Sunday, 27 March 2011

Casa de los Vinos, Havana

A simple restaurant, the Casa de los Vinos serves not only red and white wines, as the name and the sign painted by the entrance indicate, but also Spanish dishes.

Location: Esperanza, corner Factoria, Havana / Picture taken on: 03/04/2010

Friday, 25 March 2011

Dadds, boot & shoe warehouse, Acton

In earlier posts I mentioned shoemakers Freeman, Hardy & Willis from Leicester, and the True-Form Boot Company from Nottingham. Today we move further north to Kendal in Cumbria, where in 1842 21-year old Robert Somervell started his business as leather merchant. For several years he provided bespoke shoemakers in the area with uppers. Some time before 1851 though, Robert Somervell was joined by his brother and together they founded the company Somervell Brothers, which produced its own shoes. The K brand (chosen after the initial of their hometown Kendal) was adopted in 1865. It seems the name of the company was changed to K Shoes Ltd in 1949.
From the start the company acquired a reputation for good quality footwear and its products became extremely popular. Within a few years Robert Somervell became a reasonably wealthy man and he and his large family moved from the modest family home in Kendal to Hazelthwaite, a large house in Windermere (he had six sons and three daughters. The eldest son, also named Robert, became a master at Harrow. In My Early Life, Winston Churchill pays tribute to him for teaching him how "to write mere English") .
Little information about the company seems to be available beyond these early years. In 1981 K Shoes Ltd was taken over by Clarks. Shoes continued to be manufactured in Kendal but in 2003 Clarks announced it was closing down the factory with a loss of 170 jobs and moving production abroad.

I haven't found anything about Dadds, other than they stocked K Shoes, but that's written on the wall!

Boot & Shoe
Depot ...
Running Shoes

Location: High Street / Picture taken on: 22/05/2008

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Spécialité de capotage, Cognac

"Capotage" is an interesting word in French, especially when it is used together with "automobile" since it can mean either "body cowling" or "overturning" (ie "landing on the hood", the French for (car) "hood" being "capot"). I would assume that on this ghost sign, they had the first meaning in mind.

de capotage
pour automobiles
[Body Cowling
For Cars
A Speciality]

Location: Avenue Victo Hugo, Cognac, Charente / Picture taken on: 31/01/2011

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Eames, outfitter, Reigate

I came across this ghost sign while passing through Reigate at the end of a walk through the North Downs and Greensand hills, from Mickleham to Redhill. The sun was going down and the conditions were not ideal for a good picture. I guess I'll go back one day to take some more pictures of this pleasant town.

Although not much is known about W. R. Eames, outfitter, hosier and hatter, he has left a few traces. Indeed an advertisement printed in 1905 proclaimed:
If you are wanting right good value in
Boys', Youths' and Gentlemen's Outfitting,
W. R. Eames, the Reigate Outfitter,
can serve you well.
Price is right. Value is right.
Selection of stocks of best makers only.
W. R. Eames, General outfitter,
Market Place, Reigate

A picture taken around 1906 shows him or one of his assistants standing proudly by the entrance of his shop (the picture is roughly half way down the page. More pictures and the advertisement are further down the same page). I haven't found when Eames closed down but another photo taken in 1923/24 shows that his name still adorned the tiles between the first and second floors. However by 1929 the premises housed La Trobe's general store, which was previously located on the opposite side of the square. Strangely enough on a picture of La Trobe's from the 1970s (guessing from the clothes of the people), Eames's sign is far less visible than it is at present. Maybe the La Trobes had that part of the façade painted but with time that coat of paint peeled off, revealing once more the name and job of the previous owner.

Eames, Outfitter.

Location: Market Place, Reigate, Surrey / Picture taken on: 20/03/2011

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Laundry, Havana

I can't say I noticed that water was particularly hard in Havana but this laundry was apparently keen on promoting the fact it used softened water to wash clothes.

Lavamos su ropa
con agua suavizada
[We Wash Your Clothes
With Softened Water]

Location: Calle Campanario, Havana / Picture taken on: 21/03/2010

Monday, 21 March 2011

High class dairy, Tooting

After some bread on Friday, we are coming back to Tooting today to get some milk.
Hopefully this "high class dairy" provided better quality milk than many of its competitors around London (check this earlier post to see what I mean).

