Tuesday, 20 August 2013

E. Blomme, Jonzac

Thanks to the lovely colours of the façade, this ghost sign painted in the 1960s or 1970s on Mr Blomme's shop is hard to miss.

E. Blomme

Something else was previously written above Mr Blomme's name but I did not manage to decipher it.

Teinture & Nettoyage
[Dyeing & Cleaning]

Location: Rue des Carmes, Jonzac, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken in April 2013

Monday, 19 August 2013

A la Belle Botte, Jonzac

On one of the houses built on the banks of the River Seugne in the small town of Jonzac in the south of the Charente-Maritime département is a double ghost sign.

A couple of letters from the original sign, in black, can still be seen on the façade but that is not enough to be able to identify the business behind it.
The more recent sign, wich is certainly nearly one century old, advertised a shoe shop by the rather attractive name A la Belle Botte.

A la
[At the

Location: Rue des Carmes, Jonzac, Charente-Maritime / Pcitures taken in April 2013

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bäckerei, Hohnstein

Dominated by its castle, the little town of Hohnstein in Saxon Switzerland has a couple of ghost signs, including the one below for a former bakery.

Bäckerei [Bakery]

Location: Obere Straße, Hohnstein, Sachsen / Picture taken in October 2011

Monday, 12 August 2013

Furniture depositories, Kentish Town

House furnisher Alfred Marsh & Co was established in 1857. Alfred Marsh's original furniture making business was based at 9 Warden Road but by 1891 he had moved to 116 Kentish Town Road. Within a couple of years he had tripled his surface by taking over 114 and 118 Kentish Town Road.

A. Marsh & Co became well-established during during the first decades of the 20th century and its patrons included the Crown agents for the colonies. The company offered a wide range of new and second-hand furniture.


Advertisements published in the press kept the public informed about some of second-hand pieces available. In 1930 those included, among others, a walnut bedroom suite, two weathered oak bedroom suites, chesterfields in silk cover, as well as drawing and dining rooms in lacquer or walnut.

A. Marsh & Co seems to have disappeared during the economic crisis of the 1930s.

Largest Stock
Of New & Second-hand
In London


Location: Royal College Street / Pictures taken in November 2012 and July 2013

Friday, 9 August 2013

Drapery stores, Kingston

This drapery shop in Kingston may have been fairly modest but the ghost sign that once advertised it is rather elegant with its different typefaces and curvy lines.

& Good
... By

The style of this ghost sign would suggest it is more than a century old but I have not found any mention of a draper on Acre Road in trade directories or in any other document.

Unfortunately both the 1878 edition of the Post Office Directory of Surrey and the 1891 edition of Kelly's Directory of Kent, Surrey & Sussex do not include street numbers (several shopkeepers and a dress maker -no draper though- had their premises on Acre Road and one might have been behind this sign) and by 1913, the wall this sign was painted on separated a grocer from a furniture dealer according to Kelly's Directory of Surrey.

Location: Acre Road / Pictures taken in June 2013

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Undertakers, Camden

Of the two ghost signs on this façade, only the lower one -"Undertakers"- can still be read. The upper one, which would certainly have included the name of the owner(s) of the business, has faded too much to be able to decipher anything.

The only undertaker at this address I came across is Edwin Howard Terry. Prior to becoming an undertaker, E. H. Terry was working as a carpenter at Sussex Place (nowadays Ferdinand Place), Camden. However he went bankrupt in 1865. He later moved to 232 Great College Street (nowadays Royal College Street), where he opened a funeral parlour. For several years everything went well but by the late 1870s his financial situation deteriorated. In 1879 proceedings for the liquidation of his company began. They were completed in 1880 but E. H. Terry may have continued to work as an undertaker for a few more months. He was still listed as such in the 1882 edition of the Post Office London Directory. After that his name no longer appears in any trade directory.


E. H. Terry himself does not really account for the plural "Undertakers" (it does not look as if there could be an apostrophe before the "S"). Yet after him the premises were occupied by the Royal London Friendly Society and later by a bootmaker. I could not find any undertaker who could have been there before either.

