Ghostsigns

Ghost signs are the fading remains of hand-painted advertising, typically on walls. Since 2006 I have been documenting, researching and writing about them. This website is home to these efforts and is free for all to access. However if you value this work, and are able to, then please consider a monthly or one-off contribution to support me.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some frequently asked questions with links to useful resources to explore the themes in more depth, many from the blog.

What is a ghost sign?

My working definition is ‘fading painted sign’ which is justified in this extended essay. Broadly the main things to consider are the form and content of the sign i.e. how it was produced and what its purpose was/is. Depending on your views on each of these dimensions you may arrive at a different definition to mine. (NB. I didn’t coin the term.)

A typical ghost sign from Bath, England

Where can ghost signs be found?

Almost everywhere, although they don’t hold up as well in countries with more sun. See the list of worldwide locations currently documented on the blog.

When were ghost signs painted?

It depends what you count as a ghost sign, but people have been making marks on walls since pre-historic times. More recently there is evidence of commercial signage in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and then an 1820s one in Bath, England.

Should ghost signs be protected and/or restored?

See posts on protection and posts on restoration from the blog. I would also recommend reading this extended piece I wrote for the Monotype Recorder on the wider question of what to do about ghost signs and some more in-depth thoughts on this difficult question.

What’s your favourite ghost sign?

This is always a difficult question, and there are just too many to choose from. However, I tend to come back to the (now covered) sign for Black Cat cigarettes in London which has a little bit of everything. It’s a huge piece on the side of the former Carreras cigarette factory, features two illustrations, includes the price for ten, and was signed by the company that painted it, Harris the Sign King.

Black Cat Cigarettes, Dingley Road, London (now covered by adjacent building)