Friday, 31 August 2012

Aerlec (Aluminium) Ltd, Birmingham

Bond Street is home to many fashionable and expensive shops. But that's Bond Street, London. In Birmingham, Bond Street runs through a largely unattractive industrial area to the north west of the city center. However for those interested in industrial archeology the area isn't without interest and Constitution Hill nearby has some good examples of Victorian architecture.

Over the years companies have come and gone but some of them have left their marks on the buildings. One of these was Aerlec (Aluminium) Ltd, which was temporarily based in Bond Street.
As the name suggests, it was a manufacturer of aluminium alloy. It also stocked sheets, rods and tubes. The company is first mentioned in 1939 in two journals for the aviation industry. Indeed airplane manufacturers and plane maintenance companies seem to have been its main customers.

(Aluminium) Ltd

Birmingham was heavily bombed during the Second World War and this may have prompted Aerlec (Aluminium) Ltd to relocate to Stoke Wharf, just south of Bromsgrove in Worcestershire. Another reason for the relocation may have been the sale in 1942 by G. S. James, the company's chairman and managing director, of all his shares to British Emulsifiers Ltd for £450,000. The acquisition of Aerlec allowed British Emulsifier Ltd to secure a continuous supply of aluminium alloy.
Aerlec (Aluminium) Ltd continued to trade under its name throughout the second half of the 1940s and most of the 1950s, supplying semi-fabricated aluminium aircraft components. In 1954 the company was sold to Metals & Ores Ltd, which kept the name for another four years but then seems to have dropped it as there are no more mentions of Aerlec in the press after 1958. Metals & Ores moved out of Bromsgrove at some point. The site of the former Aerlec factory is still known as the Metals & Ores trading estate.

This ghost sign must date from the late 1930s as it seems Aerlec (Aluminium) Ltd did not stay in Birmingham for long.

Location: Bond Street / Pictures taken in May 2012

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Removals, Thornton Heath

Relatively few ghost signs include an illustration, which makes the one below in Thornton Heath all the more special.

Most of this ghost sign has faded but the central part was certainly hidden behind a hoarding for a while, hence its much better state.

Unfortunately I haven't found any information that could be relevant and tell us more about this ghost sign. [Furniture?] Repository
Removals to all Parts by
Road ...

In the central part of the sign, the painter has represented a fairly typical horse-drawn furniture van, known as a pantechnicon, from the 19th century. Only the horses are missing. It is very similar to the one that appears on William Francis Freelove's drawing of such a van.

To all Parts
George Coe's
Furniture Van

Location: High Street / Pictures taken in August 2012

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Kay's Motors, West Norwood

Further down the road from the Brymay ghost sign that reemerged recently, the one for Kay's Motors has experienced an opposite fate. The car dealership that owns the courtyard and the building next door has put its sign higher on the wall and painted the lower part of the ghost sign in white. Not RIP but quite an amputation!

For more on this ghost sign (actually ghost signs since this is a real palimpsest), including what was written, please visit the original Kay's Motors post.

Location: Norwood High Street / Picture taken in August 2012

Monday, 27 August 2012

Brymay, West Norwood

Some weeks ago the removal of a hoarding revealed the missing part of the Nestlé ghost sign in Clapham. In West Norwood, it is a Brymay ghost sign that has now fully reemerged.

March 2010

The blue and yellow colours are characteristics of Brymay's signs but the wording is slightly different from that of the better-known ghost sign from New Cross.

British Matches for British Homes
Safety Matches
Bryant & May Ltd


The Brymay sign was painted over an earlier one for the Westminster Gazette. For some information about this Liberal newspaper, please see the earlier post about the Criterion, Westminster Gazette, and Gillette ghost sign in Stoke Newington.

Location: Norwood Road / Pictures taken in March 2010 and August 2012

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Suze, Lille

Never two without three. After Bonal and St Raphaël, the Rue du Molinel was bound to have a third ghost sign for an aperitif. This time it is for Suze, France's leading gentian-based drink.

For some information about Suze, you can refer to an earlier post about a ghost sign seen in Saintes.

The name of the company that managed this wall appears below the advert itself. It was repainted at the same time as the Suze sign.

à la gentiane
Emp. réservé [Reserved Space *]
Paris - Lille

*: Emp. stands for Emplacement.

Location: Rue du Molinel, Lille

Friday, 24 August 2012

St-Raphaël, Lille

The side walls and gables of the tall residential blocks of Lille provided many opportunities for large adverts. This particular wall was painted on two occasions at least and even if the ghost signs have badly faded, it is still possible to recognize one particular brand of aperitif: Saint-Raphaël.

For some information on cinchona-based Saint-Raphaël, please see the post about the ghost sign in Rigny-Ussé.

