Monday, 29 October 2012

Tawny's, Swanage

The ghost sign for Washeteria presented yesterday isn't the only one on this wall above Swanage High Street. However, while the launderette closed down in 2000, Tawny's Wine Bar is still going strong.

Opened in 1982, this venue offers locals and visitors to the seaside town a good range of drinks and food. Live music is occasionally performed as well.

Wine Bar
Good Food And Wine
At Very Reasonable Prices
Lunchtime and Evenings
52 High Street

Note the arrow was originally straight. This was certainly not the intended design and when the sign writer realised it, he modified it straight away.

Location: High Street, Swanage, Dorset / Pictures taken in October 2011

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Washeteria, Swanage

The sign looks relatively recent but the launderette it promotes shut down a few years ago. Indeed Washeteria Ltd was dissolved in October 2000, shortly before the company celebrated its third anniversary. Thus, this ghost sign may well have been painted in October 1997 or shortly afterwards. Unless of course there was already a launderette before the incorporation of the company, in which case this ghost sign may be a few years older (but given its design by not more than a decade I's say).

Kings Road
100 Yards

Location: High Street, Swanage, Dorset / Picture taken in October 2011

Friday, 26 October 2012

Goods station and offices, St Pancras

Here is a ghost sign that almost made it to the cinemas in 1967! Almost because the camera only caught the lower part of the sign, first when Frank jumps out of a car being chased by the police following the robbery of some diamonds, and second when the police car passes under the railway tracks leading to St Pancras a couple of seconds later. This happens in Robbery, a movie loosely based on the Great Train Robbery (the sign first appears at 0:14:19).

On the picture below, underneath the main ghost sign, a dark blue-ish rectangle can be seen. By now it has deteriorated so much it is impossible to make anything out of it. However that's the part that appeared in the movie and one could clearly read:

I haven't found what this sign referred to.

Of the ghost sign visible nowadays only a tiny part can be seen in the movie. However upon close examination, it appears that what is in the movie and what can still be read today don't match. In the film, even though the first word on the last line is truncated, it clearly starts with a 'A' and that doesn't fit at all with 'Offices.' This indicates that in the 1960s another sign, with white letters on a crimson background, covered the ghost sign I photographed.

LMS [?]

I am not absolutely sure of what was written on the first line, with the exception of the 'S' at the end. Since the rest of the ghost sign clearly refers to railway facilities, it can be assumed it would be the name or rather initials of the company. In that's case the only one that would fit is the London, Midland and Scottish or LMS.

On 1 January 1923 the London and North Western, the Midland, the North Staffordshire, and the Furness Railways in England, and the Caledonian, Glasgow and South Western, and Highland Railways in Scotland merged to form the LMS. In London the LMS operated out of two terminals, Euston and St Pancras. Built by the Midland Railway, St Pancras was a vast complex that included not only the famous passenger station but also the large Somers Town Goods Depot (demolished to make way for the new British Library) and many yards and sidings (an aerial picture taken in 1957 gives an idea of the omnipresence of the railways in that part of London). Together with the other three railway companies operating in Britain, the LMS was nationalised in 1948 and became the Midland Region and part of the Scottish Region of British Railways. Following the nationalisation, it is very likely the original LMS sign was altered if not, as the movie shows, completely painted over by a new one. Therefore, if 'LMS' is really what was written, this sign was painted between 1923 and 1947.

The only intriguing thing about this is that if this ghost sign pointed to Somers Town goods station, then it sent drivers on a bit of a journey round the neighbourhood. Unless there was some kind of one-way traffic or a specific route for lorries?

Location: Camley Street / Picture taken in August 2008

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Salvation Army, Windsor

Templar's Hall in Windsor was built in 1874 as a venue for public meetings, debates and lectures. One of the most famous speakers was the socialist and women's rights activist Annie Besant, who on 11th March 1890 gave a lecture on "Why we teach Socialism" to an enthusiastic audience. Apart from this there is relatively little information about Templar's Hall and certainly no document online linking it to the Salvation Army.

