12 Dec 2008

James Ashby & Sons (Rose Brand Fine Teas)

James Ashby & Sons, Union Street, SE1

Rachel at Jerwood Space recently told me that the building at 195-205 Union Street is currently awaiting final confirmation of its demolition and development. It may not be long before the building and its little piece of ghost sign history is lost forever so I got down there today to get these pictures.

Above is a close-up showing three different elements to the sign. Rose Brand Fine Teas were one of the brands within the James Ashby & Sons portfolio. The ‘Ventilator’ bit underneath seems to relate to something that perhaps came before James Ashby’s occupation of the building. Below is a close-up of the Rose Brand Fine Teas emblem and also shots from the front and back of the building to put the sign into context. The shot from the back also has some elements that seem to relate more to the Ventilators’ use of the building.

Rose Brand Fine Teas Close Up
Rose Brand Fine Teas
James Ashby & Sons, in context
James Ashby & Sons, rear of building

Having a quick look online for information about the company and the premises reveals very little of interest. The main pair of signs have been used by John Henstock in one of his pieces, as shown below. I also found an old tea caddy that features the same branding as the sign pictured, although you have to wonder what the ‘Gunpowder Green’ bit is all about…

[PS, 13th Dec, thanks M.J. for pointing out this on Gunpowder Green Tea]

Perhaps most interesting is that James Ashby & Sons filed a patent for a coffee substitute as recently as 1978, apparently in response to rising coffee prices at the time. This had as ingredients the unlikely combination of barley, chicory, fig, soya and more. It isn’t clear if this concoction ever came to market but my guess is not!

So it looks like this sign will be getting an RIP some time in the near future, watch this space.

John Henstock interpretation of James Ashby & Sons
Rose Brand Tea Caddy

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