What was John Bull? 8

A magazine or a tyre brand? Or something else?

While working on refining the categories for the archive I came across two signs which I am now uncertain about and I need your help. These are both for brands that adopted the moniker John Bull, which I now understand is a generic character akin to Uncle Sam in America.

The first on Stockwell Road in London sits alongside a sign for the Picture Post, which is a well known magazine (picture below). For this reason and following a brief search of the web I concluded that John Bull was a magazine, and indeed it was.

The second can be found as a palimpsest alongside a Brymay sign on Quernmore Road, also in London (picture below). Having found this second sign after the one above I quickly classified it as the magazine too.

However, during a recent visit to Steele’s pub in Chalk Farm, I saw an old enamal sign for a brand of tyres called John Bull. This too utilised block capital lettering and so I am now wondering if one or both of these signs might be for the tyre brand rather than the magazine. The different lettering styles used would suggest they aren’t for the same brand. And, given the generic nature of John Bull, could they be for something completely different?

If you know the answer or have any leads please let me know via the comments below or send an email to ghostsigns at gmail dot com.

John Bull / Picture Post, Stockwell Road, by giagia

John Bull / Brymay, Quernmore Road, by janeslondon

  • Hugo

    >It's a fair guess to say the John Bull on Stockwell Road is the magazine, as it would make sense for it to be sold alongside the Picture Post. And both publications at least on one occasion shared articles:

    "LIDDELL: 10/1949/9-33 1949-1955
    'Ten years after' series of articles by Liddell Hart on World War Two,part one published in Picture Post, the remainder in John Bull."


    That site lists plenty of other articles by Liddell Hart in each of the two publications.

    And using Google Books, "'Millions like us'?: British culture in the Second World War" says:

    "Finally, the analysis is extended beyond newspapers to include Picture Post, and a rival weekly illustrated magazine with a more populist approach, John Bull."

    And by Keith Eldred in WW2's People's War:

    "We had as far as I can remember the Portsmouth Evening News on a daily basis and Picture Post and John Bull on a weekly one."


    However, the John Bull text is quite distinctive, it looks a bit like a logo, but it doesn't match the rather plain text of the magazine covers from the '40s or '50s in the Advertising Archives (advanced search: "John Bull", image type: magazine cover). Though that could just be some creativity on the part of the sign painter.

    If you could find the address of the Stockwell road building, you could find the age and more importantly find out what businesses used to be there. Was there a newsagent's there?

    Picture Post: 1938 to 1957.
    John Bull: Odhams published it from the 1940s to the early 1960s, but was a weekly periodical established by Theodore Hook in 1820.

    Brymay: This is likely matches by Bryant & May. Is this something you might expect sold in the same shop as tyres? It could be worth finding out if there was a shop there, and what it sold.

  • Sam Roberts

    >From Zerofee on Twitter:

    "John Bull – was, at least in one form, a brand of bitter/ale in the 70's"

    This could get interesting…

  • Wellwynder

    >The brand was well known for bicycle puncture repair kits. Also John Bull printing outfits. I remember these from the 1960s, but they were around much longer than that.

  • Anonymous

    >The type style of the Stockwell Road sign is unlike the logotypes of either John Bull magazine in the fifties, or the rubber company.

    It could therefore be an entirely different product/company or a late (60s? 70s?) version of an ad for the magazine. The revrse perspective of the two lines of the logo is interesting and may be a distinctive clue.

    The typeface used for the sign on the Brymay wall is a close match to that used in the magazine logo from the 50s, – a condesnsed, slightly chunky, 'modern' face with short serifs – except that drop caps are used as initials on the wall sign. Maybe this was a variant of the logo in use at the time, but not appearing on ther covers in the archive, or perhaps it was an example of signwriter's licence.

  • Rockin’ Brian

    >Apparently this magazine, Everybody's, was absorbed by John Bull in 1959…


  • Hannah Lee Miller

    Stockwell Road used to have a large motorbike garage ‘Pride and Clarke’ nearer the skate park end. This is very close to where that ghost signs is and could be connected to the John Bull tyres.

  • Hannah Lee Miller

    Found this fanatstic clip of Stockwell Road when Pride and Clarkes was there, unfortunately it doesn’t start back far enough to see the sign in a better state.


    • Brilliant, great to see their own painted sign though, good sleuthing!