Sign Stories

Ghost sign histories and mysteries.



Absolutely fascinating investigation uncovering the historical connections between two glass signs for F.W. Woolworth Co. and the Winston-Salem sit-ins that played a major role in the American Civil Rights movement. (Watch on www.pbs.org here.) Hat tip to Meredith at the Pre-Vinylite Society for spotting this, […]

F.W. Woolworth Co. and the Winston-Salem Sit-Ins






The above fragment of a ghost sign was revealed by the demolition of the adjascent building in Melbourne in 2014, as documented by Al Briggs at RMIT… “The majority of existing ghost signs that remain in suburban Melbourne are signs that were originally painted on […]

Recycling & Rearranging Ghost Signs



The Grand Exhibition of the Pre-Vinylite Society is now showing for four days at the Bargehouse, behind the OXO Tower on London’s South Bank. Visitors can take in the c.30 pieces from an international cast of contemporary sign and lettering artists, each inspired by entries […]

Now Open: The Grand Exhibition of the Pre-Vinylite Society



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The following article is re-posted from the original on Better Letters. This August we’ll be opening a very special sign painting exhibition within the public-facing part of Letterheads 2018: London Calling. It is being curated by Meredith Kasabian of Best Dressed Signs and the Pre-Vinylite […]

The Grand Exhibition of the Society of Sign Painters



The restoration of ghost signs seems to be becoming more prevalent in the UK, or perhaps I’m just more conscious of them taking place. While I don’t document every instance, I thought that this one had an interesting back story, as shared by Stefan Lewis […]

Evans, Jones & Ricketts Restoration in Talgarth, Mid Wales


Back in 2016 I gave a short talk about my archiving work at the annual conference of the Business Archives Council, where one of the organisers was a project archivist for Boots chemists.  Afterwards I shared the above image and forwarded her the archival photo […]

Tracking Down Boots in Stoke-on-Trent


The Cat & Mutton pub on Broadway Market in East London has a remarkable array of Victorian glasswork on display in the main bar (see samples below). However, on a recent visit for a family Christmas meal, my uncle and I discovered the above two […]

Gardiner & Lacey at the Cat & Mutton



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On one of my walking tours back in 2014 guests had the opportunity to see this reveal of a newsagent and tobacconists’ sign at No.5 Stoke Newington Church Street. Starlove, as it was known, occupied the premises from at least 1962 until the late 1970s […]

Numbers 3-7 Stoke Newington Church Street


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While researching the old painted advertisements of Islington I was contacted by Leo Hornak, a journalist at the BBC. He wanted to record a piece about ghost signs (coming soon), and had grown up in a house with one on the outside. It turned out […]

John C. Mather, Alwyne Lane


This fragment was one of my early discoveries when I first started noticing ghost signs in 2006. It was located on a very prominent wall on Stoke Newington Church Street, adjacent to William Patten School. At some stage after it was originally painted the patch […]

Wine & Willing: A Stoke Newington Mystery



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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 […]

RIP: London Co-Op, Frederic Street


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Guests on my Stoke Newington Ghostsigns Walk in early 2015 were lucky to see a bonus fading fascia en route, advertising The Vacuum Shop. This was revealed by works to the Anglo Asian restaurant, which now straddles numbers 60 and 62 Stoke Newington Church Street. […]

The Vacuum Shop and George Braun


Mary Roberts recently visited Harwich and captured these photos of the Harwich Old Bookshop, with it’s distinctive glass fascia, tiled panel in the entrance-way, and mosaic threshold sign. Her friend Christine then did some digging via the wonderful site, Harwich & Dovercourt, and discovered an […]

Harwich’s Shops: Now & Then



Fading painted advertisement on wall advertising Gold Dust Washing Powder
Lurking in my folders of blog post ideas I came across a photo that I’d forgotten about, of a ghostsign advertising Gold Dust Washing Powder. This is shown below and was quite small so I did a few searches and discovered the one above, used […]

Gold Dust Washing Powder: An Unsettling Reveal


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This popular London ghostsign is located at the Kings Cross end of Gray’s Inn Road, with the photo above from Jennifer Pedler and the History of Advertising Trust. A couple of years ago I gave a talk at Middlesex University where one of the students, […]

Scales, Weights & Weighing Machines in London’s Kings Cross


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This ghostsign on Stoke Newington High Street comes at about the halfway point of my walking tour through the area. It is a palimpsest which has been well researched by Sébastien Ardouin. I recently took a couple of close-up photos, one of which has added […]

John Hawkins, Steeles & Chaney Signs



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This very faint ghostsign on Snowfields in Bermondsey is close to the start of my Bankside Ghostsigns Walk. It may not be around much longer if the building is lost to demolition, or another goes up in front of it as part of the redevelopment […]

William Walker & Sons, Tanners, Curriers


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I am conducting a small investigation into the ghostsigns of Islington and am appealing for help from readers of this blog. The map below (view full screen) will form the basis for this, in the context of the following notes. Recently while going through old […]

Painted Advertisements in Islington: Part 1


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Dr Ken Jones has been doing an incredible job documenting the ghostsigns of America via his American Ghosts project. Not only does this involve detailed photographic documentation (see previous post on his process), but also pinning ghostsigns onto an ever-growing map. This now pinpoints thousands […]

Ken Jones’ Butte Palimpsests