Friday, 30 March 2012

Fancy goods, Surbiton

Decades ago this shop must have been a favourite with kids from Surbiton, who would have glanced through the windows at the things they could play with. Yet before that something completely different was available in these premises.


A close look reveals this ghost sign replaced an earlier one. However, with only a few letters still visible, it is difficult to identify what kind of trade was conducted there.



A clue may be found on the side of the building. The sun was badly positioned (or was it me who wasn't there at the right time?) but it is still possible to read what was painted there.


Did this relate to the aforementioned early version of the ghost sign? I can't really tell.

Somehow for years I felt a bit like the kids. I used to look at this ghost sign through the windows of the Kingston - Dorking bus, whenever we went for a walk through the North Downs and the Greensands. Finally last weekend, on our way to Polesden Lacey, we took an earlier bus to Surbiton so I could finally take my pictures, and caught the 465 from there.

Location: Brighton Road / Pictures taken in March 2012

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Quality and value, Battersea

This is something all customers like to hear or, in that case, read.

and Value

But what kind of products did this apply to? This is hard to tell since shops came and went, sometimes very rapidly (in the early 20th century the majority of shops in nearby Wimbledon failed to reach their first anniversary. Such a situation was certainly not unique). Between the end of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, at least a butcher, a provision merchant and the United Kingdom Tea Company traded from this address. I doubt the mosaic was laid by the latter though. A large company would rather have had its name written by the entrance and the slogan "quality and value" was not one used by "The 'Premier' Tea Merchant of the World."
In any case, the mosaic was attractive, and the message good and applicable to all kinds of businesses. That may explain why the subsequent owners of the premises kept it.

While looking for some information on that property, I came across the case of Herbert Hancock, who in 1908 was the manager of the Battersea Park Road branch of the United Kingdom Tea Company. Hancock was indicted for embezzlement, theft, and falsification of documents. He pleaded guilty to the latter charge, arguing he had falsified the books for fear of losing his job as business was bad, and was tried on the others. Although he was found not guilty on one account, his other crimes were considered serious enough to sentence him to six months' hard labour. The edited minutes of the case can be seen here (it starts towards the bottom of the page), here, and here.

Location: Battersea Park Road / Picture taken in March 2012

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Shoe repairs, Kingston

For years this ghost sign painted on wood stood in front of the Fairfield Bus station in Kingston. However last weekend I noticed the door underneath had been replaced and the sign removed.

Heel Bar

Location: Fairfield North / Picture taken in April 2008

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Konsum, Stralsund

Even though this ghost sign is quite damaged, it is still possible to recognize that this building, one of several awaiting restoration in the northern German city of Stralsund, once housed a Konsum, a shop of the East German Union of Consumers' Cooperatives (Konsumgenossenschaft).
The origins of Konsum go back to 1850 when the first German consumer cooperative was founded by workers in Eilenburg near Leipzig. The number of cooperatives and their membership increased throughout the second half of the 19th century and by 1918 they totalled 1,400 with more than four million members. Membership peaked in the 1920s and early 1930s. However following Hitler's accession to power in 1933 the Nazi government actively discouraged consumer cooperatives before eventually dissolving them and confiscating their properties.
Cooperatives re-emerged after the Second World War. In the eastern part of the country, they were reorganized by SMAD, the Soviet Military Administration in Germany, who returned their confiscated properties and encouraged membership. By the end of 1947, 1.8 m East Germans had joined, twice as many as in 1932 (number for the Länder that would form the GDR). By the 1980s the figure reached 4.5 m members. Under the aegis of the East German authorities, the Union of Consumers' Cooperatives became a semi-state institution in charge of trade, together with the state-owned Handelsorganisation (HO - Trade Organisation). For a few years cooperative outlets operated side by side with private traders but by 1953 the government actively discriminated in favour of Konsum shops. Thus their number expanded considerably, especially in rural areas where they were often the only shop around. Three years later, the government introduced commission trade, whereby private shopkeepers were encouraged to sell HO and Konsum goods. As a result, HO and Konsum handled the vast majority of the retail trade in the GDR.
Many Konsum shops, in particular in rural areas, predated the Second World War. These were small, lacklustre units. Yet in the 1970s new Konsum shops and department stores started to appear in the larger cities. In the Hanseatic city of Stralsund several shops were enlarged and modernised, although this trend may have bypassed the small shop below.
In the early 1980s, Konsum was divided territorially and functionally into 198 retail enterprises but this did not affect the brand. Following the re-unification of Germany in 1990, these were regrouped into 55 cooperatives before being privatised by the Treuhandanstalt. Nowadays several cooperatives still operate in the eastern Länder and use the name Konsum for their shops.


