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