High Class Dairy

Location: Longley Road / Picture taken on: 24/02/2011

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Fighting Cocks, Kingston

The Fighting Cocks might have opened in 1890, as proclaimed on this wall, but this painted sign is very recent.

Two photos were stiched to recreate the whole sign.

Location: Fairfield North / Picture taken on: 15/04/2008

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Gibberd's Boots, Wimbledon

From the design of the letters, it was obvious this sign was promoting a shoemaker or seller rather than Boots the Chemist. Yet when I took this picture back in spring 2008, a plant growing on the ballustrade hid whatever else was written there. Thus I headed towards the local library, where I found a picture of the building taken in the early 20th century and showing a shop by the name of Gibberd's Boots. Could it have been that name painted up there?

Then the invading plant was cut but as the plane trees still had their leaves, I had to wait until winter to get a slightly better picture. Unfortunately it is still impossible to get the whole sign but enough of the first part emerged to confirm what I had suspected.

Gibberd's Boots

Location: The Broadway / Pictures taken on: 21/04/2008 and 24/02/2011

Friday, 18 March 2011

Hovis, Tooting

When the owner of this bakery changed, Hovis paid for a new sign. In the process, the 'O' of 'Hovis' lost the characteristic tilde (sometimes simplified to a dash or a flattened ring) it had between the 1920s and 1940s.

Therefore the most recent sign, for Kerr's, must have been painted after the Second World War. It reads:
Maker Of

During the inter-war years (and maybe even before), the bakery belonged to Stenning, who had this wall painted on two occasions (repeated lines are signalled below with a *):
Stenning's [*]
Baker & [*]
Pastrycook [*]
Noted for Quality
Baked D...
...o... ...n

Location: Upper Tooting Road / Picture taken on: 11/04/2008

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Our Sons, Brixton

Our Sons, the complete outfitters, was located at 18-22 Electric Avenue. It also had a branch at 35-36 The Promenade, Golders Green. This is what we learn from an advert printed in the South London Press in 1915. That is pretty much all the information I found on that business.
This ghost sign was painted at the back of the shop and was large enough to be seen from trains passing Brixton (without stopping) on the South Eastern & Chatham Railway's section of the Inner South London line, and by passengers waiting for or alighting from their Victoria-bound train on the platform of the Chatham main line at Brixton station.

Our Sons Ltd
Men's Wear
Agents for

Inspection Invited

This sign was painted over an earlier advertisement for Our Sons, and potentially for another business too. These are the different words I managed to identify with their location on the wall:
Take [above the manicule]
...ive [between the fingers]
For [above Our]
Jantzen [below Our Sons Ltd]
To ... [same level as Wolsey]
Our Sons [just below Smedley / Jantzen]
Official ... [below Aertex]
Loca... [below Celanese]

Location: Electric Lane / Picture taken on: 09/04/2008

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Igol, Saint-Porchaire

The Igol brand of oil and lubricants appeared in France in 1949, when several small regional manufacturers regrouped to form a national structure responsible for the research, development and marketing of products for motors. Nowadays Igol is present in 30 countries.

Four different logos have been adopted by Igol since its foundation. This one was used between 1970 and 1989.

Location: Rue Nationale, Saint-Porchaire, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 30/01/2011

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Pawnbroker, Earlsfield

If the business advertised here is easy to guess, that isn't the case of the name.

B. J. B...
General Store
Also at 2...

Location: Thornsett Road / Picture taken on: 04/03/2008

Monday, 14 March 2011

P & B, Shacklewell

This basic sign for P & B (whatever they are or were) was painted over another sign.

The earlier sign read:

Location: Shacklewell Road / Picture taken on: 06/05/2008

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Vapor, Havana

Whatever was left of this ghost sign was preserved when this building from 1912 was restored a few years ago, but with only two words remaining it isn't possible to know for sure what was promoted there. Still, if I were to make a guess, I'd say this was the office of a maritime company that operated steamboats or of a shipping company. This may be a long shot but in the 1920s the Asociación de maquinistas navales (Marine Engineers' Association) had its headquarters in this building. Coincidence?

Vapor.. ... Españoles
[Spanish ... Steam...]

