Friday, 21 September 2012

Castrol, Lille

This large trompe-l'oeil above one of Lille's mairies de quartier (the neighbourhood's branch of the city hall) could do with some fresh paint as its colours are slowly fading but it is nonetheless a welcome addition to the cityscape.

Surprisingly the lower part of the pinkish façade of the building on the extreme left of this trompe-l'oeil has faded much more than the rest and revealed the presence of a ghost sign for Castrol, the brand of automotive lubricants launched by Charles C. Wakefield & Co. in 1900. For more information about Castrol, check the company's timeline.

The presence of this Castrol ghost sign could suggest a garage or petrol station once stood on this site. This seems to be confirmed by the wider-than-usual pavement in front of the curved façade of the mairie: a former petrol station forecourt maybe?

Location: Rue Pierre Dupont, Lille, Nord / Pictures taken in June 2012

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Henri Lecocq, Lille

The ghost sign for Mondial carrelage presented yesterday wasn't the only one on this wall. Higher up a proud cockerel promoted the Société Henri Lecocq.

There isn't much information about this company. Most of the documents in which its name appear date from the 1950s and 1960s but given that Henri Lecocq was born in the late 19th or very early 20th century (the son of Henri, Robert Lecocq, was born in 1920), the company may predate the Second World War. These usually refer to Sociétes Henri Lecocq rather than the singular société. This would suggest the activities of the company were split at some point and several subsidiaries created to handle the different businesses of Henri Lecocq.

One of Lecocq's subsidiaries was the river shipping and insurrance company La Fluviale Lecocq based Rue Meurein, a couple of hundred metres away from this ghost sign. This company also had offices in Calais and Paris and its barges seem to have carried goods along the rivers and canals of northern France and Belgium as well as the Moselle and the Rhine in Germany.

S Henri

The harbour of Lille on the Deûle Canal and its warehouses extend not far away from the building on which this ghost sign is painted and this may be why this space was chosen to promote Henri Lecocq's company.

This ghost sign was painted by TEFFRI. The name can be seen in the bottom right corner of the last picture.

Location: Avenue Architecte Cordonnier, Lille, Nord / Pictures taken in June 2012

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Mondial carrelage, Lille

Although a company of the same name has a website, it doesn't seem to have any connection with this ghost sign painted in Lille. As the name indicates, it sold tiles.

Mondial carrelage
Ici [Here]

Location: Avenue Architecte Cordonnier, Lille, Nord / Picture taken in June 2012

Monday, 17 September 2012

Crème Eclipse, Lille

When freshly painted, this ghost sign with its bright yellow letters on a dark blue, almost black background would have been far more noticeable. These days I wonder how many people look above the trees and façades of Square Morisson in the northern French city of Lille and wonder what could have been advertised on this gable.

Actually this is not an easy one to decipher but it is still possible to read, on top, the name of a polish launched in 1881: Crème Eclipse.


The Crème Eclipse was manufactured by the Société Générale des Cirages Français, founded in 1881 in Lyon. Several kinds of polish were available under the name Eclipse to make both shoes and metals shine.

One of its catchiest slogans, used in the 1930s, was "La crème Eclipse éclipse tous les cirages" ("The Eclipse polish eclipses all polishes") but I doubt this is what was painted here. However it was certainly precised on this ghost sign that Eclipse was made with beeswax ("Le cirage à la cire").

Eclipse disappeared in the 1940s after the Société Générale des Cirages Français was acquired by Lion Noir, another manufacturer of polish.

There are several ghost signs in Lille for the Crème Eclipse, including one with the brand's logo made of a smiling sun and a crying moon... but that will be for later.

Location: Rue de l'Hôpital Militaire, Lille, Nord / Pictures taken in June 2012

Friday, 7 September 2012

I. Sutcliffe, Birmingham

Isherwood Sutcliffe, born in 1807, certainly established his varnish making business in 1849, the year he moved to 27 Great Hampton Street. Two years later he took part in the Great Exhibition. The Official Catalogue lists some of the products he exhibited in the impressive Crystal Palace erected in Hyde Park, London: ornamental papier-maché, trays, loo-table, work-tables, vases, folios, caddies, work-boxes, ink-stands, etc. (one of his papier-maché trays, made at an unknown date, can be seen here).
Other than varnish manufacturer, several publications give his profession as bronzer or japanner, both quite unsual in today's world.
Isherwood Sutcliffe died in 1871 and was buried at Warstone Lane Cemetery in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter. A peculiar headstone designed by L. W. Sutcliffe was erected on his tomb in 1888.