Yet this is where a ghost sign for the Church and charitable movement founded in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth can be found. Did the Salvation Army acquire or rent the hall on a long term basis at some point? This would explain the presence of this ghost sign.

For some information about the Salvation Army, please check the post about its ghost sign in St Luke's, London.


Location: St Leonard's Road, Windsor, Berkshire / Pictures take in March 2011

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Musikwaren, Stralsund

In the absence of any document it is impossible to tell when this ghost sign for Hermann Belter's music shop was painted.

Hermann Belter

The word "Musikwaren" means literally "music articles."

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

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Robinsons depositories, Birmingham

Robinsons' furniture depository in Birmingham was built in the early 1920s. At the time this huge warehouse was one of the most modern ones in Europe. Thanks to its powerful vehicle lift, the company's trucks could access all floors. During the Second World War nine incendiary bombs fell on the warehouse but the six inches of sand spread across the attics ensured it survived! By the late 1990s the warehouse was becoming too costly to operate. Robinsons built a new facility in the city and to put its original one on the market. Nowadays its been converted into flats. The sign was certainly repainted when work was carried out around 2002-2003.

Furniture Depositories

With regards to the removals and storaage company, it was founded by Alfred Robinson in Manchester in 1885. It is still controlled by his descendants.

Location: Moseley Road / Pictures taken in May 2012

Friday, 19 October 2012

And son, Birmingham

A building on Moseley Road, on the outskirts of Birmingham, has not one but two ghost signs, one on each side. The first one is the unique 75 year old sign for Butlin's holiday camp. As for the second one, so much of it has disappeared that it is impossible to link it to any business. The lettering, dark letters with a red shadow, would suggest it is even older than the Butlin's one but I cannot be sure.

& Son
C... ...
& H... ...
Of E...

Location: Moseley Road / Picture taken in May 2012

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Ladies and gents hairdresser, Birmingham

The elaborate ghost sign promoting F. Price's ladies and gents hairdressing saloon was painted over one, maybe even two, older signs. This is particularly visible on the first and last lines, which are a mumbo jumbo of traces of letters from each sign.

Ladies & Gents
F. Price

Location: Moseley Road / Pictures taken in May 2012

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Butlin's holiday camp, Birmingham

As this blog reaches its 600th post, I needed something special to mark the occasion. This why I take you once more to Birmingham for a rather rare sign for Butlin's from the late 1930s.

Take Your ...
Holiday Camp
Four Good Meals A Day,
Free Amusements,
All For
£2"5"0 per ... *

*: £2"5"0 is a pre-decimalisation (1971) price and would read as two pounds, five shillings and zero pence.

Another sign was painted on this space at some point but I have only been able to decipher a couple of letter at the same level as the horizontal black line:


Billy Butlin, who headed a funfair empire, opened his first holiday camp in Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast on April 11, 1936. It had rows of cabins for 1,000 campers and offered all sorts of fun activities throughout the day. Accommodation was relatively basic but at a time when most holidaymakers had to be out regardless of the weather because B&Bs closed during the day and had to pay extra for any attraction, the idea of an all inclusive camp was quite radical and tempting. Two years later another holiday camp opened in Clacton on the Essex coast, just in time for the first paid holidays for working-class employees (The Holiday with Pay Act, something Billy Butlin had been campaigning for, was passed in 1938). That year one of Butlin's slogans was "A week’s holiday for a week’s pay." More camps were planned but because of the Second World War these were handed to the military. Once the war was over, they were returned to Butlin's. Between 1945 and 1966, the company opened eight more camps, including one in Ireland and one in the Bahamas.

The heyday of Butlin's was between the early 1950s and early 1970s, when it was seen by many in Britain as the perfect resort for a family holiday. However, even if Butlin's share of the holiday market remained strong, by the 1960s cheap package holidays in the Mediterranean became available and an increasing number of families opted to leave the uncertainties of the British weather behind (and the slightly too regimented holiday camps of Butlin's and its competitors). Billy Butlin left the company in 1868. Four years later his son sold it the Rank Organisation, which proved unable to halt its decline. Several camps closed or were rebranded in the 1980s and the company's sold all the hotels it had bought or built over the previous two decades. In 1998 Butlin's was bought by Bourne Leisure. The new owners kept the brand for the three camps still in operation: Skegness, Bognor Regis and Minehead.

