Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hotel, Havana

A very simple sign that adds a lovely touch to a façade full of charm (shame a truck hid part of it).

Could this former hotel in the heart of Habana Vieja have been the Nueva Luz? This particular hotel on Calle de la Amargura was mentioned in 1959 by famous Argentine writer and journalist Rodolfo Walsh in the article "Calle de la Amargura número 303" about Jean Pasel. Pasel, whose real name was Juan Carlos Chidichimo, was an Argentine war correspondent. Persecuted for his progrssive views by many Latin American governments, he joined an expedition to overthrow the Haitian dictator François Duvalier. Most of the rebels, including Pasel, were killed on a beach shortly after landing. In the article Walsh writes that Pasel owed the hotel US$58 and had had to leave part of his belongings there as a guarantee.


Location: Calle de la Amargura, Havana / Pictures taken in April 2010

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Bart's Market, Clapham

Here is a ghost sign about which I have no information at all. I have not found any mention of a market in Tintern Street or any of the streets near this ghost sign.

My guess is it referred to a shop rather than a proper market.


Location: Tintern Street / Pictures taken in May 2011

Friday, 24 May 2013

Builder, Dalston

While the company behind yesterday's ghost sign remains a mystery (so far), it was easy today to trace whose business was being promoted on this wall, even if most of the ghost sign remains hidden behind a layer of plaster. Thanks to the presence of the profession and of an initial, a quick search online for this address revealed it was William John Brace's.

Very little information about W. J. Brace is available other than he was declared bankrupt in October 1911. At the time he worked as a builder and a fruiterer (an odd combination of jobs) at 66, Dalston Lane, Dalston, and 79, High Street, Kingsland. Both addresses were relatively close.

W. J. Brace ...sly
Builder & ... Fitter
... ... ...d
Plumbing, Painting &

Given that there is no mention of a fruiterer here, it may be that that side of Brace's business was conducted at the Kingsland address.

The missing word before "Fitter" may be "Gas" as in the ghost sign for R. Ellis.

The presence of a word ending in "sly" at the same level as "W. J. Brace" is a bit of a mystery. Could this have been part of the name of the person who moved in after W. J. Brace was declared bankrupt? If he was in the building trade too, it would not have been necessary to alter the rest of the sign.

What will happen to this ghost sign? The house it is painted on is the last one of a row to be still occupied. The whole terrace of early 19th century houses, with shop frontages added c. 1875, when Dalston expanded following the arrival of the railways, has been earmarked for restoration by Hackney Council. In a November 2009 document, the Council stated:

The buildings of Dalston Terrace are good examples of early 19th century residential architecture and later 19th century shop front development. They are considered to be of “Townscape Merit” and are considered to make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area. The Council considers it a priority both to ensure that this valuable piece of Hackney’s heritage is not lost through dilapidation and neglect, and to bring an important piece of Dalston town centre back into productive use.

However most of the buildings have been derelict for years. Some were in such a state of disrepair they have been demolished and one was gutted by fire. Nothing should be expected before 2015 at least. The risk is that more houses will be beyond repair by then and that in the end most buildings will be completely rebuilt in some kind of 21st century version of Georgian architecture.

Location: Dalston Lane / Pictures taken in May 2013

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Wholesale and for exportation, Bethnal Green

If I discovered a new ghost sign while walking recently along Hackney Road (see yesterday's post), I also noticed that one had disappeared. As it was an overcast day I thought I could take a better picture than last year, when there was a strong contrast between the part of the wall in the shade and the part in the sun. However this was not to be: in November 2012 street artists Cept, BRK and SNOE painted a large mural on this wall and in the process covered the ghost sign.

Wholesale And For Exportation

The mural painted in November 2012. With such an explosion of colours and so much action going on, the street certainly does not looks dull!

With the name of the upper part the ghost sign missing, it is virtually impossible to tell which company was being advertised there. Unless someone remembers what the hidden part was or has a photo showing the whole sign. An online search revealed that the premises were once occupied by William Henry Bull, a leather merchant trading from various addresses in London, who was declared bankrupt in 1861, and by T. J. Orange & Sons Ltd, a furniture maker incorporated in 1946. Yet there must have been several firms at this address between the 1860s and the 1940s. It is also poosible, but less likely, that this ghost sign signalled to the passing public another company whose premises would have been further down Hassard Street, such as J. Jarvis, wholesale and export manufacturer and patentee of gentlemen's and ladies' lawn tennis and yachting shoes, based in the early 20th century at number 50.