Location: Frankenstraße, Stralsund, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern / Picture taken in May 2009

Monday, 26 March 2012

Wine, spirit and beer, Ladbroke Grove

Where was the provision shop this ghost sign promoted? The obvious answer would be in the very building the sign was painted on but if that was the case, then it was either before or after 1960. Indeed a picture taken in 1960 shows it was home to Searjant's Corner, a store that sold pens, ink and other stationery items. At the origins of this business was certainly H. Searjant, who printed, among other things, a few postcards supporting the suffragette movement around 1911. Yet in the early 20th century H Searjant's printing works could be found a few metres down the road at 159, Ladbroke Grove (the building was demolished when the Westway was built in 1964). Thus did Searjant's moved to the corner of Ladbroke Grove and Cambridge Gardens after the food store vacated the premises, or did the latter replace Searjant's Corner? Looking at the style of the ghost sign, this is hard to tell but if I were to hazard a guess, I would opt for the first possibility.

The sign starts above the window, continues in a diagonal manner to the right of it and ends below. Something certainly preceded the first words still visible today.
Ham & Beef
& Beer

Click on the picture below to get a better view of the part of the wall with the ghost sign.

Location: Cambridge Gardens / Picture taken in December 2011

Friday, 23 March 2012

Elliott and Co, Stratford

According to a commercial trade directory for the Stratford area, John Elliott was already trading as a dairyman at 43 Water Lane in 1886. Together with his sons Matthew Elliott and Joseph Elliott, he was one of the partners in the firm Elliott & Co. The partnership between these dairymen and bakers was dissolved when John Elliott retired in 1892. By then the company was trading from both 43, Water Lane and Lett Road, about a mile away from where this ghost sign was painted. Matthew and Jospeh kept the company going though and its name appears in the 1896 edition of Kellys Trade Directory and at the bottom of an advertisement printed in 1898.

Following the retirement or death of Matthew Elliott, Joseph Elliott was left in charge. In March 1902 he was sued by estate and commission agent Henry Hassell who tried to recover £ 40 Joseph Elliott had allegedly not paid as a commission for introducing a purchaser of some land belonging to Elliott & Co. I have not found what the Lord Mayor's Court decided but Joseph Elliott must have been found guilty. Whether Mr Hassell got his money in the end is another matter because for at least two years before that case came to court, Joseph Elliott had been not only baking bread but also cooking the books to try to hide the losses of his company. In October 1903 he was found guilty of misconduct by the High Court of Justice in Bankruptcy and declared bankrupt with a discharge suspended for three years.
This did not put an end to Joseph Elliott's career though and one year after he was discharged from the debts he owed, his loaves of brown bread won a bronze medal, as reported in an issue of The Journal of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers from 1907.
What happened after this date is not known but it seems Elliott & Co was struck off the Companies Register in April 1939.

Elliott & Co
Dairy Bread Bakers
Dairy Farmers
Families & Dealers Supplied

Location: Water Lane / Pictures taken in May 2011

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Palmers, Richmond

Palmers' drapery stores may have disappeared but their ghost sign is still an eye-catching feature of Kew Road. The design is rather modern but, somehow, I find the rolls of cloth on each side of the name slightly too angular.


Location: Kew Road / Picture taken in October 2011

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Bar cafeteria Primavera, Santa Clara

This painted sign for a Cuban bar and cafeteria seemed perfect to celebrate the arrival of spring (this is what primavera means in Spanish).

