This ghost sign for Ariel motorbikes, and the Writers shop that sold them in Kennington, is one of my London favourites, partly due to the illustrated element, and partly due to the historical connections that emerged after I first wrote about it in 2007. The above photograph shows the sign as it was on my first visit in 2006, and below is how it looked in January when I passed by again en route to give a talk about ghost signs to the students at City & Guilds Art School.
The rate of decay in the intervening 12 years is considerable and the South West orientation of the wall means that it will have been receiving a fair share of sun over that time, and before it. The side-by-side images below show the loss in legibility to much of the ‘Ariel, Leaders of Design’ copy, while the horse illustration and Writers text are also losing opacity.
It is interesting now to start comparing my own photographs over time to analyse the rate of decay on different ghost signs. In some instances this has been remarkably rapid given the absolute age of the original paintwork, which has led me to wonder if many have survived in relatively good condition due to their being covered for extended periods of time. As a working hypothesis this has been supported in a number of cases by archival photographs, but more work is needed before any conclusions can be drawn. I plan to write more about this thinking in a future post. While it isn’t the case here with the Ariel/Writers sign, this example does show how rapidly the effects of the sun take hold.
PS. While in the area I happened upon another lovely ghost sign, this one advertising what were presumably once the premises of the Albion Coffee House, a dozen or so buildings North East of the Ariel/Writers sign.