Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Cars wanted for cash, Southall

A modern sign that makes a relatively good use of different fonts. However I must admit the zigzagging lines on the sides make me think more of "crash" than "cash."


Location: Wharncliffe Drive / Picture taken on: 19/07/2008

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Mercerie - Bonneterie, Mortagne-sur-Gironde

Well before the door was blocked, this former little shop specialised in haberdashery and hosiery. Many traditional trades could be found along the main street of this village on the north bank of the Gironde estuary but they have all disappeared.

Mercerie - Bonneterie

Location: Grande Rue, Mortagne-sur-Gironde, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 07/06/2010

Friday, 27 May 2011

A Million Londoners, Tokyngton

Even though the lower part of this ghost sign has be painted over, it is still possible to recognise an advert for the London Co-operative Society (LCS). It is very different from the one in Walthamstow, with a strong emphasis on the number of people who owned and controlled it. The LCS brought together several co-operative societies. In 1921, one year after its formation, it had nearly 100,000 members. By 1928, following the absorbtion of several societies, its membership had grown to 250,000. It continued to increase throughout the 1930s, reaching 530,000 in 1934, 650,000 in 1937, and 750,000 in 1939. The war slowed down the movement slightly but in 1944 the LCS could claim to have 832,670 members. The million benchmark was reached in the early 1950s. By then the LCS operated more than 550 establishments offering a wide range of products and services across Greater London. The LCS was the largest cooperative in the world and continued to thrive throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. By the mid-1960s it had 1.3 million members but the golden era of the cooperative movement was reaching its end. Membership stagnated throught the second half of the 1960s and between 1969 and 1970 the LCS lost 150,000 members as people turned towards the new supermarket chains. If the LCS had in 1970 a turnover of £90 million, in 1978 it lost £1.8 million. As a result of these financial difficulties and the more challenging environment, the LCS was amalgamated in 1981 with the Co-operative Retail Society.

This sign must have been painted in or shortly after 1950 or 1951: having one million members was undoubtedly something worth proclaiming!

For more information on the history of the LCS, check the website of the Bishopsgate Institute.

A Million
Own & Control

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

This ghost sign for the London Co-operative Society gives me the opportunity to post two pictures of the LCS logo. The wreath with the co-operative's acronym was found on the green tiled façades of its food stores, under the display window. Unfortunately these two examples were painted over by the new owners of these shops but they are slowly reappearing.

Locations: Fulham Road, Fulham (left) and Richmond Road, St Margarets (right) / Pictures taken on: 15/08/2008 (left) and 21/05/2008 (right)

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Wootton's Cash Chemist, Islington

At the corner of Richmond Avenue and Cloudesley Road we have the chance to have not one but two ghost signs. However since there is no name mentioned on the upper one, we can assume they were both promoting the same business, namely Wootton's Cash Chemist. The lower sign was certainly painted in the early 20th century. The different design suggests the upper sign was added at a later date, possibly when printing became a major source of income for Joseph W. Hearle, the owner of this and two other pharmacies in Islington, according to a 1936 copy of Chemist and Druggist: The Newsweekly for Pharmacy.

The name of J. W. Hearle also appeared in 1928 in The Pharmaceutical journal: A Weekly Record of Pharmacy and Allied Sciences in relation to a successful appeal against his conviction on a charge of selling a liniment of turpentine which was not of the nature, substance, and quality demanded by the purchaser, Miss Monica Pickin. In the article about this case, we learn that Joseph W. Hearle began his career as a chemist in 1893 and that he was trading as Wootton's Cash Chemist at 94, Richmond Street (the building where these signs are painted. It is possible the 'avenue' was originally a 'street' or there was a mistake) and various other addresses at the time of the hearings.
Since J. W. Hearle didn't give his name to his business, we can assume he took over a pre-existing one, most certainly set up by a Mr Wootton. Several journals from the 1880s mention William Wootton, pharmaceutical chemist of Liverpool Road, Islington. It seems he worked with his brother Samuel, whose name appears in a 1890 journal, in relation to his ninth successive election as sidesman of the Clerkenwell parish church. One precision: he was a chemist at Liverpool Road, Islington. What happened to him is not known but William Wootton died in 1896, aged 74. Was it then that J. W. Hearle bought Wootton's pharmacies?
Finally the 1936 issue of the journal mentioned at the beginning of this post indicates that Joseph Hearle was not only a member of the National Pharmaceutical Union Executive but also a director of United Chemists' Association Ltd (UCAL). UCAL was a pharmaceutical manufacturing company created in the early 20th century by chemists and druggists from London and Cheltenham. Its factory was located in the Gloucestershire town, and it had additional offices in London and Liverpool. If that was the same Hearle, he certainly had quite a successful career!