Location: Wilmot Place / Pictures taken in November 2012 and July 2013

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The monster ready made and bespoke clothing establishment, Borough

"The monster ready made and bespoke clothing establishment." This is a most bizarre formulation. If they wanted to say this was a very large shop, why not use "the largest" instead. "Monster" seems slightly off-putting. But maybe it's just me.

The earliest document about the Albion House Clothing Company I could find dates from 1890. However this clothier does not appear in the 1891 edition of the Post Office London Trades Directory. One possible reason may be that the company was founded in 1890, too late to feature in the Directory. By 1895 the Albion House Clothing Co was operating from three locations in London: 161, 163, 165 and 167 Borough High Street (where the name "Albion House" was proudly displayed on the façade at number 163), 83 Aldgate High Street and 157 Minories. Actually this should only count as two locations as 157 Minories is adjacent to 83 Aldgate High Street.

By 1899 the company's premises on Aldgate High Street had been extended from the original number 83 to numbers 84, 85 and 86 (buildings along Aldgate High Street are numbered consecutively, starting on the north side and then continuing clockwise back down on the south side. Strangely, in later editions of the Directory, the address given is 83, 85, 87 and 89 Aldgate High Street, even though no renumbering had taken place). The shop in Borough High Street had a different fortune though. In March 1899 the company instructed Debenham, Tewson, Farmer and Bridgewater to sell the buildings at 163, 165 and 167. The notice published at the time indicated the premises covered about 7,000 square feet. Yet in the end only two out of the three buildings were sold: according to an advertisement that particular branch was still made of 161 and 163 Borough High Street in 1906. Part of the money generated by the sale of the two buildings at 165 and 167 went towards the acquisition of 37 Jewry Street, the building round the corner from 89 Aldgate High Street.

The Monster

Ready Made & Bespoke




The 1900s marked the heyday of the Albion House Clothing Co. According to the aforementioned advertisement printed in 1906, it had branches not only at 83-86 Adgate High Street and 161-163 Borough High Street, but also at 59-61 New Oxford Street, on Rye Lane in Peckham (opened between 1896 and 1901), and at 86 Western Road in Brighton (opened between 1899 and 1905). However this apparent success was short-lived. By 1910 the branches at both Borough High Street and New Oxford Street had been closed and the one in Peckham followed suit at some point between 1911 and 1914. The Brighton branch was kept open for longer but I do not know exactly for how long.

The Albion House Clothing Co remained in business during the depression of the 1930s but did not withstand the War. In August 1942 its members appointed a liquidator and by November that year all the company's assets had been disposed of.

Two advertisements from 1906 show some of the clothes the Albion House Clothing Co sold to men and boys and to women and girls. Looking at these, its seems it targeted upper-middle class customers. Interestingly, in his book A brief outline of the Surinam gold industry: Geology, technique, hygiene. Description of the gold placer and the prospects at the Guiana gold placer, published in 1911 (the original version in Dutch dates from 1909), J. H. Verloop mentions another kind of garment available at the shop of the Albion House Clothing Co on Aldgate High Street: thin oilskin, ideal for the tropics. He even precised it came in different colours.

Unfortunately I have not found any information, whether in English, Flemish or French, about the company's branches in Belgium (in Ghent and Antwerp) and in France (in Paris).

Since the Albion House Clothing Company had a branch in Borough High Street during the last decade of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century, this ghost sign was painted more than 110 years ago.

Location: Borough High Street / Pictures taken in April 2008

Monday, 5 August 2013

R. F. Stevens Ltd, Kentish Town

This ghost sign was certainly painted in 1951, the year organ builder R. F. Stevens Ltd moved to Leighton Place. The company was much older though, having been founded by Richard F. Stevens in 1853. Orginally it was based near Euston Square, first at 180 Drummond Street, then from 1887 at 180 Drummond Street, and finally from 1896 at 42b Hampstead Road. In the last decade of the 19th century R. F. Stevens also had a showroom at 343 Euston Road nearby. In 1906 it moved north to Kentish Town, settling first at 82a Leighton Road. In 1929 it moved to Royal Mail Yard, Kelly Street. Finally two decades later, in 1951, the company moved to what would be its last address, 9-11 Leighton Place.