De: 9:00 AM a 8:00 PM
Lunes: 1:00 PM a 8:00 PM

Location: Calle R. G. Garófalo, Santa Clara / Picture taken in April 2010

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Victoria Palace, Parsons Green

With its tower and cupola on top of which the gilded statue of ballerina Anna Pavlova rises, the Victoria Palace Theatre (left) is a familiar sight for Londoners and can hardly be missed by travellers and commuters coming out of Victoria Station (the statue of Pavlova is a 2006 replica. The original 1911 one was taken down during the Second World War, never to be seen again).
The Victoria Palace is the third theatrical venue built on the site. The first one was Moy's Music Hall, opened in 1832. In 1863 it was refurbished and the name changed to Royal Standard Music Hall. The original building was demolished in 1886, to make way for a new theatre. This second building lasted less than 25 years. Indeed the arrival of electricity in the first years of the 20th century had a profound impact on theatres across London. Yet in order to get the best of modern technology and the advantages it afforded it was often necessary to demolish existing venues and build new ones. In 1910 the Royal Standard Music Hall was bought by Alfred Butt, the manager of the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue (and of many more theatres over the following years), and pulled down. One year later, on 6th November 1911, the Victoria Palace Theatre opened its doors. Designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham, at a cost of £12,000 (a hefty sum at the time), it was one of the West End's finest venues. Since then the Victoria Palace has staged many popular, often light-hearted productions, from plays to varieties to musicals. For more information, visit the page of the excellent Music Hall and Theatre History Site dedicated to the Victoria Palace Theatre.

The Victoria Palace Theatre used a whole range of media to advertise its shows, from posters in the streets to adverts in newspapers. In Parsons Green, there was even a large painted sign, with the same message repeated twice, although both parts may not have been painted at the same time. The targets of the upper part were the commuters waiting on the station platforms or travelling on the Wimbledon branch of the District Line. As some of the eastward trains headed towards Victoria this was not a bad place. From the street level, unless one really makes an effort to look up, this part is hidden by the railway bridge. This is why the name of the theatre and what it offered was also painted on the lower part of the wall. Having said that, the typefaces are different. This is particularly noticeable with "Victoria Palace": the lower version looks more recent than the upper one (it also looks less elaborate, or perhaps more streamlined).
Unfortunately much of the upper sign has disappeared, but it is still possible to identify the theatre venue. However whatever was to the right of the name has faded too much to distinguish anything more than a couple of letters

Varierty At Its Best
... Twice Nightly ... [*]
Victoria Palace
Opposite Victoria Station

*: the times of the shows have faded too much but may have been 6.15 and 8.50.

For the rest of the ghost sign, see the picture below.

Victoria Palace
Opposite Victoria station
6.15 Twice Nightly 8.50

"Twice" is virtually written above "Nightly" but while the letters of the former progressively shrink, those of the latter expand.
Show times are the same as those on a leaflet printed in 1925. Back then the Victoria Palace was showing mostly varieties and this ghost sign may have been painted around that time.

In the lower right corner is the name of the company that painted this sign:
Longmans Billpost... [Billposting Ltd]

Longmans Billposting Ltd was an advertising company based in Chelsea. The London Street Directory shows in 1921 their office was located at 474, Kings Road. The company's name can bee seen above a wooden fence it placed its posters on, on a picture taken in 1943. Although Longmans Billposting Ltd was mentioned in a 1981 report by the Competition Commission, the company has since disappeared.

Below is a close-up of the upper sign.