Chemicals &
Sundry Requisites
Quality & Quick Service

Wootton's Cash Chemist
J. Hearle M.P.S.
Hours of Business
9 A.M. to 6-30 P.M.
Thursday to 1 P.M.
Toilet &

I believe 'M.P.S.' was the acronym of 'Member of the Pharmaceutical Society (of Great Britain)'.
As for the term Cash, it meant drugs and other products were not sold on credit, contrary to what was the practice in many shops at the time (for another example of such a shop, see the post about Fred Palmer).

Location: Cloudesley Road / Pictures taken on: 01/04/2008 and 10/04/2008

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Painted sign, Yangdi (1)

If anyone knows what these elaborately-painted Chinese characters mean, please let me know. This sign clearly points in one direction, but what is there?

Location: Yangdi, Guangxi province, China / Picture taken on: 17/09/2009

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

S. Errington, Brixton

Few signs are as elegant as the one advertising S. Errington's furniture business. The different fonts and additional decorative elements are cleverly used to suggest excellent service and furniture of very good quality.

Dealer In
Sold Or
Taken In

Location: Dulwich Road / Picture taken on: 16/07/2009

Monday, 23 May 2011

Cars bought, sold and exchanged; Weymouth

Here is my latest ghost sign "discovery", spotted in a backstreet of Weymouth. The current sign, promoting a used car dealer, was painted over an earlier one. A few letters are still visible here and there, but not enough to make any sense of it.

Cars Bought, Sold and Exchanged

Since the street is too narrow (or the sign too long) I used four photos to create the picture below.

Location: Great George Street, Weymouth, Dorset / Picture taken on: 21/05/2011

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Strike's Stores, Thames Ditton

At first sight the bright background to this ghost sign seems regular but a closer look shows that it was actually too narrow for "Whitbread's" and had to be extended towards the left and the right, in unequal measure, at that level: the first half of the "W" and the "S" are out of frame. Was this wanted to make the name of the brewer stand out or was that bad planning by the sign writer?

The sign for Strike's Stores can be seen on this postcard printed c. 1912 and posted on the excellent blog Postcards Then and Now. Back then the sign looked rather recent.

Agents For

Location: High Street, Thames Ditton, Surrey / Picture taken on: 25/08/2009

Friday, 20 May 2011

Belle Vue House, Richmond

Why would a formerly-detached late 18th century house have its name painted across its façade?

Belle Vue House

A much smaller sign, slightly altered on one occasion, on the south front may provide an answer.

Belle Vue
House / Hotel

This Georgian house was enlarged in the 19th century, possibly when it was converted into a hotel. My guess is it was the hotel owners who added the large sign onto the street façade and this small one, visible from the road leading towards the centre of Richmond from the south.

