Saturday, 3 July 2010

Ghost Signs at the Lock

Well it's been a while since I was a 'regular-casual' stall holder at Camden Lock.... about twenty five years as it happens, but for a few years  I regularly spent my weekends at Camden, Covent Garden and the Battersea Arts Centre selling my home-made range of bookends and other band-saw created knick-knackery. The preferred mode of transport was a cheap and cheerful Jawa 350 with a sidecar piled high with the apple-boxes full of bookends I'd spent the week making in my Brixton flat. By using skip recovered wood and other penny-pinching wheezes this process generally provided me with just enough income to make it through the week and the early morning ride up to Camden through Trafalgar Square was a real pick-up after staying up through Saturday nights getting things finished off.

So I was quite looking forward to seeing the old place again after thinking that the children might find it an interesting place to spend a Sunday morning. They did. I did as well as it happens but while some bits like the Electric Ballroom doesn't seem to have changed a bit,  pretty much everything else has developed almost beyond recognition and the site of my old stall - a fairly dingy covered area as I recall it, is now an open-air land of wooden kiosks, railway arches and truncated Lambrettas!. I've a feeling it might have been the site of the fire that cleared the area, but whatever the reason I was looking at the area through fresh eyes...and Faded London eyes at that...
The area is an eclectic mix of old and new and this is a good example of how they exist side-by-side. Anyone whose been down the High Street will know that the modern shops have some spectacular signage (probably enough for their own posting) but this low-key example is covering up what appears to be a butchers shop sign if the words 'CHOPS' and 'SEASON' point to anything

There was an attractive mosaic as well and no points for guessing the pub either

Up near Camden tube station there were a couple of ghost signs easily visible, the most famous of which was undoubtedly this Boots the Chemist sign that I've seen many times on various sites making it a bit of a Ghost-Sign Centrefold. At least I know where it is now.
More interesting to me was this building across the way plastered in ghost sign lettering. Miller, Beale & Hider Ltd.

As you can see the company were glaziers but this particular premises seems to have specialised in ecclesiastic glassware. Presumably doing well out of the Victorian boom in church building but also restoring ancient stained-glass leading and other glass maintenance and cleaning.

There's signage on three of the four sides of the building and the view below gives an idea of how imposing  and visible it must have been in its hayday
One thing that intrigued me though was the the clearly visible signature at  the bottom of the wall with either the name of the artist or, far more likely, the name of the signwriting company. I've another of these signatures and I might well keep an eye open for a few more
Swansboro seems to be the name, or at least part of the name, but any further information could be obscured by the (now) attached building. There's a town called Swansboro in the USA which is no help at all, but a bit of research in old trade directories might be called for here I think.

Well that was that for my Sunday morning Camden visit. I'm sure there are loads more ghost signs in the area and it's such a popular place I doubt many of them have remained unrecorded but as usual its the pleasure in coming across them unexpectedly that's a big part of the fun.


Jane said...

Oi! you might have contacted me for a beer!!!

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AnnaFullStop said...

Oh, the idea you had with this blog, I am certain you know it, is amazing! There's so much past beauty lingering in London..I love it *_*

Cindy said...

I enjoy reading your posts about faded London me this is part of our social history, which is fascinating.

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I'm writing a piece on the many and various Guiness Trust buildings to be found around London, and I stumbled upon your piece - lovely pictures!

Sam Roberts (Ghostsigns) said...

Did you ever go any further with the Swansboro signature? I've looked in London and Suburbs directories that I have access to upto c.1915 but not found anything yet. The only thing i've been able to do is place it after 1895, as between then and 1905 is when Hider joined the firm. It's then also likely before 1920 as at some point 1910-20 they broaden their services to builders merchants, rather than specialising in glass.