The History Anorak

The History Anorak

Wednesday, 27 May 2015


This one's in Hull
I'm fascinated by ghostsigns - those leftover advertising remnants that you see painted onto buildings all over the country. (The world!)  In fact I'm so obsessed with them that I regularly take photos, and I've made a few contributions to the History of Advertising Trust's collection over the years.

You never know when you'll spot one, and sometimes, if your mind is set just right, you see them in places you know you've walked past many times before.

Painted advertising on walls has a long history. You could find examples of it in ancient Pompeii. One of the best-known  is a sign for a brothel, which was unearthed during excavations into the ruined city.

Most of the UK signs date from a time when businesses were long-established and tended not to move around. Economic conditions made it worthwhile making a semi-permanent statement about yourself and your goods - unlike today.

It seems like the heyday of the painted sign - in the UK at least - was the early 20th century. You'll probably spot one somewhere in any old, grainy, black and white photo from WWI onwards, It's possible they were around for much longer, it's just that photos are rarer.  The one below featured on a BBC news website and dates from April 1912. You can just spot the painted sign in the background. Click here for a better view.

Many were adverts for particular brands, but others were specific to one shop or business.  The Hull example at the top is in the doorway of an old office building. It's actually at the back of the Hull and East Riding Museum. You can see from that how many times some signs were re-painted as proprietors came and went. And if you want to see more detail you can reach the photo in my Flickr stream, where you'll be able to check it out in original size.

For lots more information and great photos check out Sam Roberts's website and I promise you'll be spotting them for yourself very soon. Then why not take a photo and submit it to HAT's collection?

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating topic, interesting looking blog - looking forward to more!


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