7 Sep 2021

Back to Back Beecham’s Pills in Leeds

Not one, but three Beecham’s Pills ghost signs on these gable ends were once captured by photographer Peter Mitchell. I noticed them on his excellent instagram feed which regularly includes archival images of painted signs. Many of these also feature in his books, and are largely from locations in and around Leeds. And that’s the best guess so far for these signs’ one-time location, which I’ve been trying to track down.

Painted Beecham's signs on gable ends.
Back to Back Beecham’s Pills. Photo © Peter Mitchell / StrangelyFamiliar.co.uk

When I saw the photo I was immediately reminded of the (at least) ‘triple’ in Shotton, Wales, which is documented here in the History of Advertising Trust Ghostsigns Archive. However, on closer examination (thanks Karen!) the slogans aren’t the same. And one of these Shotton executions features a horizontal (rather than arched) form of the Beecham’s logotype – see the far one below.

Painted Beecham's signs on gable ends.
Beecham’s in Shotton. Photo: © Anon / History of Advertising Trust HAT60/698

Three Beecham’s ghost signs still survive in Shotton and can be seen in streetview facing the railway line (here, here and here). The far one above is largely covered by newer buildings. However, it seems there was once a fourth execution which in the History of Advertising Trust Ghostsigns Archive is given as being on King Edward Street. This also has/had the horizontal lettering (see below) and could perhaps have since been cleaned from this wall which is a missing gable end in the surviving Shotton series…

Painted Beecham's sign on gable end.
Beecham’s in Shotton. Photo: © Anon / History of Advertising Trust HAT60/697

That rules out Shotton from the possible locations for Peter Mitchell’s photo, but does suggest that Beecham’s were running a larger-scale, railway-facing, gable end campaign at some point – Shotton and Leeds (if they are there) are about 90 miles apart. (There is another Beecham’s Pills ghost sign in Essex, but this dates from a different time based on the logotype and slogan.)

There are archival photos of Beecham’s signs on gable ends in Leeds, since lost to slum clearance. However, none of these directly correlate to Peter Mitchell’s picture and it seems likely that those buildings also no longer exist.

Painted Beecham's signs on gable ends.
Left: Midland Avenue, Leeds, in 1973. Photo © West Yorkshire Archive Service via Leodis.
Right: Gable end of Oswald Place, undated. Photo © West Yorkshire Archive Service via Leodis
Painted Beecham's sign on gable end.
Taken on Cross Oswald Street in 1970. Photo © Nick Hedges

There are more of Nick Hedges images on this page, which include a series of gable ends facing the railway, some of which have Beecham’s Pills signs on them. It could easily be that the location is identical to Peter Mitchell’s picture, and that the only difference is the date of the photos. For example, Beecham’s signs may have been painted over by other advertisers, or they may have increased the number of their own executions.

If anyone can conclusively verify that the location is indeed the same, or that Peter Mitchell’s photo is from elsewhere, then please do get in touch. It would be great to pin this Beecham’s Pills ghost signs down once and for all.

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With thanks to Karen Fletcher for helping with the research into these, and Nick Hedges and West Yorkshire Archive Services for sharing photos.

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