Sunday, 31 March 2013

Chocolat Menier, Saint-Dizant-du-Bois

Since today is Easter Sunday, this ghost sign for some chocolate seems quite appropriate.

Founded in 1816 by Antoine Brutus Menier, Menier was France's leading chocolate manufacturer until the mid-20th century. The firm, which remained controlled by the Menier family until 1960, is now owned by Swiss giant Nestlé.

For more information about the company, you can check the wikipedia page. La saga Menier is a great website (in French) dedicated to the history of the company and its products, and includes lots of documents, advertisements, objects, etc.


Location: D 137, lieu-dit Le Pérou, Saint-Dizant-du-Bois, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken in May 2012

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Atlantic, Belluire

As it could be seen on the first picture from yesterday's post, there is more to this wall in the tiny village of Belluire than just a ghost sign for a Shell petrol station.

Indeed another well-preserved ghost sign for the Atlantic washing machines covers the lower part of this wall. These were produced between 1955 and 1969 (for more information, please see an earlier post about an Igol / Atlantic palimpsest).

The slogan "La machine à bien laver" can barely be seen, stuck between the black background stripe of Atlantic and the frame of an earlier painted sign now covered by the one for Shell.

La machine à bien laver

This ghost sign was painted between 1966 and 1969 as the drawing of the washing machine corresponds to models Atlantic launched in 1966 and 1967. Before 1966 the design of the raised vertical part with the control dials was slightly different, the shorter rectangle being on the right, not on the left.

Location: D 137, Belluire, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken in May 2012

Friday, 29 March 2013

Shell, Belluire

As an introduction to a series of ghost signs found along the former Nationale 137 (reclassified as Départementale in 2006) in the départments of Charente-Maritime and Gironde in southwestern France, what could be better than one for a petrol station, where we could refill in order to carry on and discover more ghost signs.

As it is often the case with signs for petrol stations, it is located a few kilometres away from the petrol pumps themselves 1. In this case one had to drive for another five kilometres before reaching Shell's forecourt in Saint-Genis-de-Saintonge.

This particular design for the Shell logo, with the yellow shell on a red square rather than with a red outline only, was used between 1961 and 1971.

Nowadays there is still a petrol station about five kilometres further south but it is part of the network of one of Shell's competitors, Total.

This ghost sign was painted over an earlier, and wider, one with a white background but it is not possible to tell what was advertised there.

1: for another example, click see another here.

Location: D 137, Belluire, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken in 2012

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Golden Cuckoo, Bagan

Bagan, on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy River in central Myanmar, is one of the most extraordinary archeological sites in Asia. The area is also well-known for its lacquerware. Actually a lot of lacquer objects sold in neighbouring countries come from Myanmar, and mainly from Bagan. The main production centre in the region is the small village of Myinkaba between Old Bagan and New Bagan. Dozens of workshops can be found between centuries-old temples and stupas.

While a fair share of the lacquerware sold to tourists will be of low quality, with a bamboo-only frame and around seven to ten layers of lacquer, some of the workshops in Myinkaba, including the family-run Golden Cuckoo, also produce good quality articles with sixteen to twenty layers of lacquer. These are made of fine pieces of bamboo tied together with horse or donkey hair and can take months to produce. Indeed each coat of lacquer must be allowed to dry before it is sanded down with ash from rice husk and the next layer can be applied. Depending on the season and consequently the degree of humidity, this can take between five and ten days per layer. Therefore it is wrong to expect high quality lacquerware to be cheap, even if the price quoted first can usually be brought down during a good-humoured haggling.

U Tin Htun + Daw Aye Aye
Golden Cuckoo
Family Lacquer-ware
Myinkaba (Sein Gone Quarter)

Location: Bagan - Chauk Road, Myinkaba Village, Bagan / Pictures taken in January 2013

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Oil colour, Stratford

With only a handful of words still legible and an online search that did not return any noteworthy result, I have not found which stores and which brands of paint were mentioned on this ghost sign.


Location: Ham Park Road / Picture taken in May 2011

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Blumen und Sämereien, Bautzen

Compared to the ghost signs for Kutschke the master roofer and Ullrich the tailor also found in Bautzen, in eastern Saxony, the one for this flower and seed shop is extremely simple. It is also much more recent as it was probably painted in the 1970s or 1980s.

