Category Archives: Ghost Signs

Ghost Signs – Frederick Stimpson, Carver and Gilder

The location of the sign is an odd one – on the side of a building but above the River Quaggy opposite the point at which it is joined by the Mid Kid Brook, painting much of it would have presumably involved climbing over the bridge, dropping a couple of metres to river level and then having the ladder standing in the river whilst painting the sign.

Other than the ‘F Stimpson’s’, ‘…works’ in the middle and ‘fine’ on the bottom row of lettering, it is difficult to decipher what remains – due to a combination of several layers, re-pointing and age. However, it is almost certainly, a sign for Frederick Stimpson who, according to the 1908 Kelly’s Directory, ran a carving and guilding business at 120 Lee Road, the side of the building on which the sign is located.

Frederick Stimpson was born in Killower, in rural County Galway 15 miles north of the city of Galway around 1877. His family had moved back to London soon after his birth as by 1881 he was living at 29 Horton Street, just off Loampit Vale, in Lewisham with his parents – his father was a ‘naval pensioner’ of 39.

By 1911 he was living over the shop at 120 Lee Road with a wife and four sons, all of who had been born in Lee, and business was good enough to be able to afford to employ a servant.

It wasn’t the first (or last) business to trade from the shop – in 1892 the short-lived Blackheath Gazette carried adverts for a W Francis who was a ‘Dyer, Cleaner, furrier and plumassier’. Local requirements have changed rather a lot in the last 100 years, the shop is now an Indian Restaurant and Take Away….

The rest of the row of shops has changed considerably as well; in 1908 in the shop fronts towards Lee Green were a confectioner, a butcher, a hosier, and a milliner and in the businesses towards Blackheath, were a hairdresser, furniture dealer, the auctioneers Stocker and Roberts – who still exist as surveyors in Lee, another milliner, a dressmaker and a costumier. While there is still a hairdresser, most of the rest of the businesses are like 120 – at the lower end of the market take-aways and restaurants.

Ghost Signs – Charles Holdaway, a Lewisham Painter

This very well preserved ghost sign, next to the bowling alley on Belmont Hill in Lewisham was uncovered in early 2014, the previous advertising hoarding having been removed. Despite my expectation that it would be re-covered with a more modern advertising display, aimed at almost constant stream of drivers and bus passengers stopped at the traffic lights, it still there (mid 2017).

The C Holdaway was probably Charles Parneth Holdaway, although as it was almost certainly a family business, by the time the sign was written it may have been his son who was also Charles.

Graining was something common in the 19th and early 20th century – it was essentially either creating a wood grain effect on a non-wood surface or imitating hard, expensive woods by applying a thin layer of paint onto soft woods such as pine to mimic hardwoods such as mahogany.

The exact vintage of the sign is not completely clear, although it is certainly some time before 1912, as around halfway down on the left hand side there is an old street name, Granville Mews, painted over the advertisement. This name was replaced with its present name, Myron Place, in 1912.

Charles, senior, was born at Woodford in Essex in 1845. This predated the arrival of the railway there by a decade, so it is likely to have been largely rural in character. He had clearly moved away from the area by his early 20s, as he had married to Maria who was from Pimilco, and they had a son, Charles junior, was born in Brixton in 1868.

By the 1881 census they were living at 36 Molesworth Street, although given the birthplace and years of the other children, they had spent at least 5 years in Stratford en route from Brixton.

There was probably originally an address for the business on the sign, but this was undoubtedly lower down the wall and is now covered by several layers of paint. While this could have been Molesworth Street, it is much more likely to have been a little further up the road towards Blackheath at 27 Belmont Hill, where the family was living in 1891. Belmont Hill was the location given in the various adverts that appeared for the firm in the short-lived Blackheath Gazette in the early 1890s, a November 1892 edition included

C. Holdaway, Plumber and Painter, 3, Belmont Hill, Lee. Special attention given to Sanitary Work, Estimates for General Repairs, Contractor under the London Provincial Sanitary Company ….

Although as other editions had 0, 4 and 27, it may just have been typesetting of pre-computer Guardian levels of accuracy.

By the 1901 (and in the 1911 census) they had moved to the other side of, what would then have been known as Lee Bridge, at 33 Lewis Grove where they had a shop front. Charles, senior, was still listed as working at 68 in 1911.

Charles, junior, was at least in the same ‘trade’, working at a ‘paper hanger’ in 1901, probably in the family business. He lived close by at 59 Cressingham Road. He is listed for the same trade in 1911, but three doors away from where he was living in 1881, at 30 Molesworth Street.

Ghost Signs – A Spicknell, Greengrocer of Anerley Road

I noticed this ghost sign on Anerley Road a few weeks ago when I was stopped at the traffic lights at a pedestrian crossing next to it; it is tucked away in a slight gap between two shops and under some overhanging eaves which have protected it from the weather. I must have driven or run past it dozens of times but never noticed it probably because the eye is drawn more to the rather fine building that used to be Anerley Town Hall which is opposite; it would probably be best seen from the top of a bus. I went back on foot to take a few photos.