Location: Parsons Green Lane / Pictures taken in October 2008

Monday, 19 March 2012

R. Hewett Limited, Acton

Richard John Hewett started as a builder and builders' merchant in 1900, if the date painted on the façade of this house in Acton is to be believed. The workshop itself was located in Acton Green, a kilometre south of Acton. The company traded under the name "R. J. Hewett" and by the mid-1910 consisted of a partnership between Richard John Hewett and William Spelter Alger. This partnership was dissolved in May 1916. Three years later, Richard J. Hewett was back in business and The Builder could inform its readers that "R. Hewett Ltd" had been "registered on 13th January 1919 to acquire and carry on the business of builder and decorator." Therefore the ghost sign was painted after that date, on what may have been Richard John Hewett's home. Or was it? Richard J. Hewett died on 28th June 1935. At the time of his death, he lived in Creswick Road, a few streets away from the house below. The death of its founder did not mark the end of the company, which continued trading possibly under the leadership of Richard's two sons, Frank Walter and Arthur Cecil. It seems R. Hewett Ltd left the Cleveland Works in Acton Green in the 1950s and moved to Britannia Way, Park Royal. The last time the company's name appeared in a publication currently available online was in 1962, in Country Life.

R. Hewett, Limited.
Builders & Decorators
Contractors for Renovations,
Drainage & Alterations.
Cleveland Works, Acton Green, W.4.
Phone 37 Chiswick

Location: Langley Drive / Pictures taken in July 2011

Friday, 16 March 2012

R. Ellis, Stoke Newington

An online search for ironmongers trading on both Northwold Road and Brooke Street (the name of the road before 1912) didn't return any relevant result. Thus, for now, we'll have to assume the only memory left by R. Ellis is this ghost sign.

R. Ellis,
Stove Range
& Bath Boiler
Gas Fitter
& Plumber.
House Repairs
Estd 60 Years

Location: Northwold Road / Picture taken in April 2008

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Distillerie, Rochefort

Located near the former arsenal and harbour of Rochefort in the French département of Charente-Maritime, this distillery may have done quite a lot of business with the navy.


A closer look reveals this ghost sign was painted over an earlier one but I haven't managed to decipher anything more than a few letters. Additionally, even though it isn't clearly visible at first sight, what may have been the name of the distillery appears in an oval on the left.

La Corderie

This name was taken from the Corderie royale, the town's most famous building, situated just across the road and defense wall from the distillery. This remarkable landmark was built between 1666 and 1669 on a sill plate made of oak floating on mud. As the name suggests, this was where the ropes for the vessels of the French navy were manufatured. Rope-making continued until 1928. Nowadays the 374 metre-long Corderie houses the Centre International de la Mer.

Location: Rue Pierre Toufaire, Rochefort, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken in August 2011

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Knight's butcher and poulterer, Godstone

Ghost signs are rarely found in locations as idyllic as the one below (even if all the traffic passing through the charming little village of Godstone in Surrey can be quite nightmarish).

The vast village green, with cricket ground and pond, is surrounded by some well-preserved historic buildings, including a row of 18th century houses.

In the 19th century a tent porch hood as well as horizontal shutters were added to the house on the left. Was it already a butcher's shop when this happened? A picture taken in 1898 shows the front porch but there is nothing to indicate that a butcher's had moved in yet. By then the brick façade had not been painted white and there was no sign either on the façade itself or hanging from it.

Butcher & Poulterer
Est. 1591

Did the origins of this business really go as far as 1591? The oldest reference I could find dates from 1908. That year the partnership between Robert George Knight and William Sandiford, who carried on business as butchers in Caterham and Godstone under the name "R. G. Knight" came to an end. A later testimony mentions that Knight's was trading from the shop in front of the village pond by the mid-20th century.
In 1990 locals could still buy their meat and poultry there as a picture from that year illustrates. However, since then, Knight's closed down and the house is now home to a clothes shop. After witessing the disappearance of the "Refreshments" ghost sign in Oxted earlier on Sunday, it was rather reassuring to see that the current owners had decided it was worth keeping Knight's sign.

Location: High Street, Godstone, Surrey / Pictures taken in March 2012

Monday, 12 March 2012

Refreshments, Oxted (R.I.P.)

This ghost sign used to greet passengers leaving Oxted station by the west entrance. However yesterday as we got off the train for a hike through the Surrey countryside, I noticed a small scafolding was standing in front of it and two workers were filling the space with fresh cement, after the layer on which the sign had been painted had obviously been removed.