Blumen u. Sämereien
[Flowers & Seeds]
Location: Rosenstraße, Bautzen, Sachsen / Pictures taken in October 2011

Monday, 25 March 2013

Smithfield Garage, Birmingham

The former Smithfield Garage in Digbeth, an industrial district immediately to the east of Birmingham centre, has a date of 1923 above one of its entrances. According to Andy Foster, author of the Pevsner Architectural Guides. Birmingham, it was built by Harry Weedon, an architect best known for his Art Deco factories and the Odeon cinemas.

While the entrance above has a nice sign with raised letters made of cement, one has to look to the adjacent part of the building to find a long and colourful ghost sign painted on wood.

In the early 1960s Rover cars were available from Smithfield Garage Limited. However it is as a car dealer for Volkswagen / Audi and BMW, between the 1960s and the late 20th century, that Smithfield is essentially remembered. By then Smithfield had been taken over by Hartwell and the official name changed to Hartwell Smithfield.

Smithfield Garage Limited

This building may not be standing for much longer. Indeed redevelopment projects in the Digbeth area may have been put on hold because of the current economic crisis, but plans have already been approved and many former industrial buildings are bound to disappear sooner or later.

Given the length of this sign and the narrowness of the street, several pictures have been stitched to create the complete front view of the ghost sign below.

Location: Meriden Street / Pictures taken in May 2012

Friday, 22 March 2013

Bordesley cattle station, Birmingham

Bordesley station, on the former Great Western Railway (GWR) Oxford to Birmingham line, opened in 1855. Located near Birmingham's cattle markets (their location in Deritend and Digbeth changed over the years but they remained less than a kilometre away), the station included facilities to handle cattle trains. The cattle dock was on the northern side of the station, with access onto Upper Trinity Street. It made use of the space created when the Duddeston Viaduct was built and the shunting line extended onto the viaduct itself. It is on the parapet of this viaduct, one of the country's railway follies, that today's ghost sign can be found.

Looking at Duddeston Viaduct from the north. Bordesley Viaduct is in the background.
The latter carries the line of the former GWR across the Rea Valley, between Bordesley and Moor Street / the eastern portal of the Snow Hill tunnel.

Duddeston Viaduct in Birmingham is a folly indeed. It is the city's "Viaduct to Nowhere", a piece of Victorian engineering the Great Western Railway (GWR) never wanted to build and the London & North Western Railway (L&NWR) never really intended to use. Here is why.

The London & Birmingham Railway reached the city in 1838 and in cooperation with the Grand Junction Railway built a terminus in Curzon Street. However this station was inconveniently located on the northeastern edge of the city and over the following years the different companies serving the city lobbied local authorities and Parliament for the authorisation to build a more central station.

In 1846, the year the London & Birmingham Railway, the Grand Junction Railway, and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway merged to form the L&NWR, Parliament passed the Act authorising a new company, the Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway, to lay its tracks between the two cities. For several years the L&NWR had managed to delay the approval of such a project. As it controlled most of the traffic between Birmingham and the south, the L&NWR did not want a new line that would connect with the tracks of the GWR at Oxford to be built as it would offer an alternative route to London (although to be fair, the route via Oxford to London Paddington was much longer than the direct L&NWR route into London Euston). The L&NWR did not lose out completely as the Act granted it running rights over the new line as far south as Banbury. Yet the L&NWR had to accept, reluctantly, to provide access to its Curzon Street station to the B&OJR. Thus in order to connect the tracks of the two companies, a viaduct was to be built by both companies between Bordesley and a point in the vicinity of Curzon Street station.

At the same time it voted the bill creating the B&OJR, Parliament authorized the construction of not one but two new stations closer to Birmingham city centre: New Street and Snow Hill. While New Street would be built by the L&NWR and the Midland Railway, Snow Hill was to be operated jointly by the Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley Railway coming from the north and the B&OJR coming from the south. As they were to use the same facilities in Birmingham the latter two companies decided to merge during their first general meeting. Actually these were nothing but speculative railways, whose promoters, having been granted the right to build a line, sought to sell or lease them to one of the established railway companies for a large profit. In that case the directors approached the GWR, which agreed to pay £30 5s 0d for each £20 share! However the L&NWR countered the move by buying as much shares as it could to control the company, replace the board of directors, and get new ones to repudiate the deal with the GWR. The bitter battle between the L&NWR the GWR that ensued eventually ended in the House of Lords and in 1848 the Lord Chancellor ruled in favour of the original agreement with the GWR. Brunel's company had its access to Birmingham! Since the company it had acquired had been granted the right to build its own station, Snow Hill, and since its runnning rights on L&NWR's tracks did not extend beyond Curzon Street station into New Street, the GWR lost any interest in the link with the L&NWR. As for the L&NWR, it had no intention of using its running rights to Banbury. Yet in spite of this lack of interest on both sides, the L&NWR still insisted the GWR complied with the Act of Parliament and build the Duddeston viaduct.

