6 Mar 2024

An Eye Test at Bateman’s Bournemouth Opticians

George Bateman was a Bournemouth optician of high standing in the early twentieth century. However, his surviving ghost sign offered up a more contemporary eye test when I received this photo from Paul Godier.

Fading painted sign on a red brick wall for the Bournemouth optician G.C. Bateman. The top line is illegible, but visible beneath in uppercase letters in faded green with a dark block shade is: "... your eyes. Consult G.C. Bateman. FBOA. 539". There is then a manicule (pointing hand motif) pointing to the right and slightly down.
Ghost sign for the G.C. Bateman opticians in Boscombe, Bournemouth. Photo: Paul Godier.

The lower two thirds of the sign, with its wonderfully large manicule for the short-sighted, are still relatively legible, but I was puzzled by the top two lines of text. A look at the directories didn’t yield any equivalent slogan, but did show that in 1915 the Bateman business occupied a residential address elsewhere in the town.

Black and white typeset advertisement for the Bournemouth optician, George Bateman & Co. Ltd., Optometrists and Opticians, Managing Director G.C. Bateman, F.I.O. The advertisement lists Bateman's various honours, accreditations, and institutional clientelle, and gives the address at 52 Osborne Road, Southsea.
1915 advertisement for George Bateman & Co. from the Kelly’s Directory of Dorsetshire.

The puzzle was solved when I took a look at the ghost sign’s location on streetview, where the light in the photograph gives just enough definition for the text to be read.

Crop into the upper portion of the sign.
Portion of the sign captured from Streetview and allowing the top line to be read: “be fair to your eyes”.

This just leaves the outstanding question of what’s going on with those irregular patches of pink paint on the wall. Were they part of the original sign and, if so, why is there so much contrast between what’s survived and what hasn’t? Or are they more recent and, if so, why was the job never finished? They remain a mystery

George Bateman & Co. Ltd

“Be fair to your eyes. Consult G.C. Bateman, FBOA. 539 👉”

539 Christchurch Road (facing Roumelia Mews), Bournemouth BH1 [Streetview]

Subscribe to my newsletter for news, events and projects from the world of ghost signs. I curate the newsletter roughly monthly and welcome submissions.