Location: Petersham Road / Pictures taken on: 21/05/2008

Thursday, 19 May 2011

P & P Campbell Perth Dye Works, Forest Gate

Since the central part of this ghost sign has completely faded it took me a while to identify the company that was being advertised. Finally, after trying different combinations, I'm pretty sure it was put by the local agent of the dyeing and cleaning company P & P Campbell from Perth, Perthshire.
Peter Campbell began learning his trade in Perth in 1814, with Archibald Campbell (whether he was a relative or not is not known). Two years later he took as an apprentice John Pullar, who would establish his own company in 1824 and become his main competitor. In 1819 Peter Campbell left Archibald Campbell to found his own firm.
Abundant water supply from the Tay made Perth an ideal location for the dyeing industry. However it was the arrival of the railway in 1848 that led to its rapid expansion. Within a few years P & P Campbell and Pullar's Dyeworks built new facilities to cope with rising demand and became some of the town's largest employers. Even though there is very little information available online about P & P Campbell, one can assume this was a successful business as his network of agents throughout Britain and the contracts he was awarded by important companies, including the Great Western Railway, illustrate. Campbell's firm not only dyed all sorts of materials, from wool and cotton to velvet and fur in its Perth works, it also cleaned them using different techniques including the French or chemical cleaning one (which in the 19th century was refered to as Nettoyage à sec rather than Dry cleaning). This technique had been pioneered in Britain by Pullar and Campbell was quick to adopt it in order to keep up with his competitor. Actually in many instances Campbell only followed Pullar's lead: whether it was synthetic dyes, using the parcel post for the cleaning side of the business, electric light or telephone, Pullar was always ahead. The introduction of electricity made it possible to work for much longer during the winter months, when daylight didn't exceed six hours. Gas lamps didn't provide enough light to carry out some of the processes. Pullar adopted electrical lights by 1878 but it took Campbell four years before 40 arc and 100 incandescent lamps lit the four main departments of the works: the dye house, the cleaning house, the finishing house, and the overhauling rooms.
In 1912 P & P Campbell, like J. Pullar and Sons, became a limited liability company. That allowed it to raise capital and invest in new machinery. Yet times were hard for the British dyeing industry. Germany was well-ahead in terms of technology and could offer much lower prices. Additionally in March that year the railway and coal industries went on strike. Products didn't move, coal was no longer available to power the machines and for a short while coal tar dyes, upon which the industry relied heavily, were in short supply. The strike only lasted for a few weeks but it shattered the dyeing industry. The war two years later did little to revive its fortunes. Britain produced less than 10% of the dyes used in the country's dye works. With imports from Germany interrupted, P & P Campbell and its competitors experienced great difficulties: the working week and wages were reduced, and some workers were laid off. The situation improved slightly towards the end of the war, but disaster struck one year later. Even though the most dangerous processes were carried out in fireproof buildings, extinguishers were supplied in most rooms, and Campbell kept its own fire engines, in 1919 a large part of P & P Campbell's Perth Dye Works went up in flames. The company didn't recover and was taken over by Pullar's Dyeworks.
The purchase of Campbell allowed Pullar, who had already bought several of its competitors, to expand its network of agents in the UK. By 1927, they totalled 7,752. Pullar, which was also known as North British Dyeworks, continued trading for several decades but closed down in 1993.

The 1886 edition of Kelly's Directory for Romford includes the following entry:
Parr & King, fancy drapers, hosiers & haberdashers, stationery etc; periodicals ordered; agents for the Perth dye works, Kingston house, Victoria Road
Could they have been the agents this ghost sign pointed to? Or was there another one closer to Forest Gate?

P & P Campbell
Perth Dye Works

Location: Sprowston Road / Picture taken on: 15/05/2011

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Bakery, Meissen

A rather unusual lettering (even by German standards) was chosen for Hartwig Adam's bakery in Meissen. A signature in a corner informs us this sign was painted by Hasche but I haven't found any information about him or her.

H. Adam

Location: Neumarkt, Meissen, Sachsen / Pictures taken on: 20/12/2009

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Freeman, Hardy & Willis, Leytonstone

Shoe retailer Freeman, Hardy & Willis didn't only have elaborate mosaics by the entrance to its shops, it also paid for painted signs. This one dominated the northern end of the main shopping street in Leytonstone and guided potential customers towards the "right" shoe shop.

Click here for more information about Freeman, Hardy & Willis.

Hardy & Willis

Location: High Road Leytonstone / Picture taken on: 15/05/2011

Monday, 16 May 2011

Freeman, Hardy and Willis, Reigate

After Wimbledon and Littlehampton, here is a third mosaic found by the entrance of a former Freeman, Hardy & Willis shoe shop. This one can be seen in Reigate, Surrey. Being composed mostly of square tesserae, it was certainly less complicated to assemble than the other ones: only those used for and around the initials and the ampersand, and in the corners (as in the lower right corner of the picture) needed a diagonal or curved cut. The overall effect is much more modern and either this branch of F, H & W was refurbished completely or it opened at a much later date than those in Wimbledon and Littlehampton.

