5 Apr 2021

Getting Closer to André Perot’s Faux Ghost Sign on Park Street

Detail of André Perot faux ghost sign.

André Perot was involved in the import and export of fruit and vegetables from France, for sale at Borough Market. This is what you might be led to believe if taking this ‘ghost sign’ on Park Street at face value. However, the story is in fact more nuanced but, as things stands, we’re just short of the final answer…

Early Investigations

I first investigated the sign when researching my Bankside Ghostsigns Walk, and it was one of three in rapid succession along Park Street. (The others were the fading fascia for fruit salesman Lewis Woolf, and the impressive Take Courage piece at the entrance of the former Anchor Brewery. Details of each available on the free tours app.) Using the street directories at Southwark Archives I was unable to pin any known historical business to the location, and the André Perot name was equally elusive in the commercial sections of these publications.

In my final notes for the tour I advanced the theory (not my own) that the sign was in fact ‘faux’ and that it had been painted as a piece of set design for film. The stretch of Park Street where it is found is a popular filming location, and the practice of creating such pieces is all in a day’s work for the scenic artists that work on these productions. A well-known film that made extensive use of the location was Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and, back in 2015, I contacted the production designer who confirmed that the sign was nothing to do with them.

A New Lead

I then let the puzzle stew, until I picked up the lines of enquiry again earlier this year. The first clue I found was a 1971 photo of the wall in the London Picture Archives. This shows the patches of wall in question, but with another pair of ghost signs present there. The text on these is incomplete, but the word ‘Granaries’ is clearly visible on the left panel. Closer inspection of the wall itself shows that this is still present, and now in palimpsest with the newer signage for André Perot. This archival reference lent substantial weight to the ‘faux’ theory.

1971 photograph of the building at 13–15 Park Street
1971 from LCC Photograph Library at London Picture Archives (114882)
Close-up images showing the wall at 13–15 Park Street, and the fading painted signs visible in 1971 and 2015.
13–15 Park Street, 1971 and 2015, showing granaries and André Perot ‘ghost signs’

The Cinematic Connection

I followed this discovery up with a tweet, pairing the before and after images. At that stage I (incorrectly) put the dates for the André Perot sign’s creation as after 1971 when it isn’t visible in the archival photo, and before 1998 when Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was released. The tweet provoked a number of followers to look into things further, and the result of these investigations is a significant narrowing down of the time period in which the sign was painted, all with reference to film and TV productions.

Still from Howard's End film
1992: Howard’s End with wall comparable to its state in 1971 with the granaries sign still dominant.
Still from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
1998: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with very little visible on the wall, perhaps suggesting that at some point in the five or so preceding years it had been cleaned.
Still from Entrapment
1999: Entrapment with neither the granaries, nor André Perot’s sign visible i.e. unchanged since Lock Stock.
Still from Tipping the Velvet
2002: Tipping the Velvet appears to have nothing on the wall during a brief scene in episode two. The angles shown and the quality of the YouTube video that I watched are inconclusive as to whether André Perot’s sign is present. However, given the wall’s extremely limited role in the mini-series, it seems reasonable to conclude it would not have been painted for this production.
Still from What a Girl Wants
2003: What a Girl Wants has the André Perot sign in place for a scene set in New York’s Chinatown. Painting a faux sign for a fictitious French business as a piece of set design of this sort seems unlikely, but I may be missing something?

Based on the above information, André Perot’s sign was painted after 1999 (Entrapment) and before 2003 (What a Girl Wants). Given the lag between shooting and releasing a film, this is more likely in the range 1998 to 2002, but we are in essence looking for something a couple of years either side of the Millennium.

This website gives a list of productions that are known to have been filmed in and around Borough Market. There are likely others, but between the dates identified above there were two more candidates in Bridget Jones’s Diary and the opening episode of Spooks called Thou Shalt Not Kill. Having now watched Bridget Jones’s Diary, I can report that this has scenes inside and very close to the market, but not featuring the wall in question, which leave Spooks as the warmest lead…

A War Memorial

This may be a red herring, but for the sake of completeness I am including the only major reference found so far to the name André Perot. This comes from a memorial commemorating those that lost their lives during the French Resistance in the North of Haute-Vienne. The memorial itself is undated, but relates to events on 10th August 1944, and it can be seen on this photograph from the Alamy site. Given that the sign appears to have been quite intentially created, perhaps the cinematic reference is to a film that somehow relates to these events…

War Memorial with André Perot name on it
War Memorial, Haut-Vienne (Raquet Photography/Alamy Stock Photo, CXJF08)

Closing Remarks

Unless someone gets there first, I now need to watch and screengrab anything of relevance from the Spooks episode. One or both of these may narrow the dates further and help to identify other production designers to contact for insights. However, although it is proving a tough nut to crack, this has provided an interesting case study in the use of some atypical research methods. The combination of social media and watching films has borne fruit, and I hope that the answer will soon emerge…

André Perot, Importateur Exportateur, 13-15 Park Street, London SE1

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