Location: Station Road West, Oxted, Surrey / Picture taken in August 2008

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Salvation Army, St Luke's

Near the western end of Old Street, a large ghost sign reminds people that the building in which the housing and homelessness charity Shelter is based was once a hostel run by the Salvation Army.

It appears the Salvation Army, the Church and charitable movement founded in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth, moved to Old Street in 1890. They took possession of a former brewery and within its walls set up an 'elevator', a factory where, in exchange for a day's work, men would be entitled to a full food ticket. Those who did not work hard enough would only get a fraction of the ration or could even be sent away. Around 500 men worked there. Many lived there too, although some slept and ate at the shelter in Quaker Street in Shoreditch, less than a mile away. The main meal of the day was breakfast, which in 1893 consisted of "four enormous pieces of bread with jam, marmalade or margarine, and a pint of tea or coffee." Those with a dainty apetite could swap two pieces of bread and the jam for a piece of pressed beef. Work carried out at the Old Street 'elevator' included cutting wood, making mattresses and brushes, sorting out and mending old clothes, and sorting out papers. However the old brewery was in a dilapidated state and the 'elevator' closed soon afterwards when the Salvation Army opened 'elevator III' in Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel. The Salvation Army then rented the building but on terms that left it free to re-occupy the site whenever the Army's Social Department could find the funds to refurbish it. This clause was certainly enforced as in 1900 the Salvation Army announced it was about to build a hostel with accomodation for 450 people in Old Street at a cost of £25,000. It seems the original plan was to provide shelter to women rather than men. Maybe that was the case when the hostel opened but, as the ghost sign indicates, women were later replaced by men.
The Missionary Tea Warehouse was also based in the new building and a warehouse was erected at the back, with an entrance on Garrett Street. Packs of tea sold under the label 'Triumph' were stocked and dispatched from there. Profits generated by the sale of 'Triumph' tea, as well as of the other brands of the Salvation Army's Missionary Tea League, went to extend missionary work in the UK and abroad.

Hostel For
Working Men
Cheap Beds
And Food

The hostel certainly closed in 1969 or shortly before. Indeed The Estate Gazette announced that year that the Salvation Army had sold its hostel for men on Old Street as well as the warehouse at the back.

Location: Old Street / Pictures taken in March 2008

Goodbye to True Form, Wimbledon

Not quite R.I.P. for the True Form ghost sign on Wimbledon Broadway but my guess is it won't reappear for some years. The brand new billboard that hides it is even larger than the one that covered it a few years ago. For the text of the ghost sign and some information about the True-Form Boot Company, please go to the original post.

March 2008

February 2009

March 2012

Location: The Broadway

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Elli's florist, Holloway

March 8th marks International Women's Day. The aim of this day is to raise awareness of the discriminations far too many women suffer from around the world and of their struggles to end these, and to celebrate women's achievements. In several countries women are traditionally offered flowers by their husband, boyfriend, or father and in some cases even by their employers (although that person may still deny them the right to earn the same wage as their male colleagues). So if men around Holloway are looking for a shop where to get some flowers, why not try the one below?

Florist ..
Fresh Cut
Flowers Daily
& Tributes
0171.272 8217

This sign was painted between 1995 and 2000. Indeed the area code 0171 for Inner London only existed for five years. Before 1995 it was 071 and since 2000 it has been 0207.
For a sign that is so recent, it is rather worrying that it is already peeling off.

Location: Holloway Road / Picture taken in January 2012

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Kate Miller, Godalming

Unfortunately I haven't found any information about Kate Miller's shop. It was located in The Old House, a historic building she shared with other businesses. Part of the building appears often on old photographs but because most photographers stood on the same side of the street, they do not show enough of the façade to see what was on display in the front window.