Location: High Street, Reigate, Surrey / Picture taken on: 20/03/2011

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Goods of various descriptions, Greenwich

The style of the lettering seems to suggest this sign was painted during the Victorian or Edwardian era. Back then, these premises were used by a shoe and boot seller.

Even though the upper part of this ghost sign has badly faded, it is still possible to decipher most of it.

Ladies & Gents
Dress Boots
& Shoes
... [*]
High Leg
Men & Gents
Walking Boots
& Shoes
And Hardwearing
Of Various
Clogs in Great

To be honest, I don't think this sign was particularly well designed. The writer opted to divide the part above the window into three sections, with a thin line in between. As a result some of the words are tightly squeezed while others seems to be floating, and the words "shoes" and "boots" are repeated time and time again. Obviously the addition at a later date of a diamond-shaped decoration along the whole façade of this parade of shops did not help: two-thirds of the final letter of "Hardwearing" disappeared when the three vertical diamonds were inserted, and it separated the words on each side of the lintel above the window from the text underneath them.

*: I wonder if it isn't "Shoes" that is written here.

Location: Trafalgar Road / Pictures taken on: 13/05/2011

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Beecham's Pills, Camberwell

Asking a poet to praise the merits of some medicine may sound strange but that's exactly what Beecham's pharmaceutical company did in 1894, when it paid William Topaz Mc Gonagall (often considered as the worst British poet) an undisclosed sum to write the following lines:
What ho! sickly people of high and low degree
I pray ye all be warned by me;
No matter what may be your bodily ills
The safest and quickest cure is Beecham's Pills.

They are admitted to be worth a guinea a box
For bilious and nervous disorders, also smallpox,
And dizziness and drowsiness, also cold chills,
And for such diseases nothing else can equal Beecham's Pills

They have been proved by thousands that have tried them
So that the people cannot them condemn.
Be advised by me one and all
Is the advice of Poet McGonagall.
By then Beecham was spending almost £100,000 a year to advertise its products, with the lion's share going towards the promotion of its "miracle" medicine: Beecham's Pill. This laxative, made of 40% of aloes, 45% of ginger, 15% of soap and a very tiny proportion of other ingredients, was patented and launched c. 1842 by Thomas Beecham. In 1859 Beecham opened the world's first factory to be built solely for making medicines in St Helens, Lancs. Within a couple of decades, they had been adopted not only throughout Britain and its empire but also in the US and parts of continental Europe, and had the largest sale of any patent medicine in the world.
The production of Beecham's Pills was discontinued in 1998, nine years after The Beecham Group plc and SmithKline Beckman merged to form SmithKline Beecham plc and two years before the new company merged with GlaxoWellcome to form GlaxoSmithKline.
Unfortunately this ghost sign which dominated the southeastern corner of Camberwell Green is now gone too. It was almost completely erased when the gable it was painted on was cleaned a couple of years ago.


Actually Beecham's Pills wasn't the only product advertised on this wall. A close look reveals at least two other sets of letters and a much smaller yellow background. Yet, apart from a few letters, I haven't managed to decipher what was written there.

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

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Great Northern School of Music, Finsbury Park

I haven't found any information about this particular institution but, given the name and the proximity of the London - York mainline, I wonder whether it wasn't opened and financed by the Great Northern Railway for its employees and their families. After all it was fairly common for large employers to provide educational facilities, entertainment, and other services to their staff and relatives and that railway company was certainly no exception.

