]

Coca Cola first appreared in Cuba as a fountain drink in the very late 1890s or 1900, in the aftermath of the 1898 Spanish-American War. The presence of US troops (most withdrew when Cuba gained formal independence in 1902 though) and above all the development of tourism boosted sales of Coke. In 1906 Coca Cola opened its first bottling plant in Havana. Sustained advertising campaigns in Spanish followed and sales shot up during the first half of the century. Soon after Coca Cola built one of its largest plants outside the US in Santa Clara, a centrally-located industrial centre 270 km east of Havana. Cuba was not only a huge market for Coca Cola's products but also the source of most of the sugar needed to produce the drinks.
However the victory of Fidel Castro and his barbudos, and the advent of the revolutionary regime was to change all this. For a few months US companies continued operating as usual but the relation between Cuba and the US soured after the government implemented its first agrarian reform in March 1959 (around three quarters of the arable land was owned by foreigners, mostly US companies). A few months later, when US-owned refineries in Cuba refused to process cheaper Soviet oil, in spite of what was stipulated in their contract, Castro nationalised them. The Eishenhower administration retaliated by suspending the Cuban sugar quota in the US. The immediate answer from Havana was the nationalisation of all remaining US properties in 1961, including Coca Cola. At the time the company had assets estimated at US$ 27.5 million in Cuba.

One of the last Coca Cola advertising campaigns in Cuba ran in early 1961. In January that year the government launched a year-long campaign to eradicate illiteracy and mobilised vast resources to achieve its goal. Coca Cola 'participated' by running a printed ad which showed a well-off white lady, with a bottle of Coke nearby, guiding the rough hand of her darker employee to teach her how to write. The message was "In 1961, the Year of Education, use your 'pause that refreshes' to teach reading and writing to whomever you have near." "Every little helps" (so says a famous British ad) but the 145,000 youth, students, teachers, and workers who volunteered to teach in rural communities and factories across the island certainly made more of a difference than the Coca Cola lady.

(*): True, it has been possible for some years to drink a Coke in Cuba but it is bottled by the Mexican subsidiary of the Atlanta-based giant (Coca Cola argues it doesn't authorise any bottler to sell or distribute its drinks in Cuba but it can't prevent them from doing so when they are located in countries where Cuban import-export companies can operate freely, as it is the case in Mexico. Obviously that's a convenient way of doing business without breaching the US embargo, although Coke would be classified as 'food' and as such would not be submitted to it). Coca Cola can be bought in Convertible pesos (CUC) at a cost roughly of one CUC (just under 1 euro). Tu Kola, the locally-made version of Coke, only costs a fraction of that in peso moneda nacional. Is there a difference between the two? I couldn't say. The smell of either of them is enough to make me sick.

Location: Calle Marta Abreu, Santa Clara / Picture taken on: 02/04/2010

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Restaurant, Altenburg

An unusual lettering was used for the name of this restaurant where last orders were taken a long time ago (a picture certainly taken in the late 1970s or early 1980s shows the building was already empty). Actually many buildings on the south side of that street lay abandoned and several still display the name of the businesses they once housed.

Restaurant zur guten Quelle
[Restaurant 'At the Good Spring']

Location: Teichstraße, Altenburg, Thüringen / Picture taken on: 27/04/2010

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Beehive, Poole

The same lettering was used when this sign was repainted but there is a slight difference between the original version and the newer one, apart from the position of the different words on the wall of course: the first version included the name of the company that owned the stores. Unfortunately I haven't been able to decipher the first couple of letters. In the transcription below, the original sign is on the left, the second version on the right.

..avers & C.


Location: New Orchard, Poole, Dorset / Picture taken on: 26/07/2008

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Trendell's, Wembley

When Trendell's decided to advertise their car hire service, they didn't hesitate to make full use of the side wall of this house near Wembley station.

Wem - 1567
Daimler Hire
Cars For
Petrol, Oil, Tytes.

The name Daimler has been used by several car manufacturers across Europe but as the logo indicates, the ones Trendell offered to his customers were those manufactured in Coventry by the Daimler Motor Company.

Below are details of the different parts of this amazing ghost sign.

Location: Thurlow Gardens / Pictures taken on: 17/08/2009 and 30/07/2010

Monday, 7 February 2011

Stop here for the best overalls, and Herman & Watkins, Seven Sisters

A short passageway in northeast London shelters not one but two ghost signs.

Stop Here
For the Best
Printers' Blouses,
... Jackets

The different typefaces, sizes, colours, and simple interwoven lines seem to indicate this particularly attractive sign was designed in the early part of the twentieth century, if not slightly earlier.

A step further down the pasageway is the second, more modern sign. Whether the two are in any way connected is something I haven't found.

Herman & Watkins

Based at 523 Seven Sisters Road, Tottenham, the company is mentioned in a 1938 issue of Chemist and Druggist: The Newsweekly for Pharmacy. In it, it is announced that the partnership between M. Herman and FR. Watkins, manufacturers of toilet and fancy goods under the style of Herman & Watkins, has been dissolved.

A very fine example of manicule pointed customers towards the offices of Herman & Watkins at the back.

Location: Seven Sisters Road / Pictures taken on: 19/10/2010

Friday, 4 February 2011

Mercerie E. Marthe, La Rochelle

Several signs were painted on these zinc sheets before they were all covered by a yellow-ish coat of paint. As a result, deciphering them is pretty difficult. The most obvious one refers to the haberdasher's shop (mercerie) of E. Marthe.

E. Marthe
De dames [?]
..etres ...
No. 20
A la Pense..

Location: Petite Saint-Sauveur, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 09/06/2010

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Porcelaine, La Rochelle

Two signs on this wall. A few letters from the earlier one can be seen in the upper right corner while the name of the business was written diagonally, starting from the upper left corner. It ends in:

Most of the more recent sign is easier to read.

Articles ...

Location: Rue Dupaty, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 09/06/2010

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Salon de coiffure au 1er, Saintes

Although this sign is similar to the one posted last Wednesday and both buildings are part of the same block, it is for a different hairdressing salon altogether.

Salon de coiffure au 1er
[Hairdressaing Salon on 1stFloor]

Location: Cours National, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 08/06/2010

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Restaurant, Saintes


Location: Quai de Verdun, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 08/06/2010