For more than a century R. F. Stevens manufactured and restored both harmoniums and reed (also known as American) organs. The company also made reed pans and bellows for amateurs or other builders. While many organ manufacturers were rather small (there were over 200 reed organ builders in London alone in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), R. F. Stevens was one of the largest companies in its field, with up to 50 employees. It also offered more portable organ styles than any other company, not only in Britain but certainly in the world. However high numbers do not guarantee quality and R. F. Stevens's organs did not always compare well with those of its competitors, musically and above all aesthetically.

In spite of this R. F. Stevens's portable organs were particularly popular and the company counted amongst its customers the Salvation Army, the prison service and the armed forces. Indeed all Royal Navy vessels had to have an organ on board for playing hymns on Sunday and to entertain the troops from time to time. Portable organs would also have been used to celebrate mass near the front line whenever possible. Thanks to these contracts, R. F. Stevens did remarkably well during both World Wars.

R. F. Stevens managed to remain in business long after most organ manufacturers had closed down. However, due to a lack of demand, production ceased in 1966. The company continued to carry out restoration work but its financial situation deteriorated. In late 1978 it appointed a liquidator and in 1980 R. F. Stevens Ltd officially closed down.

R. F. Stevens Ltd
<--- Organ Works

Part of the ghost sign disappeared when the house next door was built but it is easy to reconstitute the missing part.

Location: Leighton Place / Pictures taken in July 2013

Friday, 2 August 2013

Printing Works, Walthamstow

The printing works in Walthamstow High Street were established between 1882 and 1896, most certainly by George Oscar Dawson (according to the 1882 edition of Kelly's Directory of Essex, the only printers in the area were Phelps Brothers of Beulah Road, whose origins went back to 1862, and Robert Willis and Frederick Smith both of Orford Road. Dawson appears in the 1896 edition of Kelly's London Suburban Directory). By 1901, the printing works were owned by Everett Brothers according to Kelly's London Suburban Directory published that year. Everett Bros. remained in business until the death of W. H. Everett in 1923. Following this tragic event, the premises were bought by The Walthamstow Press Ltd, a company formed the very same year with a capital of £8,000 in £1 shares. It seems the main purpose of The Walthamstow Press Ltd was to print the Walthamstow and Leyton Guardian, a newspaper founded in 1876 by Robert Willis (the aforementioned printer), Walter Booth and Samuel Herbert. In 1935, the company moved to new premises, Guardian House on Forest Road. What happened to the High Street printing works after that date is unknown to me. However by 1956 the premises were occupied by brassfounders Swinburne and Sons.

Printing Works.

The style of this ghost sign is reminiscent of others painted in the late 19th or early 20th century but who, between Dawson and Everett, was behind it is impossible to tell.

Was W. H. Everett related to the Everett who owned the drapery and millinery store on St James's Street, Walthamstow?

Location: High Street / Picture taken in February 2010

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Warung Makan, Ubud

With temperatures soaring in the UK today, I thought this painted sign for cold drinks would be quite appropriate.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, a warung is a family-owned business. The term often applies to small shops that sell cigarettes, candy, bottled drinks and a few basic products, to cafes, or to restaurants. At this warung in Penestanan, a hamlet just to the west of Ubud, Bali's "cultural capital", there was certainly more than just cold drinks on offer. Indeed makan (litterally "to eat" or "eating") would suggest some food of some sort was also available, maybe some bakso ayam (chicken noodle soup), some nasi goreng (fried rice), or some mie goreng (fried noodles).

Cold Drink

Location: Penestanan, Ubud, Bali / Pictures taken in June 2013