Location: Church Street, Godalming, Surrey / Picture taken in May 2011

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Amateurs, Kampot

The small Cambodian town of Kampot, known around the world for its pepper, lies on the narrow coastal plain that stretches between the Gulf of Thailand and the Phnom-Damrei (Elephant Moutains). The town as it is at present owes much of its appearance to the French, who turned Kompong-Bay, a village largely populated by Chinese, into the administrative and commercial centre of the coastal region from the mid-1880s onward. In spite of the devastation brought about by the Cambodian civil war, the Khmer Rouge regime and the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, much of the colonial architecture survived. The majority of buildings are of the classic two-storey ‘Chinese shophouse’ design, with slight differences in façade styles. The twenty-seven built on the riverside in 1901 were among the first ones. Over the following years dozens more were constructed along the streets further away from the river.

Regardless of the particular design of the façade, some space was always available between the two floors for shopkeepers and tradesmen to paint the name and nature of their business. If the buildings are still standing, albeit sometimes in a dilapidated state, very few painted signs remain and those that do are very faded. One of the "best" preserved ones is this rather puzzling ghost sign written in French.

Amateurs agrandissement

These two words on their own clearly don't make any sense (agrandissement means enlargement). Since there is not enough space above or underneath, I suppose this ghost sign began on the façade to the left and extended to the one to the right. Unfortunately, as shown on the photo below, the former was completely rebuilt recently. As for the latter it still bears tiny traces of black paint but it is impossible to decipher anything at all. If I were to hazard a guess regarding the business advertised there, I would go for a photographer, who maybe also sold a couple of cameras to amateurs (given the limited solvable demand in town and the surrounding area, this can't have accounted for much)? Agrandissement can also be translated as expansion or extension but here I think it refers to photo enlargement.
Unless some old picture of the street emerges, I am afraid what the complete sign said will remain a mystery.

Location: Kampot / Pictures taken in December 2011

Monday, 5 March 2012

Coal office, King's Cross

The Victorian industrial landscape immediately to the north of King's Cross station has been undergoing dramatic changes over the past few years and once its redevelopment is complete, this part of London will be barely recognizable, even if many buildings will be preserved. These include the former Fish and Coal Offices, which rise over the Regent's Canal. This group of buildings, which housed the offices of the goods yards as well as some storage space, certainly dates from the 1850s. They were identified by very basic painted signs. Following the completion of the Great Northern Railway, goods from the north of England and Scotland were brought to the railway yards and warehouses that mushroomed in the area and transferred onto barges and horse-drawn carts for distribution around London.

According to the developers of King's Cross Central, the Fish and Coal Offices and the adjacent arches on Wharf Road will house a food and drink 'cluster.'


Location: Wharf Road / Pictures taken in June 2011

Friday, 2 March 2012

Sunlight and Lifebuoy, Willesden

In an earlier post about a Willesden cash store, I mentioned that much of the space available was used to advertise goods on sale inside. While R. White's soft drinks were confined to the wall by the entrance, the whole façade was promoting Lever Brothers' best selling soaps, Sunlight and Lifebuoy. Some information about the company, its products, and how it was at the forefront of product placement in movies can be found in previous posts about Sunlight ghost signs spotted in Clapham Junction and Upper Clapton.

Largest Sale
In The World

Unfortunately whatever was written to the left of the window has faded too much to be able to read anything.

Apart from those mentioned above, other Sunlight ghost signs on this blog include examples from Ravenscourt Park and Highbury.

Location: Villiers Road / Pictures taken in: November and December 2011

Thursday, 1 March 2012

R.I.P Canham, East Sheen

I already posted a picture of the Canham ghost sign below a couple of years ago but if I revisit it today it is because, alas, it is no more. As I was walking along Sheen Lane I noticed the brick façade of the building as well as the side wall where the ghost sign was located had been given a thick coat of paint. What a shame!
As a result of this act of vandalism, all that is left of this former draper and haberdasher's is a window with a list of some of the products available engraved. The shop was located at the corner of Sheen Lane and St Leonard's Road, fifty metres away from the ghost sign. Since then the building has been divided between a cafe/restaurant and some flats at the back. Fortunately the owner of one of these flats had the good idea of preserving the original window. I suppose there were more like this one, listing other goods sold by Canham, but they are all gone.

& Ha... [Haberdasher]

Location: Sheen Lane / Picture taken in May 2008