Great Northern School of Music

Location: Fonthill Road / Picture taken on: 06/04/2011

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Préfontaines, Cadeuil

French wine is usually associated with specified regions and prestigious châteaux rather than with ordinary, cheap table wine. Yet a significant share of the French wine production, mostly from the départements of Hérault, Aude, Gard, Gers and Vaucluse, still goes towards the production of the latter, even if the consumption of table wine has been declining dramatically over the past decades (while consumption of wine per capita in France reached 130 litres in 1954, it was down to 60 litres in 1990 and 57 litres in 2006, quantity being replaced by quality).
The rising demand for cheap wine was closely linked to the industrial revolution and the emergence of the urban working class. At a time when water had a rather mixed reputation, workers followed Louis Pasteur's advice ("wine is the healthiest and most hygienic drink") and the bottle of wine found its place alongside bread on many tables. Obviously increased wine consumption sometimes led to alcoolism; a problem Emile Zola described and analyzed with great accuracy in his tragic novel L'Assomoir.
While originally most of the table wine was sold under no specific name, by the 20th century the first brands appeared, developed by wine cooperatives or merchants. Their heyday was between the 1950s and the early 1970s, when wines such as Postillon, Kiravi ("the attractive wine of France"), Vin des Rochers ("the stomach's velvet"), Gévéor, Margnat or Préfontaines ("elegant table wine") dominated the cheap end of the market. The latter, Préfontaines, belonged to Dubonnet, who in 1951 built a brand new, highly mechanised bottling plant outside Paris. Within a few years, it was producing more than a million bottles a day.
In 1967, in a context of harsh competition and stagnant sales, several producers of table wine (Gévéor, Kiravi, Margant) formed the Société des Vins de France. Dubonnet's Préfontaines joined it in 1971. When Pernod-Ricard took control of Dubonnet in 1976, the group found itself with 45% of the shares of the Société des Vins de France. Nine years later it acquired additional shares to control what had become Europe's leading producer of table wine with, in 1985, 14% of the French market and a turnover of one billion francs. A few years later, in 1992, Pernod-Ricard sold the Société des Vins de France to its main competitor in that field, Groupe Castel, owner of table wine brand Castelvin.

Vin de table
Royan 15 minutes

Location: D733, Cadeuil, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 30/01/2011

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Eashing Farm Restaurant, Guildford

I must admit I am a bit puzzled by the indications given on this sign as they certainly don't take anyone to 100, High Street. If drivers turn left upon seeing this sign, they go down Mill Lane and end up further away from the High Street. Maybe the traffic lights this sign refers to were located at the junction of Quarry Street and the High Street, but then numbering would have had to be very different from what it is today since 100, High Street lies further to the right (the buiding at the street corner is number 46).

Slow Down
<--- Turn Left
Before Traffic Lights
Most Popular
Good Food
Eashing Farm
100, High Street

Location: Quarry Street, Guildford, Surrrey / Picture taken on: 02/05/2011

Monday, 9 May 2011

B. A. Elliston & Co, Norbury

Although the company is now based in Sidcup and the telephone number is no longer correct, this large sign can still be seen from both street level and trains passing through Norbury station.

Plumbing - Electrical
Interior & Exterior Decorating
Fitted Kitchens & Bathrooms
B. A. Elliston & Co. Ltd.
081-679 8585
Lawn Mowing. Ground Maintenance
Landscaping & Patio Designing

After ublishing this post I've noted the phone number appears with a link to skype. Sorry about that. Does anyone know how to remove this?

Location: London Road / Picture taken on: 17/06/2008

Friday, 6 May 2011

Hayward Brothers, R. E. Jones, and James Ashby & Sons; Borough

Passing through Union Street today, it is hard to imagine how noisy the area used to be. Indeed this is were the foundry and ironworks of Hayward Brothers were located. Londoners should be familiar with the company as they step on its products day after day but the vast majority certainly does so unknowingly. If people were to look more closely at what is written on coal hole covers and iron pavement lights though, they would realise how frequently "Hayward Brothers" appears on the streets of the capital. Less ubiquitous products manufactured by Hayward Brothers included circular and spiral staircases, stoves, ranges, and ventilators.
The company was founded by Samuel Hayward in 1783 in the City. Originally it specialised in glass but later also ventured into ironmongery. Its fascinating history is narrated in Years of Reflection 1783-1953. The Story of Haywards of the Borough, published for the company on the occasion of its 170th anniversary.

Hayward moved to Union Street in the mid-19th century and over the years acquired several plots in that street. It is on one of their surviving buildings that today's ghost signs can be seen. But first, let's look at the main façade of that building, which still bears the name of the company.

Hayward Brothers & Eckstein Ltd.

