4 Feb 2017

Painted Advertisements in Islington: Part 1

I am conducting a small investigation into the ghostsigns of Islington and am appealing for help from readers of this blog. The map below (view full screen) will form the basis for this, in the context of the following notes.

Recently while going through old binders with some of my very early research into ghostsigns I rediscovered a paper from 1999 by A. D. Harvey*, published in Volume 50 of Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society. The title of this is Painted Advertisements in Islington and, when reading it back in 2006, I was mainly concerned with the general discussion of the topic, and forgot to note the very interesting and detailed notes that the author provides at the end. These itemise 51 Islington ghostsigns and now, 18 years after it was initially published, make an interesting starting point for some comparative research.

My objective is to determine how many of the ghostsigns listed in Harvey’s original article are still visible in Islington. For example, one of those listed, Black Cat Cigarettes in Dingley Road, has only just been lost. While Harvey’s list is by no means exhaustive I think that comparing now and then will give an insight into the rate at which ghostsigns are being lost, albeit within a specific geographical context, and with a limited initial sample size.

The map above (also available via this link) pinpoints, to the best accuracy I can manage, the 51 ghostsigns that Harvey features in his article. The blue markers are those that I have been able to verify as still visible (28 out of 34), or gone (6). That leaves 17 marked with red circles and stars that I need to determine whether they are still around, or not. In addition I would like to add photos to those that are currently missing, and supplement any of the relatively detailed research that Harvey conducted back at the end of the 1990s. Please leave comments below, or send information through by email and/or Twitter.

PS. The initial impetus for this research came from a 2013 enquiry to the Islington Local History Centre aiming to find out if the Hovis ghostsign (Islington High Street/Charlton Place) was listed. A document (Register of Locally Listed Buildings and Shopfronts April 2010) received by reply didn’t lend any credence to the claim made by the late Peter Powell and I took no further action. I have now been able to identify seven ghostsigns on Harvey’s list that are painted onto (at least) locally listed buildings. However, as the Heritage Officer stated at the time,

“Local listing would not protect against removal or over painting of the sign in any way, sadly. Only GII listing or Conservation Area designation with a specific Article 4 Direction can protect ‘ghost signs'”

*In 1998 Harvey wrote a shorter piece, Slogans on bricks: Advertisements painted on buildings in Camden, in Camden History Review, Vol.22, pp.22-3.

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