For our latest non-route, we though we would celebrate another of the delights of travelling across London, especially on the top of double-decker buses: the chance to spot ghost signs.
If you don’t know what we mean, these are signs painted directly onto the façades or sides of buildings, either to publicise whatever business was carried out there or for more general advertising purposes, called ‘ghost’ because they are frequently old and faded and often tout long-vanished businesses or products. As we have observed, however, some are still in excellent condition and a few new signs are still being painted, so ‘ghost’ does not always do them justice.
The best places to spot ghost signs tend to be pre-Second World War high streets and shopping corners that have not suffered too much modernisation, but they can be found in all sorts of places (there is at least one on Oxford Street). Some parts of London offer very rich pickings – New Cross, for example, or Camden, or Stoke Newington Church Street
We make no claim to expertise in this field, we just enjoy them when we spot them. To pursue the interest for yourself, the History of Advertising Trust launched an ambitious scheme to create a national archive or database a few years ago – find it here – though it seems to have been rather neglected recently. Another good source specifically for London ghost signs is the 'Faded London' blog though this also seems to have gone a bit quiet recently. If you just want to look at pictures, there are several ghost sign groups on Flickr.
Meanwhile, the photos illustrating this post are all our own: to be totally honest, they were not all actually been taken buses, but they are all on bus routes.