A Catalogue Of London's Ghost Signs - Forgotten Adverts All Over The City

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 7 months ago
A Catalogue Of London's Ghost Signs - Forgotten Adverts All Over The City

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Wandsworth Road, Rubber Ghost Sign
761 Wandsworth Road, SW1. This advert is for Redfern's Rubber Works, a company founded in 1900 that sold... rubber.

If you know where to look, there are plenty of hints of past Londons.

None more obvious — simply because of their visual strikingness — than ghost signs. These are forgotten adverts, hidden in plain sight all over the city. There were no electronic billboards in the early 20th century, with up-to-the-minute sports results and social media feeds scrolling across them. It was all a little more straightforward back in the day — paint on brick.

And while today's electronic adverts disappear as soon as the new one takes its place, adverts applied to brick and mortar buildings can last for decades. And many have. Writer Helen Cox collated and catalogued some of the ghost signs still visible in London today, in the updated edition of her book Fading London.

Here are some of our favourite ghost signs from the book.

Ghost signs in Kilburn
223 Kilburn High Road, NW6. Two different ghost adverts on top of each other, one for Criterion Matches another for Gillette Razors
Ghost sign in New Cross
104 New Cross Road, SE14. Three different adverts here: the most visible is for Nestlé Milk
Bovril ghost signBrixton
Effra Road, SW2. Bovril advert possibly dating from the 1920s
Player's Please Ghost Sign
31 Kenworthy Street, E9. Player's Please was a slogan for tobacco brand Player's Navy Cut
Boots ghost sign, Camden
214 Camden High Street, NW1. Boots were already claiming to be the largest retail chemists in the world by 1912.
Deane & Co. Chemists ghost sign. Clapham
17 The Pavement, SW4. Deane & Co. was a chemist in Clapham that was open between 1910 and 1973. That the sign is in such good nick, suggests it was either painted quite late in that run, or repainted over the years.
Blooms Piano ghost sign Kingsland Road
134 Kingsland Road, E2. This Blooms Piano is so beloved by the community it has a local listing, which should protect it for years to come.
Fake ghost sign Jack Daniel's
312 Archway Road, N6. Nowadays, some big brands have cottoned onto the popularity of ghost signs and produced imitation ones. This Jack Daniel's advert arrived on Archway Road pre-faded.
Restored Ghost Sign Willesden Green.
50 High Road, NW10. This Willesden Green ghost sign for Saint Paul's Pianos, has been repainted and restored. There are disagreements as to whether it's still a ghost sign.

Discover more glorious ghost signs in Fading London.

Last Updated 02 December 2019

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