Bile Beans, Mirrored Lettering and More...

Words on Walls #1

Bile Beans, Leeds

I first became aware of this repainting in Leeds via my twitter. A post to Instagram seemed to provoke a response, so I decided to investigate the project further. I found out a fair bit, including a lovely archival photo from the same campaign in Wolverhampton. Get the full scoop on the blog.

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Curiosity Corner: Bar Lovento

Last weekend we took a short holiday on a campsite (read ‘glampsite’) and, while driving around to get the youngest to sleep, I spotted this old sign.

Bar Lovento doesn’t seem to exist any more so I couldn’t ask the owners, but currently I have a couple of theories to explain the mirror lettering (with the exception of the N). One idea is that this was the bar’s identity/logotype. Another is that the sign is targeted at the very niche audience of those that are looking in their rear view mirror while looking for the/a bar and having just driven past it.

I’m open to other suggestions and you can see the sign in situ here in google streetview.

Harry Green’s Lost Fascia

Anecdotal evidence during the pandemic is that there has been a higher then normal rate of old shopfronts being revealed. This would appear to be due to businesses going under and being replaced, and existing shops using the downtime to renovate, including their signage.

However, the above fading fascia revealed in Essex pre-dates all this and has been lost completely. There’s more about Harry Green and the ‘fashion’ business that was the most recent occupant of the building on the blog.

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Ferodo Bridges and George Cunningham

The story of the nationwide railway bridge campaign by Ferodo is a fascinating one, and we tell a little of it in the book. One of my favourite bits is that when the deal with British Rail came to an end, the signs remained up. This resulted in years of free advertising for the brand.

The Ferodo sign therefore caught my eye in this painting, Attercliffe, by George Cunningham when it popped up on Twitter. He was untrained, painted from memory, and there is an account of his work and legacy here.

Seeing Ghosts Exhibition

If you are able to get to Philadelphia then I would highly recommend visiting the Seeing Ghosts exhibtion at the new Neon Museum there. It features the work of seven photographers that have been capturing ghost signs over many years and runs to 8th August. Pictured is Coconut Cake by Mary Alice Bitts Jackson.

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Small Shops : Brian Lomas

This exhibition in Manchester celebrates the publication of Brian Lomas’s book of 1980s photographs of small shops. It runs until 28th August at The Modernist.

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Saving the Signs

While I don’t actively campaign for the saving of specific ghost signs, I’m always happy to support others in their efforts to do so. Pictured is one that’s under threat in Hamilton, Canada, photographed by John Rennison, and which has a petition to save it here.

I originally published details of the petition on the blog, alongside some historical notes on the business. This was accompanied by another campaign to save a mosaic Co-Op shop front in Wimbledon, which was subsequently successful. Find more details of both here.

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Celebrity Signwriters

I’ve often said that my favourite category of ghost signs are those for signwriting firms. Perhaps in second place are those signed by the signwriter. This new addition to the collection at the American Sign Museum, but with an added claim to fame. Cassius M. Clay is none other than Muhammed Ali’s dad, and this three-part 1950s sign board is the first example I’ve seen of his actual work.

On my other blog for Better Letters I did a write-up of ‘celebrity’ signwriters that I was aware of. Over time this has been added to, largely with thanks to Tony Mead at Industrial Art Sign Co. There are some great and unexpected names on the list, and I’d love to see more.

More Celebrity Signwriters

Top of the Tweets

I thought I’d close out each newsletter with some of my favourite ghost signs bits from Twitter. You can follow and tag me here.

Too late for the book, but what a fantastic new reveal in South East London. And @Running_Past has published an extended blog about the firm if you want to get the history.

This famous Bovril ghost sign in Brixton is obviously in the book, alongside another on Romford Road. But I really like this dramatic photo by Julian Kenning (@Climohu).

And, related, ‘Blowvril’!

This lovely privilege sign was recently revealed in Birmingham. It’s the first time I’ve heard of the Three Castles cigarette brand and perhaps the block logotype might help to date this well-preserved sign. Hopefully it’ll stay on show for a while.