Construction started c. 1848 and in February 1853 Brunel reported that his company had reached the limits of the L&NWR's property. However the rest of the viaduct was never built and the junction with the L&NWR at Curzon Street never made. To this day Duddeston viaduct ends abrupty after 325 metres and its brick arches stand as a memorial to the battle the two biggest railway companies in the country fought during the Railway Mania of the 1840s.

Cattle Station. G.W.R.

Note the manicule immediately to the left of 'Cattle' pointing towards the entrance of the cattle station in Upper Trinity Street.

Given its position on the north side of the viaduct, and since there is no equivalent on the south side, it can be assumed this ghost sign was painted after 1897. Indeed before that date the main livestock market was at Smithfield and this sign would not have been visible from the route taken by farmers and their cattle. In 1892 Birmingham Corporation decided to relocate the pig market from Smithfield to a site in Montague Street, further west from the centre (incidentally, this is the street where Duddeston Viaduct ends). Opposition from the pig trade delayed the move but it was eventually completed in 1897. One year later cows and sheep also left Smithfield for Montague Street. Heading from from Montague Street towards Bordesley Cattle Station, farmers would have gone southward and emerged into Adderley Street, where they would have been able to catch sight of this sign.

Bordesley goods station closed in 1964. The cattle station would have closed at the same time if not earlier.

The Warwickshire Railway website has a picture of some cattle wagons at Bordesley cattle station and information about the cattle trains.

Location: Adderley Street / Pictures taken in May 2012

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Jack Daniel's, Birmingham

In the mid-noughties, painted adverts reproducing the label found on the bottles of Jack Daniel's started appearing outisde several pubs across Britain. The perpetuation of traditions features heavily in the advertising campaigns of the well-known brand of Tennessee whiskey and these adverts might have been designed to look like ghost signs. However a stencil and spray paint seem to have been used to produce them and I am not sure that with such a technique they achieved the desired effect. Had it been done on a brick surface the result might have looked more authentic but in the case below it looks slightly too fake to me. Having said that it is not a bad sign.

The lower part of the advert is now hidden by the box with the extractor fans (click here to see a picture of the full sign). As a result the responsibility message that the alcohol industries agreed to include in its advertisement has disappeared.

Jack Daniel's
No. 7
[Your Friends At Jack Daniel's Remind You To Drink Responsibly]

Location: Adderley Street / Pictures taken in May 2012

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Player's Navy Cut, Birmingham

Yesterday's ghost sign for the Continental Cafe was not the only one painted on this building in the Diritend district of Birmingham. High above the street and looming partly above the roof next door another ghost sign can be seen indeed.

Even though half of it is now missing, it is possible to recognise an advert for Player's Navy Cut cigarettes. This version is far less elaborate than the ones found in Shepherd's Bush or Homerton.

Navy Cut

Location: High Street Deritend / Pictures taken in May 2012

Monday, 18 March 2013

Cafe, Birmingham

A very simple sign painted for the Continental Cafe, which closed down several years ago. The name was still visible in 2009 on the fascia above the entrance but it has since disappeared. Very faint traces of letters emerging here and there suggest another sign was originally painted on this wall.


Location: High Street Deritend / Picture taken in May 2012

Sunday, 17 March 2013

S. B. Lush, Lower Clapton

It seems logical at first sight to assume that S. B. Lush & Co, the dying and cleaning company advertised on this wall opposite Clapton pond, was founded by Samuel Barton Lush. According to the 1851 census, Samuel Barton Lush, born in 1834 in Islington, worked as a glove cleaner. When the following census was conducted ten years later, he entered 'dyer' as his profession. It appears that in 1880, together with his wife and eight children he migrated to New Zealand. However the only documents available online in which the name of the company appears date from the 1880s. In 1883 the German journal Chemiker-Zeitung published a list of dye-works, including S. B. Lush & Co., Limited, based in Clapton, which had a working capital of £5,000. Then in 1888 the name of the firm was mentioned in The Furniture Gazette.

According to a descendant of Samuel Barton Lush, before he left for New Zealand he entered into a partnership with Mr Cook. That could explain the origins of the firm Lush & Cook Ltd, one of London's main dying and cleaning companies during part of the 20th century. The company may have been trading under the name S. B. Lush & Co Ltd for a few years but after a while, Cook certainly decided his surname should appear too. The 1899 and 1908 editions of The Post Office Directory seem to confirm this when they list that Lush & Cook Ltd, dyers, cleaners and laundrymen had a branch at 198 Lower Clapton Road (the number does not match exactly the current one of the building this ghost sign was painted on -203- but some renumbering may have been taking place and directories from that period were not always exact).