Another product was advertised there but I managed to identify the word 'Royale' only.

St Raphaël
... Royale
Le ...

Location: Rue du Molinel, Lille, Nord / Pictures taken in June 2012

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Aux caves des bouchers, Lille

Two different stores left their names on the façade of this building before 'Aux caves des bouchers' did the same but since the letters are all jumbled up, it is not possible to recognize anything more than just a couple here and there.

I have not found anything about 'Aux caves des bouchers', most certainly a wine merchant's shop, which simply took its name from the street it was in. Considering the blue colour for the background and the typeface used, this ghost sign may well date from the late 19th or early 20th century.

Location: Rue des bouchers, Lille, Nord / Pictures taken in June 2012

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bonal, Lille

As we walked from the train station to our hotel earlier this year, I could hardly miss this ghost sign looming high above the Rue du Molinel in the city of Lille.

Several aperitifs, such as Dubonnet, St Raphaël, or Byrrh, contain cinchona while gentian is the key ingredient of Suze. The combination of both cinchona and gentian root, together with herbs on a mistelle base is at the heart of another French aperitf: Bonal.

The recipe was elaborated in 1865 by Hypolite Bonal, a former novice at the Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the Carthusian order. In 1858 Bonal, who studied medicine to become the monastery's doctor and was about to become a monk, was called to a village nearby to help a woman deliver her child. Since the strict rules of the Carthusians prevented contact with outsiders, he was expelled from the monastery and settled in Saint-Laurent-du-Pont, where he opened a medical practice and later a chemist's shop. Both for his job and out of interest he studied the plants growing in this part of the Alps and prepared different concoctions. In 1865, by combining gentian roots that had macerated for months in mistelle, with herbs from the surrounding mountains, cinchona root, and orange zest, he developed a drink that could be both refreshing and tonic. This drink, which he called La Raphäelle - Liqueur Bonal was first sold to locals but became rapidly popular outside the Alpine valleys (Brother Raphäel was going to be Bonal's name in the monastery. The drink became known simply as 'Bonal').

Gentiane - Quina

Over the following decades other aperitifs emerged from the distillery he had set up with the help of his wife in Saint-Laurent-du-Pont: Génépi des Alpes, Elixir and Arquebuse Saint-Bruno, but Bonal remained the most demanded. In 1907, two years before the death of Hypolite Bonal, Bonal became a limited company but remained controlled by the family.

The inter-war years corresponded to the heyday of Bonal. In the 1930s the company produced 7,000 litres of aperitifs a day and employed 100 people in its distillery. For its advertising campaigns it relied on celebrities of the day as well as a bold posters by some of the most famous designers, including Cassandre (who also designed some of the best posters for Dubonnet) and Charles Lemmel. Cassandre's poster cleverly showed a man drinking from a bottle of Bonal with a giant key in his stomach, a reference to Bonal's slogan, "L'apéritif qui ouvre l'appétit" (litterally "The aperitif that opens the appetite"). Contrary to Cassandre's stringent geometric work in clear Art Deco style, Lemmel included typical Alpine scenery in several posters from the late 1930s (here, here, here, and here). In the 1950s Lemmel designed a new series of posters for Bonal, illustrating another of the company's slogan "L'ami des sportifs" ("The sportsmen's friend"). Sports represented included football, rugby, basket ball, cycling, horse riding, bowling, and boxing (see some here).

However after the Second World War sales of Bonal, and of other gentian and cinchona aperitifs, began to decline sharply as the younger generation adopted whiskies and aniseed-flavoured drinks instead. While many of its competitors joined forces and even merged to strengthen their positions, the Bonal family tried to go it alone. This lack of vision led to the collapse of the company. In 1976 the distillery in Saint-Laurent-du-Pont closed down. Bonal was then acquired by the Société Dolin, maker of the Dolin vermouth in Chambéry. Bonal is still available nowadays but sales remain modest.

This painted sign for Bonal was the first ghost sign I saw in Lille. Over the following days I'll post some more from this city.

Location: Rue du Molinel, Lille, Nord / Pictures taken in June 2012

Friday, 17 August 2012

Hotel Roßthaler Hof, and Julius Krümling, Dresden

A day in Dresden that had begun with the colourful ghost sign for the garages of Hotel Burgberg ended with another one, this time on the façade of a derelict building facing the railway tracks near Dresden Mitte station.

According to the list established by the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Sachsen (Saxony's Office for the Preservation of Momuments and Historic Buildings) the building at Roßthaler Straße 1 dates from around 1870. Back then this residential block was located on the northern bank of the Weißeritz, a short tributary of the Elbe which ran through the Wilsdruffer Vorstadt neighbourhood, to the north west of the inner city.

