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 of Talgarth History…
The sign is on the corner of a pub called the Bridge End Inn on Bell Street in Talgarth, Mid Wales. It was painted around 1900 and we have found a local newspaper advertisement for one of the businesses featured on the sign dating from 1917. There is also a black and white photograph of the Bell Street from 1937 where the sign is still visible.
During World War Two everywhere the town’s name ‘Talgarth’ was painted over on the wall in case German spies landed. Later in the war the infamous Nazi Rudolph Hess was held captive in near-by Abergavenny. During this time they decided to cover the entire wall with plaster so there would be no chance at all of any evidence of the town’s location falling in to the wrong hands.
In the 1950s the small country town suffered badly with the rise of the motor car. By the 1960s it found itself slap bang in the middle of a main route to South Wales, to Newport and Cardiff but the old country roads were not built for heavy traffic. The Bridge End Pub stands on the corner of a 90 degree road road turning and huge car transporters and arctic lorries would get stuck on the tight corner trying to turn around it. The hanging bay windows opposite the pub had to be removed after getting struck by a lorry.
The Water Mill which is next to the Bridge End Inn also used to get struck by lorries, and the owner put a sign up saying ‘Car Transporter Deiver, do no hit this house!’ The Town decided to keep the sign and we still paint it freshly today despite the owner being long gone.
As the lorries used to turn the tight 90 degree angle around the Bridge End Inn the vehicles would scrap the corner of the wall, causing major damage. This chipped the plaster covering up the sign and one day a large chunk of plaster fell off revealing the long-forgotten ghost sign.
Around 2010 a bypass was built to relieve the town of the heavy traffic and this enabled it to regenerate itself. The Bridge End Inn was fully refurbished, and the Town Council decided that the old sign should be kept. A team of conservationists repainted the sign on top of it in exactly the same way it originally was. They followed every detail, even the name of the Town ‘Talgarth’ that had been painted over at the beginning of the war was repainted and then painted over again to partially hide it again!! The wall has now become a little bit of a tourist attraction.
The other noteworthy thing about this particular ghost sign is the use of one wall to advertise multiple businesses in a particular layout. I can’t recall seeing something this structured before and it is reminiscent of a typical billboard wall hosting multiple advertisements. Have any readers come across similar formats elsewhere, either in this country of further afield?
Thank you Stefan for sharing this fascinating story about this noteworthy ghost sign, now no longer the ghost that it once was.