Since 1937, entertainers and stewards at Butlin's have been wearing the famous red jacket, hence their name Redcoats. However on this ghost sign, the entertainer wears a green jacket with white lapels and a white hat. In his raised hand he holds a drum stick while the drum is held by the two yellow straps (originally certainly brown) down his chest. With his round face, his smile and his moustache, he bears a resemblance to Billy Butlin.

Thanks to the presence of this character, the prices quoted and the fact that only the Skegness holiday camp is mentioned, we can get a pretty good idea when this ghost sign was painted. Even if the face and position of the body are different, the entertainer is very similar to the one featured on a 1937 poster for the LNER (London & North Eastern Railway). When Butlin's Skegness opened, prices for a week's holiday between July and September cost £2.12s.6d per adult (equivalent today to around £133) With inflation of 0.7% in 1936 and 3.4% in 1937, it is reasonable to assumed the price on the ghost sign corresponds to the 1937 or 1938 season (although for 1938 one might have expected Clacton to be advertised alongside Skegness). Finally if this ghost sign had been painted at a later date, the costume of the entertainer would certainly have been red as the Redcoats rapidly became one of Butlin's trademarks. Therefore this ghost sign must be 75 years old.

Location: Moseley Road / Pictures taken in May 2012

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Dry cleaners, Forest Hill

Unfortunately we may never know the full name of the dry cleaners as the upper part of this ghost sign has completely disappeared.

... [&] Sons

A closer look shows we are once more in the presence of a palimpsest. Two, possibly three, businesses advertised their trade on this wall.

A '/' indicates overlapping lines

.er M... / O...
M... / Mod...
A / Se... / S...
Tailor Corsets
Made of ...

Location: Dartmouth Road / Pictures taken in July 2009

Friday, 12 October 2012

Teas, Willesden

White lead oils & colors and tea don't go well together but ghost signs for both (and more) can be seen on the same building at the corner of High Road and Linacre Road in Willesden. Shops simply came and went, and some left their painted mark. As a result the space above the entrance, visible from far away, is a real palimpsest and is very difficult to decipher.

Try Our

The different typefaces would suggest the first line of this ghost sign does not relate to the drinks mentioned further down.

Location: High Road / Picture taken in August 2009

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Oils and colors, Willesden

Willesden still has a large number of ghost signs promoting a wide range of businesses and products including, opposite Saint Paul's Pianos, one for a shop that once sold white lead paints.

First employed around 400 BC, man-made white lead pigment remained widely used by artists and decorators until the 20th century, when its usage became restricted because of its toxicity.

White Lead
Oils & Colors
Paints & Polishes

Location: Linacre Road / Picture taken in August 2009

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Imperial Typewriter, Putney

A recent visit to Leeds Castle reminded me of a painted signage for an office furniture shop in Putney. The ghost sign below, painted on wood, could be seen for a few months while the shop was being restored prior to being put on the market. Unfortunately I don't think it was ever fully visible.

The Lyndon Co. Ltd.
Imperial Typewriter

The only mention of The Lyndon Co Ltd at its Putney address I could find dates from 1968. However, given the style of the painted sign, we can assume it had been selling office goods for a few decades. A company of the same name traded until a few years ago in Wandsworth High Street so maybe it had relocated there at some point. As the sign suggests, Lyndon was the Imperial Typewriter Company's local agent.

The Imperial Typewriter Company was established in Leicester in 1908 by Hidalgo Moya, an engineer who had been designing and selling typewriters since 1903. However his earlier models were not without problems and sales remained disappointing. In order to obtain the capital needed to develop a prototype that could conquer the office machine market, he founded Imperial Typewriter. The Imperial Model A was released in 1908 and remained in production until 1915. Other models followed. In 1927, with Imperial Model 50, Imperial Typewriter finally abandoned the three-bank keyboard in favour of the much more popular four-bank one.

