This ghost sign for the London Co-Operative Society on Frederic Street, London E17, has now been partially covered by new signage for the Still Bar and Restaurant. In addition, the last visible portion of the sign, a small strip on the right, has been painted out in white. While most of the sign is likely protected in part by the Still sign, this smalll strip is probably gone for good.
This photograph from the History of Advertising Trust Ghostsigns Archive shows how the sign looked in 2009, seven years before the one I took below in 2016. It is possible to see the relatively rapid rate of decay when comparing these two images. In a recent pitch to the Big Local project in the area, I had recommended including this and a number of other local ghost signs in a short walking trail, researched by local students, and marked with plaques providing historical context. Further, I’d suggested inviting a professional conservator to examine the nature of decay and make recommendations of how to best treat the sign for the future. This idea wasn’t taken up, and it’s not clear whether it would have had any bearing on the sign’s eventual loss.
The sign itself was the topic of an essay by Yvette Williams Elliott in our book, Advertising and Public Memory. She used it to explore the role of the co-operative movement at large, before moving into themes of gentrification and the role of such signs in changing neighbourhoods such as St James Street where this one is located. Now that it is gone, this part of Yvette’s conclusion assumes a new poignancy,
“By its survival, this ghost sign, once a potential harbinger of redical change, bears witness not only to the store it formerly advertised, but also to the political and social cultures of East London – the lives touched, the ideas ignited and the hopes inspired.”
What does survive, however, is a small ceramic monogram a little further along the road. Hopefully this will continue to endure beyond the changes that are evidently sweeping through the area, some driven by projects such as the Big Local, others directed by commercial activities in the community.