While trading under its original name, the company started to expand. By 1880 it had three branches. Following the example of P & P Campbell and Pullars, both of Perth, and of Eastmans of London, the three pioneering firms in the field of multiple shop trading in the dying and cleaning trade, S. B. Lush & Co, or Lush & Cook as it may have already been known by then, opened additional branches across the northeastern suburbs of London. By the early 1890s their number had doubled. In 1908, apart from Lower Clapton, it was also present in Hackney Wick (this is where the main plant was located, in a three-storey block built in 1905), Stoke Newington, Forest Gate, Ilford, Walthamstow, Harringay, Kilburn, Manor Park, Leyton, Leytonstone, Upton Park, South Woodford, South Tottenham, Wanstead, and East Ham. It also had one branch south of the Thames, in Charlton. Expansion did not end there and directories from the following decades show an ever increasing number of branches, most of them still in northeast London and Essex, in places such as Bethnal Green, Stepney, Lower Edmonton, Romford or Dagenham. By the early 1920s if not slightly earlier, Lush & Cook moved towards the centre as well and opened a branch on Charing Cross Road.

S. B. Lush
& Co. Ltd

Lush & Cook continued to do relatively well until the 1950s but in the 1960s it faced growing difficulties. Back then washing machines were still very expensive pieces of equipment but in a context of economic expansion more and more British households could afford one. Yet the main reason behind Lush & Cook misfortunes was the fierce competition with other cleaning and dying companies. If in the 1920s multiple shop firms had around 2,360 outlets in Britain, by 1950 their number had gone up to more than 7,200, a third of which belonged to the country's six leading firms (to these numbers one should add the thousands of dyers and cleaners that remained indenpendent or acted as agents of the big firms but kept their own names). Bad decisions by the firm's management team may also have been to blame. In any case, by 1969 Lush & Cook's Hackney plant closed down and the company's industrial overall service was taken over by Sketchley Overall Service, part of Sketchley plc, a company whose origins went back to 1916. Other parts of Lush & Cook may have survived for a few more years but in the end they were either taken over by Sketchley or closed down. In the 1980s Sketchley became the second dry cleaning chain in the country behind Johnson but its fortunes declined dramatically throughout the 1980s and 1990s and in 2004 it was bought for £1 by none other than its main competitor, Johnson.

There is one point in this whole story that is not totally clear though: was the firm really founded by Samual Barton Lush? Indeed, in her book Shops and shopping, 1800-1914, Alison Adburgham writes that Lush & Cook was established in 1842, while in Retail Trading in Britain 1850-1950 James B. Jefferys agues it was founded in 1847. If that were the case, the company would have been created when Samuel Barton Lush was either 8 or 13 years old! Could his father have had the same initials and be the founder of S. B. Lush & Co?

Few traces of Lush & Cook seem to have survived to this day. However, it is still possible to find from time to time a copy of a promotional booklet published by Lush & Cook c. 1910. Entitled The ladies' glance guide for mistress and maid. Thousands of suggestions, reminders, and kitchen secrets. Some old. Some new. Presented by Lush & Cook, Ltd, it included prices for laundry, cleaning and dying everything from billiard table cloths to boys Eton suits, household curtains and furnishings. Strangely enough this booklet also included some recipes and market guides for vegetables, meat and fish.

Location: Lower Clapton Road / Pictures taken in February 2010

Friday, 15 March 2013

Hovis, Dulwich

On a dull winter day I was walking through Dulwich village towards the Dulwich Picture Gallery when I noticed an off-white rectangle on a brick wall. As expected, this turned out to be a ghost sign. This one once advertised a bakery, where bread was made using Hovis flour. While the baker provided the space on the wall, Hovis paid for the sign and its upkeep.

The name of the baker has faded too much to be able to identify it and a quick search online did not provide any satisfying result. Once I have more time I may go and have a look at the local library.

The presence of the tilde on the 'O' of Hovis indicates this sign was certainly painted between the 1920s and 1950s. Such a spelling appears on several Hovis ghost signs found in Tonbridge, Tooting (in the original version of the sign), Islington, Guildford, Clapham, and Battersea, published earlier on this blog.
Maker of

Location: Dulwich Village / Pictures taken in March 2013