The company survived for 41 years after the death of its founder but in 1912 it went into winding-up. A liquidator was called in and the assets of Isherwood Sutcliffe & Co Ltd were disposed of.

Established ...
I. Sutcliffe
Maker of Varnishes
Paints. Colours
Wholesale & Retail
... Turpentine. Tar

Location: Great Hampton Street / Pictures taken in May 2012

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Office furniture, Birmingham

Built between 1840 and 1850 as houses, 2 and 3 Great Hampton Street had their upper floors adapted as workshops shortly afterwards. At No. 3 a series of ghost signs reveal the name and activities of the different companies that operated within these walls.

Several occupants have left their marks indeed but it is difficult to tell which parts of the ghost signs go together. That's why I just put all I could decipher in one block

Hall & Co
..m...ate Ho... / Manufacturers
... / Shet... *

.esert... *
Office Furniture
Ho.. [Home?]

/: indicates successive ghost signs written at the same level
*: these two words are written diagonally with a completely different typeface from the rest.

The only occupant of 3 Great Hampton Street I have been able to trace was George Kelland, a milliner who certainly occupied the ground floor shop in 1878. Nothing about any of the businesses responsible for the ghost signs on the façade though.

Both buildings, which are grade II listed, are in a pretty sad state and if they were to remain empty for much longer, their long term future may be jeopardized.

Location: Great Hampton Street / Pictures taken in May 2012

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ales and stouts, Birmingham

From the main part of the former White Horse Cellars (see yesterday's post), a wing extends along Northwood Street. On its side wall is another ghost sign, this time not for wines and spirits but ales and stouts.

Unfortunately only the last line can still be read.

Ales & Souts

Location: Northwood Street / Pictures taken in May 2012

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Wines and Spirits, Birmingham

The former White Horse Cellars, on Constitution Hill, is the only public house designed by J. A. Chatwin c. 1885-1890. The pub closed down in 1999 and remained empty for a few years, until an off-licence opened within its walls. The building may be listed but that didn't prevent the new occupants from defacing it with their utterly unsightly signs.

At least they didn't manage to hide the ghost sign, which runs along the main block, starting on Constitution Hill and finishing round the corner on Northwood Street.

Importer and Bonder

Of Wines & Spirits

Location: Constitution Hill / Pictures taken in May 2012

Monday, 3 September 2012

H. Morrall, Birmingham

The building where Aerlec (Aluminium) Ltd was based for a very short period was previously home to two businesses if not three as suggested by the ghost signs on its façade. However only one can be fully identidied: H. Morrall, Conveyor & Engineering Co. Ltd.

Indeed the part of the façade at ground floor level that hasn't been rebuilt still bears the marks left by previous occupants. As a result the ghost signs on the arches above the entrances and blocked windows are little palimpsests, only one of which I managed to decipher. More ghost signs were painted against a cream background on each side of the openings.

Unfortunately a quick search on the web by name, occupation and addresses did not return any information about these businesses.

So... ...ers
... Makers

H. Morrall

Something else was originally written there but only a couple of letters can be made out.


Conveyor &

This was painted over


Only very faint traces of letters can be seen here. Nothing that makes sense.


Here as well something else was written originally but I can't identify any of it.

Mill No. ...
Cartside Mills
Millikenpark. N...

Cartside Mills, built in the 1790s, was one the first cotton mills in Scotland. After the Second World War it was home to Smith and McLaurin's Paper Mill. However none of these activities seem to be connected to the ones carried out in this Birmingham building. Unless of course the ghost signs painted on the cream background have nothing to do with what can still be read on the arcades and refer to another occupant involved in the cotton trade. This is most likely.

Location: Bond Street / Pictures taken in May 2012