However at the end of the 19th century, the authorities in Dresden decided to modify the lower course of the Weißeritz as the river was prone to flood. Therefore when the railway tracks between Dresden Hauptbahnhof (Dresden Central station) on the left bank of the Elbe and Dresden-Neustadt station on the opposite bank were relaid, it was diverted further north by means of a canal in order to avoid further floodings and damage to the railway arches. The earth excavated during the works was used to fill in the river bed. The current Marienbrücke of the railway stands roughly at the former confluence of the Weißeritz and the Elbe.

Following these works the street took its current appearance and in 1903 was named Roßthaler, after Roßthal, by then a small village 5 km southwest of Dresden city centre. I don't know when this residential block was transformed into a hotel but if the Hotel Roßhaler Hof was the first one there it can be assumed this was after 1903.

Indeed there is no information on the web about this hotel. There may be something in the book Die Wilsdruffer Vorstadt-Seevorstadt West, part of the excellent series Aus der Geschichte eines Dresdner Stadtteils, but it was unavailable last time I was in Dresden.

Unfortunately the building has been empty for two decades at least (a picture taken in 1992 shows it was already abandoned) and its future is uncertain. Indeed even though the former Roßthaler Hof and the buildings next door are listed, in 2006 surveyors recommended they be demolished on the grounds that they were structurally unsound and the cost of restoring them would be far too high. Nothing was done straight away but in 2010 in spite of the concerns of the Linke (The Left) and the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance '90/The Greens) groups on the council about the future of the Roßthaler Straße buildings, the mayor confirmed they would be demolished. This was not the end though as Bündnis 90/Die Grünen challenged the measure and this bought time for a private investor to be found who agreed to finance the restoration of the buildings at Roßthaler Straße 1 and 2 (number 2 is on the left on the pictures above) and Schweriner Straße 63 (on the right. The entrance is just round the corner, hence the different street address).

Julius Krümling
Fluss- Kanal- Schiffahrts- Reederei
[lit. River and Canal Navigation Shipping Company]

Hotel Roßthaler Hof Hotel

Apart from those for the Hotel Roßthaler Hof, ghost signs for the shipping company Julius Krümling can also be seen on the façade. The company was founded in Magdeburg in September 1914, shortly after the beginning of the First World War, by Prussian sea captain Julius Krümling. It became rapidly an important shipping company, with offices in Hamburg, Stettin (present-day Szczecin, in Poland), Danzig (present-day Gdańsk, in Poland), Berlin, Breslau (present-day Wrocław, in Poland), Dresden, Hannover, Duisburg-Ruhrort and Rotterdam. It operated a fleet of steamships (16 at least), motor boats, tugboats, and barges that carried goods not only along the Elbe, the Rhine and the canals of Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium but also towards the harbours of East Prussia and of other countries surrounding the Baltic Sea.
In 1925 the name of the company was changed from Julius Krümling to Reederei A. G. (vormals Julius Krümling). The deep economic crisis that hit Germany in the immediate aftermath of the 1929 Wall Street crash dealt it a fatal blow. It was declared bankrupt in 1930 and its properties were seized.

This ghost sign was certainly painted not long after Julius Krümling was registered in 1914. Did the company have its offices while the hotel was open? Or did it precede or came after the hotel?

Click on the pictures below for an enlarged version.

Ghost signs can also be found above the ground floor windows and entrance. This part was painted on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately I haven't managed to decipher everything.
The first picture below shows the complete façade, reconstituted by stitching seven pictures together. The following ones show parts of it. Click on each to enlarge.

Gaststätte Roßthaler Hof ... ... Hausschlachterei
[Roßthal Court Inn ... ... Butcher's]

Apart from the palimpsest that includes Hausschlachterei (Butcher's) above the door, traces of other painted signs can be seen by the entrance to the building but only the two on the left pillar can still be read. As they overlap, one was painted before the other but it is hard to tell which one came first.

Tel. 2582.

The word Fremdenglocke is mostly found in texts from the 19th and early 20th centuries (and obviously on this ghost sign!) and could be translated either as doorbell or visitors' bell.

Finally two ghost signs can be read between some of the windows. As vegetation grows in front of the second one, two pictures were needed to get it all.



This last ghots sign looks remarkably recent, or at least less old than all the others. It may well date from the GDR period.

Next time I'll be in Dresden I'll try to go and check whether the building that housed the offices of Julius Krümling and the Hotel Roßthaler Hof is still standing and if the restoration work supposed to be carried out by the private investor has been sympathetic to the ghost signs on the façade. If not all that would be left of them would be some pictures.

Location: Roßthaler Straße, Dresden, Sachsen / Pictures taken in October 2011

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Spratt's dog food, Acton

People who, unlike me, are into dogs may remember the name Spratt's, a brand of dog biscuits that fed generations of animals.

It is said US citizen James Spratt got the idea of producing biscuits for dogs when he noticed stray dogs eating discarded hardtacks in the Liverpool (or London) dockyards. Until then most dogs ate table scraps but Spratt's genius was to convince dog owners they needed to replace leftovers with something more expensive for the sake of their animals' health. In 1861 he established a company in London to manufacture and sell his patented dog biscuits that combined blended wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot and meat. His two main targets were sportsmen, who needed to give something convenient to their hunting dogs while in the open, and wealthy pet lovers.

In 1866, Spratt recruited a fourteen year old boy: Charles Cruft. Over the following decades, Cruft rose from office boy to general manager before moving on to run his own dog show business. The marketing and advertising flair of both Spratt and Cruft ensured the success of Spratt's Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes. The company made full use of its endorsement by royals and other leading public figures and relied on a wide range of supports to promote its products, from full page advertising in the specialized press to cigarette cards and billboards. From 1878 it was also organising dog shows. In the 1870s the company set up a subsidiary in the US, just as the country was embarking on a love affair with dogs.

Spratt died in 1880, a few years after selling his business to Edward Wylan. In 1885 its legal status changed when Spratt's Patent Limited was registered. The company continued to expand, offering food for each stage in the dog's life, plus a whole variety of special foods linked to the activity level of a dog and its health. In 1899 it built in Poplar, East London, what remained for decades the largest pet food factory in the world. Under Cruft's management Spratt's Patent Ltd ventured into the game bird and poultry food markets. It also produced a range of accessories for cats and dogs.


A. H. Payne& Seed
Dog, Poultry &
Cage Bird Foods

For a few decades the dog food market on both sides of the Atlantic was largely dominated by Spratt's but over time competitors appeared. Still it retained a strong position throughout the first half of the 20th century but in 1950 the US subsidiary was sold to General Mills. Then in 1960 Spratt's Patent Ltd was bought for £3.94 m by Spillers one of its main competitors. In 1968 Spillers reorganized its operations and in the process changed the name of Spratt's to Spratt's Patent (Holdings) Ltd. In 1972 it was changed again, this time to Spillers Food Ltd. In 1979 Spillers was acquired by Australian company Dalgety. However in the 1990s Dalgety was badly affected by the BSE crisis in the UK and disposed of several of its branches, including Spillers, which was bought by Nestlé for £715 m in 1997.
The Spratt's brand, which had survived in spite of these changes, was finally discontinued in 2008.

Unfortunately I haven't found any trace of A. H. Payne's food and seed stores anywhere. This may have provided some information about the age of this ghost sign. Without that, all we can rely on is the style of the lettering. My guess, looking in particular at the Payne's part, is it was painted around the last decade of the 19th century or the first one of the 20th century but I may be wrong. It any case this ghost sign is amazingly well preserved!

Spratt's food for animals wasn't the only ghost sign on this wall. Another name, written diagonally in large letters can also be seen:


Yet I haven't found what kind of business or product that was. If anyone has any information, please leave a comment.

Location: Acton Lane / Pictures taken in July 2011

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Davis & Son, Dorchester

At first sight it didn't look as if I would stumble upon a ghost sign in South Walks Road. But as we made our way towards St Georges Church in Fordington I spotted a puzzling one at the end of a row of houses built in 1886 (to the right of the pole with all the wires).

The building firm R. Davis & Son is mentioned in several journals, such as The Builder or The Architect, published between 1872 and 1900. It must have been a reliable and relatively large company as they were awarded some important contracts, including the construction of Dorchester Grammar School, of the Methodist Church in South Street, Dorchester, or of baths and wash houses in Bristol. Over time Davis & Son worked with several well-known architects such as George Edmund Street. The firm's offices were in Trinity Street, in the centre of Dorchester. The house where the ghost sign can be seen, half a mile to the east, may have been R. Davis's home or that of his son.

R. Davis & Son
Builders & Contractors Brick & Tile Makers
Offices ...8 Trinity St. Dorchester

What makes this sign slightly puzzling is the two lowest rows of bricks, above the passageway. Click on the picture below for a closer look to see what I mean!

Part of the wall has obviously been rebuilt, using the original bricks. However they haven't been placed in the same order, and some have been turned upside down while other have their previously hidden side exposed and vice versa. As a result, whatever was written in the lower part of the ghost sign is now a bit of a jigsaw!

The picture below shows those bricks on which something was written.

Below I tried to reconstitute whatever could have been written. The only word I am sure of is the first one, 'Yards.'

...d Maynard ?
...d Mard... ?
Blanford ?
...At B...

If you can think of other combinations, please let me know through the comments box. And in case you wondered, this is not the only example of a ghost sign jigsaw.

Location: South Walks Road, Dorchester, Dorset / Pictures taken in May 2011