Ghost signs

Old painted wall advertisements in London, Brittany and beyond.



These faded advertisements painted directly onto walls were the precursors of today's billboards. Many have survived, gently fading and flaking away. Sheltered sites, the protection of being covered by their replacements, and occasionally restoration mean that a few are still surprisingly vivid.

Sites were rented for set periods, and when these expired a new client might have a new sign painted. As they weather and fade, the multiple layers show through each other. Known as palimpsests, these multiple signs are both intriguing and more difficult to interpret. 

To allow you to explore some of my posts on these signs, I have indexed them in two ways: by general location and by product. I would also encourage you to explore beyond this site, and have suggested some further resources. 

Locations:

London: 12, Jay's, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, Meggezones, 16, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, ELL, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 50, 51, 52, 53, 57, 65, 66, 6768, 71, 73, 76, 77, 78, 79, 82, 83, 86, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96. 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 106, 108, 109, 111, 112, 113, 116, 118, 119, 120       

England
Bath: 60 -- Black Country: 3839 -- Somerset: 718, 21, 98, 114 -- Brighton: 40, 92 -- Bristol: GWR -- Bury St Edmunds: 17 -- Cambridge: 124 -- Chester: 43 -- Durham: 85 -- Guildford: 115 -- Hertford: 122 -- Leeds: 104 -- Margate: 97 -- Oxford: 22, 117 -- Poole: 6 -- Southend: 35 -- Yorkshire: 59, 61, 62, 69, 75, 84, 87   

France
Brittany: 3, 4, 58, 23, 24, 25, 36, 37, 48, 49, 54, 56, 63, 64, 70, 74, 80, 81, 107       
Lille: 19, 20 -- Loire: 55, 89 -- Paris: 26, 28, 121

Other 
Edinburgh: 110  
Istanbul: 33

Products:

Drinks
Alcoholic drinks: 34513192425293743484955636570, 80, 121, 122   
- and their dangers, 6470
Non-alcoholic drinks: 816, 94  

Food
Bread: 92931, 98, 109    
Nestle/other dairy: 101217
Other foods: 2843576062, 84, 88, 107, 109, 115   
Refreshments: 407375, 81, 87, 94, 103, 122     

Household goods
Clothes, shoes, accessories:
92328323951676875, 96 
Toiletries: 9242655
Health products: Meggezones59, 102, 105   
Tobacco: 3538, 106   
Matches: 103031, 79, 82, 104       
Paint, glazing, etc: 1920ELL394145636976, 86, 121   
Appliances: 3649557074, 106, 111    

Transport
Garage/vehicle hire: 1, 2, 62
Fuels and motoring products: 4, 14, 25, 55, 56, 6669, GWR, 97, 115  
Bikes: 83, 124

Services
Entertainment: 275053
Accommodation: 52, 91, 97
Decorating, building, plumbing: 4169, 92, 93, 96, 113, 120   
Estate agents, auctioneers: 34, 46, 90        
Other services: 38, 6184, 85, 103, 105, 108, 110, 114       

Shops and suppliers
Shops: 56, 1315223239404547505154577578, 90, 95, 96, 112, 119         
Furniture: Jay's, 116, 118   
Printers and newspapers: 6, 61, 97, 99     
Warehouse/wharf: 7, 18, 21
Security products: 11
Accumulators: 25
Dye works: 71
Leather: 100


Further reading: 

Ghost signs archive: founded by Sam Roberts, author of the brilliant Ghostsigns blog, this online archive records hundreds of fascinating British ghost signs. (Sam is also the author of Hand-Painted Signs of Kratie, looking at this art in Vietnam.)

Painted signs and mosaics: along with mosaics, there are lots of ghost signs from Britain and France.

Les murs peints murmurent and Les murs peints s'afffichent are ghost sign blogs in France which emphasise pictures rather than text, so  they're worth a look even if you don't read French.

Liverpool Ghostsigns, a book by Caroline and Phil Bunford, is a lovely photographic exploration of that city's advertising history. 


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