Arthur Spicknell was a greengrocer at 121 Anerley Road in Penge (1913 Kelly’s Directory), he had moved to Penge in the late 1870s from Alderbury in Wiltshire, working initially as a greengrocers assistant (1881 census) whilst living in Maple Terrace (presumably part of Maple Road) a couple of hundred metres down the hill in Penge.

The bottled fruits and jams that he was happy to be associated with were presumably of T W Beach of Brentford who won prizes at Covent Garden and the 1851 Great Exhibition. Beach apparently lived in the delightfully named ‘Strawberry House.’

There are the remains of a second sign underneath the one for Spicknell’s – the only bits I could decipher, even with some help from Photoshop, were ‘S C Du ‘. Google showed that that I wasn’t the first blogger to have noticed the sign, or that there might be something below. Sébastien Ardouin of the Painted Signs and Mosaics blog had been there six years before (and had found out a lot more about T W Beach). There had been a bit more to see of what lay underneath then ….

S. C. Du…
Auction Valuer / …edd… Manufacturer
… …ouse Agents

Armed with this information, it was possible to find out some more. The National Archives, showed that London Borough of Bromley held some information on

This firm, according to its advertisements, was established in 1873. It closed in 1914. The firm had its warehouse and showrooms at 25 Station Road, Anerley from the 1870s and for some time a depository at 60 Oakfield Road (they also carried out removals and storage of house contents). From about 1895 they also had premises at 99 Anerley Road, Penge.

This would all make some sense as to why a sign on the side of a shop 100 metres away would be appropriate. The 1873 version of the firm was at least the second that a Samuel Charles Dunk had set up, as the London Gazette reported his bankruptcy in 1869 and subsequent discharge later that year.

The second business, and the one on the sign, was probably set up by a son of an identical name. Samuel Dunk, Senior, was born in Catsfield, near Hastings in 1828, but died during the 1870s. Samuel Dunk, Junior, was born in Hastings in 1855 and had probably moved to Penge in the early 1860s, as the 1881 census has his brother being born there.. He was a carpenter in 1871, but by 1881 the census had him employing two men in his upholstery business, and had sufficient income to employ a servant.

Ghost Signs & Running – Sometimes the Answer is Staring You in the Face

It has happened twice this week, the second time was the ghost sign I saw just off South Norwood High Street yesterday afternoon. The sign had seen much better days, the paint had flaked off but the flourishes of the font seemed familiar. It took me to run past the same sign on on current shop front today to realise that this was a sign for Boots the Chemist.
The first was wondering why I had struggled for a couple of weeks with both the closing miles of my long runs and the next run I did – it was amazing the difference a bottle of Lucozade Sport, mid run had this week …

The week’s running highlights
– 18.3 @ 8:21, including 8 miles @ 8:00
– 5 x 800m intervals
– 3.7 mile tempo run

Ghost Signs in Catford and Lewisham

I had an interesting run last Sunday, triggered by a detour earlier in the week stopping in traffic by a couple of ‘Ghost Signs’ in Catford. I vaguely remembered that there were a few more in the area and set off to explore.

Ghost signs are old hand-painted advertising signage which pre-dated the paper advertising hoardings. There are some fantastic blogs on ghost signs, particularly on Caroline’s Miscellany, which covers a lot of other interesting things too.

The first was en route, and is on the corner of Lee High Road and Bankwell Road in Lewisham. This was hidden for years under an advertising hoarding but became visible a few years ago.

Witalls was a car dealership on the opposite corner from the 1930s to the 1970s. It was housed in what was previously a cinema, the Lee Picture Palace, later to be Central Hall Pictures, before becoming a WW1 munitions factory.

More recently the building was home to Penfold’s car showroom and an upstairs snooker hall, but was demolished in the early 2000s for flats and a health centre.

There are seveal ghost signs around around Sandhurst Road in Catford. The first is on Muirkirk Road, for baker and pastry cook, the name was presumably in a different paint and has worn off.

On the corner of Muirkirk Road and Sandhurst Road, over the door of a supermarket, is a butcher’s sign.

At the other end of the terrace of shops that used to be called Sandhurst Market, on the corner of Inchmery Road, is a much less clear sign that has deteriorated in recent years for a chemist and druggist, over a present day pharmacy.

Behind it is my favourite of the area, that of an ‘hygienic’ baker, the least one would expect; the sign dates from the 1930s or 1940s, although there was a bakers there from 1907, and there is a sign at the rear advertising Hovis.

The bakers were Warner Bros….so I should sign off with a a phrase that originates from the same era ‘That’s All Folks!’