14 Dec 2021

Redfern’s Rubber Heels Make Walking a Pleasure Again in Islington

Having spent 15 years or so trying to keep abreast of developments in the London ghost signs landscape, some case studies stand out from the general cycles of loss, repainting, and even ‘faux’ creations. This one for Redfern’s Rubber Heels on Grant Street in Islington is one such example and features in a ‘Biography of a Ghost Sign’ chapter of the book. This gives a general account of the origins and life stories of these painted walls, including the typical ways in which they are ultimately lost, or not…

Redfern's Rubber Heels ghost sign with slogan Make Walking a Pleasure.
Redfern’s Rubber Heels: Make Walking a Pleasure. Photo: Roy Reed.

I first wrote about the wall in 2007 when a friend emailed with news of a ‘new’ discovery which made me do a double take as I knew the location well. It turned out that the earlier ghost sign had been brought back following the stripping away of its partial whitewashing. This goes to show that there can be life after overpainting, although often less dramatically so than in this example.

Whitewash on wall largely obscuring two ghost signs beneath.
The partial whitewash, c. 2006.
Fading painted sign for EOS, Leaders in Home Entertainment
EOS: Leaders in Home Entertainment. Photographer unknown.

What remained intriguing was the intermediate layer with a pink background. One of my regular correspondents then shared the picture above which completed the puzzle. It shows a relatively modern piece of painted advertising for EOS and has helped to draft the following entry to accompany this sign in the book. (NB. It is also cross-referenced from the later chapter, ‘Branding the City,’ which features a handful of other Redfern’s ghost signs in London.)

This could be a privilege as Frederick Gardner’s leather shop was once based in the building next door. The ‘make walking a pleasure’ slogan also appears on the privilege for Charles Dear, leather seller and boot maker, in Fulham. Both men were operating at a similar time, with Gardner here at least 1915–34. It’s possible he did a deal with his neighbour to host the sign, or that he owned the property.

What now appears as a discoloured rectangle was once another painted sign advertising ‘leaders in home entertainment’ EOS. This featured white lettering on a pink background and a large pictorial of a woman in tight-fitting clothes carrying a television set. A whitewash that partially covered this sign was stripped away with a chemical treatment during renovations in 2007, but left the Redfern’s one largely unaffected.

Ghost Signs: A London Story

Grant Street (corner of Chapel Market) N1 [map]