Today's story isn't that happy though. Indeed, while sometimes ghost signs emerge when modern billboards are removed or buildings demolished, the opposite is also true. Actually it even seems to be a more frequent occurence. To a certain extent this is the case with the ghost signs below, painted on a wall adjacent to the Spotted Dog on Willesden High Road. Unfortunately the last pints were poured on 20th May 2007 and the pub, which had opened in 1762, was earmarked for redevelopment in 2008. Last November, after fetching our visas for Cambodia at the embassy nearby (it saved us queueing at the border, plus I was kindly offered a CD of Cambodian music), I wandered through Willesden and noticed that work on the site was now well under way. The new complex, a combination of flats and retail units which retains the Georgian façade, extends over the alley that runs between the pub and the building with the ghost sign. That's where the problem lies. For the floors above the alleyway to stand, a massive pier has been erected and obstructs most of the ghost signs. Thus Mr Humphrey and Stepani, whose only trace left seems to have been these painted signs, are sinking further into oblivion.
Indeed the space on this wall was used on several occasions. The first sign painted there promoted a business by the name of Humphrey (the letters emerge between the larger ones of 'Stepani'). Since none of the other words found on this wall uses the same straightforward typeface, I believe the rest of this sign disappeared completely when the two newer ones were painted. The next sign advertised Stepani & Company, suppliers of ice and water (that this sign was painted next to a pub is slightly ironic). Was Stepani (but no longer '& Co') also the high class confectioner mentioned in the third sign? The absence of a name would suggest so. But then why wasn't the whole space used? Maybe a small structure, such as a hut for a newspaper seller, hid the left of the wall but didn't go as high as 'Stepani'?
Makers of Pure ...
Ices Supplied for Parties ...
Iced Mineral Water ...
Caterer and Tobacconist
... of Havana Cigars
With regards to the last three lines, which undulate elegantly and were painted partly in black ('Try a Freshly'), partly in white ('Made Cup'), I think they related to a part of the sign that disappeared when part of the wall was rebuilt. Freshly grounded coffee maybe? Something was painted to the right of these lines but I can't identify what this is.
Location: High Road / Picture taken in August 2009