Location: San Ignacio (on Plaza Vieja), Havana / Picture taken on: 06/04/2010

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Radio, cycles, electrical goods, Bexleyheath

Next to the Spiders Snooker ghost sign presented a few months ago is another colourful one from the post-war era. It's a shame the upper part has been covered in black. Either the name of the shop or another product on offer, such as televisions for example, could have been written there.

Somehow, the dynamic effect achieved by the sign writer with "Across the" hasn't been replicated in "Road."

Location: Percy Road / Picture taken in July 2009

Friday, 11 March 2011

Dutch the local house agents, Willesden

This estate agency based in northwest London was founded 111 years ago and is still in business under the name Dutch & Dutch.

The Local
.3, Broadway
And at

The number was certainly either 63 or 73 (more likely actually), rather than just 3.

Location: High Road / Picture taken on: 14/08/2009

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Radio - Television, Potsdam

I wonder how many people who purchased a radio or a television set from that grey East German shop tuned in to forbidden broadcasts from the West? In parts of East Germany the authorities could easily spot who was listening to or watching West German or RIAS (Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor - the US radio and, from 1988, television broadcaster based in West Berlin) programmes by checking the direction their antenna was pointing to. However in Potsdam that was impossible as West Berlin stood between the town and the transmitters located in East Berlin of both Rundfunk der DDR and Deutscher Fernsehfunk (the East German radio and television broadcasters respectively). Following the construction of the Berlin Wall, the East German authorities tried for a short while to jam the RIAS and Western signals but doing so effectively would have disrupted signals within West Germany, their own services, and those of Radio Wolga, the station of the Soviet armed forces based in the GDR. Thus the authorities often relied on nosy neighbours or relatives to denounce those listening to and watching "enemy" programmes and adverts.
West German radio and TV waves didn't cover the entire territory of the former GDR though: the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea, the eastern part of Mecklenburg and Vorpommern, all in the northeastern corner of the GDR, together with the valley of the Elbe around Dresden in the southeastern corner of the country were out of reach. As a consequence the latter was sometimes referred to as "Tal der Ahnungslosen" or "Valley of the Clueless."

Radio - Fernsehen
[Radio - Television]

Location: Lindenstraße, Potsdam, Brandenburg / Picture taken on: 11/11/2008

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Talbots, Gloucester

This ghost sign may well be the only reminder of the drink and bottling business founded in Gloucester by Thomas Talbot in 1845. Indeed the building fronting Commercial Street, which housed the company's offices, was due to be demolished at the end of 2010.
Founded originally as the Talbot Mineral Water Company, it produced not only water but also ginger beer. Talbot's products must have sold well enough since in 1870 he had enough funds to finance the construction of a new drinks factory on land once owned by Franciscan monks (hence the name of the area: Blackfriars). The office building on Commercial Street might have been part of that expansion. Thomas Talbot died in 1891 but his business continued to do well. At some point Talbot & Co (the name may have been changed following Thomas's death. Later it became Talbots Bottlers (Gloucester) Ltd) started bottling beer and cider for other companies, including Bass and Worthington. The decline and restructuring of the brewing industry in the 1930s and in the aftermath of the Second World War must have had a dramatic impact on a relatively minor player in the bottling business like Talbots. It appears they sold the Commercial Road building in 1954 and went out of business around 1958.

Bottlers (Gloucester) Ltd.
Ladybellegate Street
Wholesale Beer Bottlers

Location: Ladybellegate Street, Gloucester, Gloucestershire / Picture taken on: 24/07/2010

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Vigor, Richmond

What could a Victorian shop called Vigor have been selling? If anyone has any idea, please leave your suggestions through the comments link. Somehow, even if the meaning is similar, I'd like to think it is the Latin word, "vigor, -oris", rather than the English one that is written there.

For years the shop remained empty and a thick layer of grime and dust covered this doostep mosaic. Then last year the toy and bookshop Story Explorers moved in and after much scrubbing the mosaic has now regained its colours.

Location: St Mary's Grove / Picture taken on: 06/03/2011

Monday, 7 March 2011

I. Furst, Finsbury Park

The only mention of a chemist named I. Furst I could find was in a 1933 copy of Chemist & Druggist. In it, it is written that
Mr. James A. Birrell, chemist and druggist, Kinross, has purchased the business of Mr. I. Furst, B. Sc., chemist and druggist, 428 Cumberland Street, Glasgow, C. 5.
Was this the same person as in Finsbury Park? No idea.