In 1932 the company launched its first portable typewriter. This machine, originally developed in partnership with German company Torpedo, was to be called Regent but apparently the success of J. B. Priestley's The Good Companions led to a last minute rethink and after an agreement had been found with the writer, the portable typewriter adopted the name The Good Companion. Priestley was given the first one, while one was sold to Buckingham Palace. As a consequence, Imperial Typewriter was allowed to feature the coat of arms of King George V with the mention "By Royal Appointment" on its machines. The Good Companion, in its seven different designs, remained in production until 1963, making it the most successful portable typwriter at the time.
In 1953 Imperial Typewriter opened a new factory in Hull for its portable machines while the ones for office use continued to be manufactured in Leicester. However by the 1960s the company was facing growing competition and losing ground to cheaper models from the far east and mainland Europe.
In 1966 Imperial Typewriter was acquired by US company Litton Industries through its Royal Typewriter division. Litton kept the Imperial brand for a few years but it disappeared eventually in the 1970s. The Leicester plant closed down in 1974.

I remembered this ghost sign when, while at Leeds Castle, I noticed the Daily Sketch from June 19, 1940, carried on its from page an advert for the Imperial Typewriter Company. Then, in another room, a model of The Good Companion sat on a desk.

Location: Upper Richmond Road / Pictures taken in January 2011 and October 2012

Monday, 8 October 2012

Vidal, Lille

Doorstep mosaics may be less frequent in France than in Britain but some good examples can still be seen around, like this one in the centre of Lille.

Location: Rue Saint-Nicolas, Lille, Nord / Picture taken in June 2012

Friday, 5 October 2012

Ray's barber shop, Uckfield

This colourful painted sign near the top of Uckfield High Street is hard to miss with its bright red!

A good example of a modern sign with a retro look, enhanced by the 'A' of 'Barber.'


I wonder whether the ghost sign for Kingsley's Court Hairdresser in Haslemere was as colourful when painted in 1920.

Location: High Street, Uckfield, East Sussex / Pictures taken in September 2012

Thursday, 4 October 2012

J. J. Fuller, Acton

This ghost sign, by the former London & South Western Railway line (now the North London Line) between Gunnersbury and South Acton stations, is becoming less and less visible as the holly and the hedge grow higher and thicker every year.

All the mentions of a builder by the name of J. J. Fuller established in Acton I found date from 1908 and 1909. In 1908, The Electrical Engineer informed its readers J. J. Fuller had built six houses in Brentford and six in Barnes. The houses in Barnes are also mentioned in Electrical Engineering and The Electrical Review but while the former gives Fuller's address as 63, Ivy Crescent, Chiswick, the latter gives it as 14, Temple Road, Acton Green. This was certainly a mistake since 63, Ivy Crescent is the address printed in The Builder in 1909. This time J. J. Fuller had built five houses and three shops in Brentford as well as a billiard room at the rear of the Conservative Club at 264, High Street, Brentford.

J. J. Fuller
63, Ivy Crescent
Acton Green
Phone 070.. ... [*]

*: the first digit covers part of the 'E.'

The digits of the phone number make it look more recent than it actually is. Nowadays this would be the beginning of a mobile phone number. However it seems there were only five digits painted (possible 07018), followed by some more text. Since this number would have predated the introduction of the Director system in the 1920s, one should not expect to find the three letter code for the telephone exchange followed by digits, a format fairly common on ghost signs.

Location: off Bollo Lane / Picture taken in July 2011

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Woodvale Post Office, Forest Hill

With the closure of Woodvale Post Office a few years ago, this painted sign turned into a proper ghost sign.

Forest Hill
Post Office

This was painted over an earlier sign. Only an ampersand below the final letter of "Woodvale" and the number 23 below "Office" can still be seen properly. Could this number have been part of a phone number, in which case it would have been preceded by the three letter code of the local exchange?

Location: Wood Vale / Pictures taken in August 2012