Sam Roberts, the originator of the project (and previous Londonist interviewee), explained how Ghost Signs came to life a few years back when he began documenting the plethora of old painted brick ads in Stoke Newington as little more than a personal hobby. From such humble beginnings an obsession was born, one that Sam quickly found was shared by many other passionate urban historians in the city and beyond, and it wasn’t long before a blog and Flickr group were created to help manage the enormous amount of material flowing in. Through the involvement of the History of Advertising Trust, and Rank Hovis’ sponsorship, the archive gradually came to fruition.
The enthusiasm of many amateur photographers, and their willingness to release their work for free, has resulted in an indexed, searchable archive, one that will only grow as more ads (and the unknown histories of those who painted them) are discovered. As Roberts notes in a monograph to commemorate the launch: “The diversity of lettering forms and illustration highlight the skill and flair that each signwriter once brought to their work, in contrast to the carbon copy posters of today”.
Click through the images above for a collection of London ghost signs, or visit the London section of the archive for more