And For


Location: Hassard Street / Pictures taken in March 2012 and May 2013

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Hartcraft, Bethnal Green

This ghost sign just off Hackney Road must have reappeared fairly recently.

I have not found any information about Hartcraft. The only mention seems to be in a 1935 catalogue of British Industries Fair but there is no online preview of this document. At least the date fits with the style of the lettering of the more recent and flamboyant sign, which covered an earlier one that listed a greater range of activities.

The earlier sign read

... ...on..
Cabinet Makers
Upholsterers &
Chair Frame Makers

As for the more recent ghost sign, it reads


Great Art Deco lettering! Shame though that the upper part of this ghost sign was painted over.

Location: Minerva Street / Pictures taken in May 2013

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Daren, Stoke Newington

I returned recently to Stoke Newington in north London, an area with an impressive concentration of ghost signs. A few changes had occurred since my last visit four or five years ago. Sadly, as Sam Robert had commented, the glass of wine had been painted black by Hackney Council. Yet there were some more positive surprises, including the reappearance of the ghost sign below for Daren brown bread.

Only the part that was once hidden by a hoarding has survived but that's enough to identify the brand advertised here, especially since there are several similar ones around London. Examples published on this blog so far include these from Camberwell and Vauxhall.

The origins of Daren go back to 1875, when Leonard Keyes established a milling business at Brent windmill in Dartford. A few years later his brother Sidney K. Keyes joined the firm, which moved to Colyer's Mill on an artificial channel of the Darent. As their business expanded the two brothers looked for a site with greater production capacity and in 1891 they purchased Daren Mills on Dartford Creek.
The sucess of Daren, like that of Hovis, was linked to the growing demand for unaldurated flour and healthier bread in the late 19th century. Research carried out throughout the second half of the 19th century had revealed that millers and bakers often adulterated their wheat flour with rye, barley, Indian corn or bean-flour. Even worse, as a majority of consumers preferred white bread, a large proportion of them did not hesitate to add alum (around 50% in the mid-1850s) or copper sulphate, a highly toxic chemical, to make their bread look whiter. Those findings were reproduced, sometimes in a simplified form, by leading newspapers and had a huge impact on society. In this climate, consumers turned increasingly towards brands that claimed they could guarantee the quality, and safety, of their products.
Additionally by the end of the 19th century doubts began emerging about the nutritional value of white bread against brown bread. The campaign for more nutritious bread intensified during and after the Boer War as some linked the poor physical condition of British recruits (40% were declared unfit for military service) to the consumption of white bread; although this was more due to poverty and the associated consequences of bad housing and insufficient food than just a lack of vitamins in bread.
As Daren flour was used to bake brown bread (but not wholemeal), the company benefited from both factors. Demand grew steadily during the first decades of the 20th century, leading to the expansion of Keyes Daren Mills (see aerial views from 1924 and 1929).
In spite of the popularity of Daren loaves, the situation of the company deteriorated after the First World War. Competition with Hovis, Turog and other brands was extremely harsh. Furthermore, as production techniques improved and more modern mills were built around the country, milling capacity exceeded demand for flour in the 1920s. To counter competition from northern millers (essentially Joseph Rank Ltd from Hull and W. Vernon & Sons from Merseyside, both of which were expanding rapidly through mergers and acquisitions) seven independent millers from the London area formed in 1921 the Associated London Flour Millers. Each company retained its own identity though. Unfortunately information about Daren is rather patchy and I have not found a document stating clearly it was one of the founders of the Associated London Flour Millers but several suggest it. In 1929 Keyes Daren Mills Ltd became Daren Ltd, probably following the retirement of its founders. By joining forces the seven milling companies could lower their costs and make subtantial savings. As a result the Associated London Flour Millers returned healthy profits for several years. Yet following a first loss in 1929, its financial situation became precarious in the early 1930s and in 1933 the concern was absorbed by Ranks Ltd. Ranks kept the Daren brand and Daren loaves continued to be baked around the country. However Daren bread disappeared in the late 1960s or early 1970s. In 1962 Ranks had acquired Hovis-McDougall Co and after a few years it decided to keep only its bestselling brand, Hovis.

There is no online mention of a bakery at this address. The first part of the baker's name is missing but it may well have been "Raleigh", preceded by an initial (without it, the name would not have been centered).

... Raleigh's
Best Brown Bread

Location: Stoke Newington Church Street / Picture taken in May 2013