I. Furst
B.Sc. M.P.S.

Location: Blackstock Road / Picture taken on: 01/04/2008

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tea Rooms, Holborn

For years the only reason I passed through the otherwise sad-looking southern part of Museum Street was to look at this painted signage and at the cheeky scenes painted on the windows of the clothes shop next door. The tea rooms opened in the early 1960s but closed when the lady who ran them retired in the early 2000s. The clothes shop also closed around the same time and both businesses laid empty for a while. But then the premises next door became a mini cab office and the enticing women disappeared. As for the former cafe, it found recently a new owner, who splashed a thick coat of very unattractive black paint all over the façade, including the sign. That's it then, gone!

I wonder whether this sign didn't pre-date the 1960s? Indeed, for as long as the tea rooms remained opened, there was a more modern (1960s style that is) plastic sign. So maybe there was already a cafe there before the 1960s?

The sign is gone but Peter Vogel at Nutmegger Workshop produced an excellent near-replica of it.

Location: Museum Street / Picture taken on 23/04/2009

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Cliff's Corner, South Wimbledon

Everytime I see this shop sign, I wonder whether it will be there for much longer. It hangs above the eastern corner of a parade of shops. Most of the premises were empty for some years but some businesses moved in recently. Still, in the current economic climate, the one at the corner may remain unoccupied for a while.

It looks as if over the years this part of the building saw a succession of shops, the last one being certainly that of R. M. Walsh, whose name is visible on the street façade. Although the sign for the shop known as Cliff's Corner seems to be as old as the building itself, a close look reveals this piece of wood had already carried two signs before: "Cliff's" was painted over "Teas", and between the two lines of "Cliff's Corner", one can see "Lock up Mo...".

Although the other piece of wood over the entrance has been scraped and repainted, it is still possible to read a couple of words and distinguish some overlapping letters.

... ... Great
Gold ...

Location: Merton High Street / Pictures taken on: 14/03/2008 and 24/02/2011

Friday, 4 March 2011

Clements & Co, Walworth

This Victorian sign seems to be the only trace left by Clements & Co.

The lettering is more simple than on the shop signs posted since Monday but the contrast between the ecru letters and the brown background works well.

Location: Iliffe Street / Pictures taken on: 16/07/2009

Thursday, 3 March 2011

R. Sullivan, Southwark

The business of R. Sullivan, the wardrobe dealer and maker, certainly closed decades ago but at least the eye-catching Victorian signage has been preserved by the successive owners of the premises. It definitely gives a special touch to the property!
By the way, on Monday I mentioned this series would be about shop signs painted on wood, but as you can see, this one was painted directly on stone.

The extreme right end of this sign was retouched at some point, maybe when the building was restored. Indeed the lettering is clearly not of the same quality: the thin and thick strokes aren't as differentiated as in the original parts, the last letters of 'Built' are squeezed, and the 'e' of 'Size' is far too large.

Location: Southwark Bridge Road / Pictures taken on: 20/03/2009

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Golden Horn Cigarette Company, Shoreditch

The pictures below were taken before the premises reopened as a trendy men's clothing shop. Fortunately they kept the old signage for The Golden Horn Cigarette Company.

The only mention of The Golden Horn Cigarette Company I found was in a late nineteenth century (no precise date) issue of The Anglo-Indian and American Traders' Journal. It briefly said, as one could have easily guessed from the oriental name, that it imported and manufactured the best Turkish tobacco.

The letters chosen for the name, in particular the 'O', are rather unusual with their little hooks (I'm sure there is a proper term for that).

Even though there would have been enough space, the sign writer certainly thought the right end would look too cramped with 'Company' written in full, while 'Co' would have been too isolated. Hence the unusual abreviation "Comp'y."

Location: Shoreditch High Street / Pictures taken on: 16/07/2009

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A. Hand & Sons, Salisbury

Several shops in Salisbury have superb tiled fronts but for now let's look at one with a painted signage.

The shop of A. Hand & Sons can be found south of the city centre, shortly after crossing the River Avon. I passed there in the evening, too late to go and ask if it was still being run by the Hand family.

Somehow the quality of the painting is better at both ends than for the shopkeeper's name.

Location: Harnham Road, Salisbury, Wiltshire / Pictures taken on: 15/08/2009