30 Mar 2018

Tracking Down Boots in Stoke-on-Trent

Boots, Camden HIgh Street. Photo: Jane Parker/History of Advertising Trust Ghostsigns Archive

Back in 2016 I gave a short talk about my archiving work at the annual conference of the Business Archives Council, where one of the organisers was a project archivist for Boots chemists.  Afterwards I shared the above image and forwarded her the archival photo below which was shared on the Ghostsigns Facebook page by Chris Morris to see if her team could confirm the location of the store, which Chris suspected was in Stoke.

The reply came that:

It has raised quite a bit of interest in the office as it isn’t one that we know about, if it is in the collection! We’ve started some investigations to pinpoint the location, and the first thing we’ve worked on is that the store is at an address beginning number ‘3’. This doesn’t match any of our known addresses in Stoke or the surrounding area, but we will continue with the search and let you know if we find anything.

In response to my request for any information about who would have done the beautiful shop fitting and signage:

Our store design and fittings were actually created internally through the shop fitting department which we know was operating from at least 1902.

After asking if he had any more information, Chris shared a photo of the back of the print which gave a further clue, the name of the photographic studio responsible for the image. However, eight locations of Horace Dudley’s studio are listed, albeit including one in Stoke.

A few months later I received the following message:

When I checked our catalogue, the image didn’t seem to match up with anything in the collection, particularly as the image only shows the windows rather than the whole building front, so I wasn’t 100% sure it was Stoke-on-Trent, but I’m getting in touch to let you know it is!

This week we have discovered the other attached image showing 3 Church Street in the 1950s. Although the signage has been updated, the design of the windows is distinctive, and you can see the familiar number ‘3’ on the entrance door too.

Members of the team who have been working on photographs over the last few months have been keeping an eye open for this, and we’re delighted to have finally solved the mystery!

3 Church Street, Stoke-on-Trent (1950s). Photo: The Boots Archive.

Thank you to the archivists at Boots for solving the mystery, and to Chris for sharing the original images. Here are a couple more Boots ghost signs in the archive: Wigan; Middlesbrough.

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