This is not a proper painted sign though: the name of the company is made of coloured bricks inserted into the façade. It must date from 1906, when the Union Street works expanded with the addition of a five-storey building. Founded as Hayward, the company then became Hayward Brothers, before its name was changed to Hayward Brothers and Eckstein. This partnership became a limited company in 1896. Even though William Eckstein was British, wartime anti-German feelings forced him to change his name to Exstone in 1916 and to drop it from the company's title, which then traded as Haywards Ltd (one year later, another family changed its name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor).

For proper ghost signs, one has to look at the sides of the building. Coming from the western end of Union Street is the unmissable name of a later owner of the building.

James Ashby & Sons Ltd

A closer look at the wall reveals more ghost signs and tells us more about products manufactured by Hayward and what happened to the building when the company moved out.

The upper part dates from Hayward's times and reads
Hayward's Lights

Hayward's Lights, patented in 1871, were one of the company's most successful products. It consisted of strong cast iron frames glazed with lenses or prisms. These specifically-designed prisms allowed light to be directed towards the darkers parts of a room, usually a cellar. For details about this product, check the first pages of Chapter III of Years of Reflection 1783-1953.

Production in Union Street was spread across several sites acquired as the company expanded. By the late 1910s it had become clear this arrangement was adding to production costs. Additionally delivery was becoming increasingly problematic. Thus the decision was taken to move away from the Borough. Most workshops in Union Street were sold between 1919 and 1924. This building was one of the first ones to go. The most likely buyer was R. E. Jones, whose name appears in the central part of the wall:

The first of Richard Edwin Jones's cafes opened in Cardiff in 1879. In 1895 these were acquired by R. E. Jones Ltd, which became one of the leading catering companies in South Wales. In addition to the original cafes, the company also owned several restaurants and hotels, including the Angel, Sandringham, and Philarmonic in Cardiff, the Seabank, Marine and Esplanade in Porthcawl, and the Mackworth in Swansea. The company then expanded into London, where it was eventually based. In the capital it operated a chain of tea rooms and cafes as well as the Picadilly Hotel. In 1918 it acquired the business of R. E. Jones (Garages) Ltd, which it ran in parallel to its hotel and catering business.
From what is written on the wall above and the one below, it seems the confectionary and bakery products sold in its London eateries were prepared in Union Street.
I haven't found what happened to R. E. Jones Ltd but in 1962 the company sold its hotels in South Wales. Had it decided to concentrate on London, on its motoring business or was it facing serious financial difficulties? As there are no references to it after that date, I guess it went under.

The different owners of the building have also left their traces on the west wall.

From the time of Hayward Brothers, one can still read

In the corner just below is
R. E. Jones

Yet it is the sign for
James Ashby & Sons Ltd.
Embassy Tea & Coffee
that clearly dominates.

James Ashby started importing and selling tea in 1850. Originally based at 7 & 8 Idol Lane in the City, it expanded in the 1960s across the River when it acquired the site vacated by R. E. Jones Ltd. At the time, the company offered not only tea but also coffee although this is no longer the case. It was from its new base at 195-205 Union Street that James Ashby & Sons Ltd applied in 1980 for a patent for "a substitute for ground coffee and from which a beverage having an appearance and a taste approximating to that of coffee can be brewed." As one would expect for a coffee substitute, the breverage included mostly roasted barley and chicory. What made Ashby's product truly original apparently was the addition of fig, soya beans and coffee flavouring in specific proportions (after all, chicory had been used in parts of Europe to replace coffee since the 17th century. However it was the Continental Blockade decided by Napoléon in 1806 and the subsequent coffee shortages that led to an increase in the consumption of chicory. In France, chicory is closely associated with the company Leroux, founded in 1858).
As stated in the application, this was motivated by the rise at the time in world prices. In 1975 a late frost decimated the coffee crop in Brazil, leading to a 800% price rise. Prices remained high for a couple of years but started to decline steadily from the late 1970s onwards. Thus it may be that James Ashby & Sons never actually produced its coffee subsitute.

The most eleborate ghost sign on this building promoted one of James Ashby & Sons' brands of teas.

Rose Brand
Fine Teas

Although the Rose Brand is no longer available, James Ashby & Sons is still in business. They are now based in Wimbledon instead of central London.

Location: Union Street / Pictures taken on: 10/04/2008