London Ghost Signs

Let me introduce a colleague and friend from “across the pond.” Sam Roberts has not only done groundbreaking work in the documentation of wall signs throughout the UK, he has induced an intrepid band of wall sign enthusiasts, cameras at the ready, to help him in his quest to create a comprehensive survey of these fading and charming ads, “hidden in plain sight,” as Sam likes to say. Take a look at and you will agree that his efforts are nothing less than breathtaking in scope. If that isn’t enough then follow the link on The Painted Ad home page to one of Sam’s videos, titled “Ghost Signs: Booze and Fags.” Fags being Brit slang for cigs, squares, smokes, coffin nails, butts, etc. If ever you’re in London, think about signing up for one of Sam’s Ghost Sign Walking Tours – Cheers, Wm. Stage

Sam was kind enough to provide the following images along with accompanying captions as well as this short introduction:

Since noticing my first ghostsign in London, UK, in 2006 my interest has grown into a deep fascination, some might say obsession. My work has developed over this time with the most significant output being the History of Advertising Trust Ghostsigns Archive. This brought together dozens of photographers to capture almost 1,000 locations across the UK and Ireland. The archive continues to grow, as does the number of articles and pieces of research on the Ghostsigns blog which has now been running for over six years.

More recently I have published the first Ghostsigns calendar and am now running walking tours for visitors to London. These allow people to see ghostsigns ‘in the flesh’ which is how they were always meant to be viewed.

For me, ghostsigns are pieces of local, social, advertising and craft history, fading each day, and often hidden in plain sight. My work is directed towards raising their profile and, hopefully, their perceived value in the eyes of the property owners who ultimately decide their fate. I do this through photography, research, archiving, writing and publishing. I continue to enjoy the surprises that come through this work, most recently the first mirrored ghostsign that I’ve ever seen.


Courage Beer – Redcross Street London SE1

This sign is positioned for high visibility from railway tracks coming out of London Bridge Station. The building was recently bought for 3 million pounds, making this one of the world’s priciest ghost signs. When in London and visiting certain grand old pubs, Americans, in particular, enjoy calling out to the bartender, “Give me a glass of Courage.”


Daren Bread – Stoke Newington Church Street London N16

What remains of this sign was protected for many years by another sign mounted on the wall. It is an example of “privilege” advertising with the baker’s name, seen near the top, likely Raleigh’s.


Warings / Wilton Factories – Shepperton Road London N1

Located on the former factory, this is quite a large one for the UK.


Deane & Co. Chemists – The Pavement London SW4

This large sign may have been painted in the last 20 years or so given its appearance. The chimney pots seen at the roofline add to the charm of the sign. And yes, The Pavement is the actual name of the road where the ad is found.


S. Errington Furniture – Dulwich Road London SE24

The missing word on the bottom line would be “Exchanged.”


Redfern’s Rubber Heels – Grant Street London N1

The script along the bottom is the company’s slogan, “Makes Walking A Pleasure.” This sign was “revealed” in its entirety after some more recent painted advertising was cleaned off the building during renovation.


Black Cat Cigarettes – Dingley Road London EC1

The Carreras Tobacco Co. introduced Black Cat in 1904 as one of the first machine-made cigarettes made in Britain. The brand was also instrumental in early cigarette promotions, which have a rich and prolific history in that country. Upon purchase, smokers were given a free stamp album. Stamps were found in every pack of Black Cat and small fortunes were offered for the best completed albums. In this ad, we see that you can buy “10 for 6d,” which is six old English pence.


  • Sam Roberts December 5th, 2013 5:27 pm

    Thanks for the profile William and keep up the great work State-side!

Leave a Comment: