Ghost Signs

"Ghosts, like ladies, never speak till spoke to." Richard Harris Barham

Hovis Ghost Signs

I like nothing more than to appreciate professional works of art that have been left over from bygone ages. This Ghost Sign advertising the Hovis brand, when a bread shop existed in this building in Islington’s Camden Passage. Today the bakery shop has given way to a trendy art gallery, although the sign writer of those times has left his mark well and truly on the brickwork, displayed above the Tadema Gallery. Even a couple of extractors along with some parallel wood battens cannot disguise this time capsule of a masterpiece.

T. J. Boulting & Sons had their factory in this building on Riding House Street, in London’s West End. Firstly as a Gas and Electric engineers in 1805, before branching into the manufacturing of Range and Stoves in 1808. These beautiful green tiles with gold lettering are all that remains of this hundred-year-old ghost, together with a magnificent Muriel of three faces on the rounded alcove on top of the building.

Ghost of a Chemist

This old chemist ghost sign has two for the price of one, as the sign above is an even older sign.

ghost sign old  horse and motor

This fine shop doorway complete with area railings with all the eloquent beauty of eighteenth-century architecture including a window box displaying summer flowers. As interesting as this corner shop maybe I am drawn to the old ghost sign of Barbon Close W.C.1 where the notice informs that G Bailey and Sons Horse and Motor Contractor were once operating in the rear mews. The wonderful thing about London are these old signs that nobody has considered removing even though the horse-drawn days are long gone.

ghost sign of Clapham horse sales

Cars and horses for sale. This old ghost sign from Cedars Road Clapham, reveals the charms of those bygone days when motor cars were the new kid on the block and horses were very much the kings of the road. Once stabling and selling of horses this overlooked auction house only just survives in sign writing form that now houses charming mews homes for the wealthy Clapham set.

ghost sign of Haig Whisky

Don't be Vague Ask for Haig; This Scotch Whisky sign dates back to the early 1930's and is to be found at the Camberwell Green end of Coldharbour Lane.


This ghost sign of the Royal London Mutual Insurance Society, although fast fading has seen many Clapham Omnibuses passing by opposite Clapham Common Station.

Donovan Bros

Some Ghost Signs are still full of life and crystal clear, and if left alone will no doubt be able to live on. This one was left behind by Donovan Bros when they left Spitalfields for New Spitalfields in Hackney.

Gillette once on nearly every street corner - favoured by chemists and barbers, now reduced to barely a sighting. This one survives by a close shave on Clapham High Street.

Veglio's Cafe, established in 1854, has been hidden for over a hundred years until the building next door was recently demolished to make way for the new Crossrail Station at Oxford Street. After the re-building and demolition of this recent uncovering, this sign has now been lost forever!

The Dream River Cafe at 319/321 Grays Inn Road, has temporary do-it-yourself handwritten signs, a far cry from the ghostly ones above. Scales, Weights & Weighing Machines; giving us a more permanent reminder of this buildings former occupation.

This ghost sign carved onto stone and inset into the brick wall of a narrow Victorian street running off Southwark Bridge Road. “Commit No Nuisance” a commanding sign but of whom is the warning for? We suspect it was for antisocial behaviour like urinating in the streets. Today in this silent backwater of Southwark only parking in this narrow thoroughfare would constitute a nuisance!

London Time

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