Ghost Signs: A London Story
The most comprehensive account of ghost signs ever published, focusing on London’s hand-painted relics of advertising past.
Ghost Signs: A London Story is a fascinating, illustrated book project is being created by Sam Roberts and Roy Reed and you can back the project to bring it to fruition on kickstarter, with the aim to publish in November. So join the campaign and reserve your copy.
Ghost signs are fascinating pieces of urban archaeology. Imposing yet hidden in plain sight, these faded advertisements are London’s history written onto the contemporary cityscape. They reveal fascinating stories of everyday life in the capital. From births and deaths to bombs and whiskey, and Alf the Purse King to Bonsoir Pyjamas, each sign has its own story to tell – not just of the business it represents and the people behind it, but of its own improbable survival.
The book will showcase around 250 of London’s most impressive and historically significant ghost signs, geo-located, accompanied by archival and other contextual images. Introductory chapters include essays on how they were produced and their restoration and conservation. Signs are then featured in themed chapters that include building, entertaining, branding and, ultimately, burying the city.
Ghost Signs: A London Story will appeal to flâneurs, armchair historians of the urban environment and those interested in design, architecture and typography.
In terms of the jazz age, this was a period of upheaval in the sign industry. New technologies, notably illuminated signs, were becoming fashionable, as expenditure on outdoor advertising doubled between 1920 and 1937. Nevertheless, the use of painted walls to advertise all manner of enterprise remained a force to be reckoned with. These ranged from signs for businesses on their own premises, through to brand campaigns on walls specifically leased for the purpose. Many examples from this era are now fading on walls across London, and have been documented and researched for the forthcoming book, Ghost Signs: A London Story.
One of London’s largest ghost signs has a very direct jazz age connection. It can be found along the length of a wall at the back of what was formerly William Mitchell and Howard Booker’s Palais de Danse. It was painted close to the opening of the venue and advertised the prices for their twice-daily dances, with pictorials of smartly-attired dancers to accompany these. It’s only visible from the platforms of the Hammersmith & City line terminus at Hammersmith Station but is one of London’s finest survivor of the genre.
The Palais de Danse sign features among a selection of others in a chapter from the book titled ‘Entertaining the City.’ In addition to print and broadcast media, those for piano manufacturers also feature. This was a booming industry for entertainment both in and out of home and in one case, Boyd Pianos, the instruments are advertised alongside box office services.
You can find out more about the book, back the book project, order a copy, and get a host of other exclusive ‘rewards’ via its dedicated kickstarter page. It will be shipping in November, just in time for Christmas.
Ghost Signs: A London Story
Sam Roberts and Roy Reed
255mm x 195mm portrait / 304pp
More than 40,000 words / 250 images
Pubisher: Isola Press