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Ghost Signs Of Bermondsey & Southwark

September 21, 2016
by the gentle author

Sam Roberts of London Ghost Signs kindly took me on a tour of Bankside recently to visit some of the ghost signs there which whisper tales of Bermondsey & Southwark’s past to anyone who cares to listen. Click here to get the App, learn more and undertake the walk for yourself. Also, some of these signs are illuminated this week as part of London Design Festival, details here.

Bermondsey Mesh & Wire Works, William Cockle & Co, moved to Tanner St off Bermondsey St in 1903, trading at this location until 1919.

Thomson Bros Ltd, Paper, Estab’d 1857, moved to Bermondsey St in 1952. An earlier sign with a date of establishment of 1840 is visible beneath.

Baylis & Co Ltd, Leather Factors, Morocco St

M. Emanuel Ltd, Leather & Leather Pieces, Office, Ground Floor, 3 Leather Market, Weston St. The company moved here in 1942 and left in the early eighties.

The Monster Ready Made & Bespoke Clothing Establishment, Albion House Clothing Comp’y, Branch Establishments, Paris, Antwerp and Ghent, Borough High St, founded at the end of the nineteenth century, the business traded here until 1910.

Take Courage, Redcross Way, signed painted in 1955 upon Brewer’s House of Barclay, Perkins & Co previously known as the Anchor Brewery built in 1807, when it was taken over by Courage.

Barlow Roberts, Shop Fitter, Builders and Contractors, Saw Planing, Moulding Mills, 15 Ryecross St, Estimates free for all kinds of building work and structural alterations, Best Work & Despatch, Southwark St, uncovered in 2014. The company was located here from 1908 and moved to Borough High St in 1920.

Ghost numbers at 53 Southwark St

Barclay & Fry Ltd, Printers, Stationers and Tin Box Makers, Great Guildford St, opened here in 1889 and continued trading until the nineteen-eighties. Sign was damaged in 1941 and repaired in 2009.

Rose Brand Fine Teas, James Ashby & Sons Ltd, Embassy Tea and Coffee and Ventilators and R.E.Jones, Union St. Home to Hayward Brothers, Ironfounders and makers of Ventilators, for eighty years before James Ashby moved here in the seventies

Commit No Nuisance, Doyce St. Situated at the rear of Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel and across the road from the former Fox & Hounds public house, the wording of these signs is a common euphemism for ‘No Pissing’ – also to be found on Christ Church, Spitalfields.

You may also like to take a look at

Ghost Signs of Stoke Newington

In Old Bermondsey

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Janet M permalink
    September 21, 2016

    Lovely, and great that there is an app for it.

  2. September 21, 2016

    Sam is playing an important part in portraying historic London, he is re-discovering an association of Company’s signs on workshops/buildings, there has to be is a spin-off here for researchers. I am sure his uncanny ‘talented’ observation’s are documented somewhere. This must make Sam an historian or is he an industrial archaeologist; your call people. John B

  3. Helen Elster Jones permalink
    September 21, 2016

    I assume the “take Courage” refers to Courage Best Bitter/ Pale Ale?

  4. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    September 21, 2016

    I think the Take Courage sign was a sneaky bit of advertising for Courage’s Brewery!On the railway line to Romsey ,where the local brewry was Strongs there were advertising hoardings saying”you are leaving the Strong Country,take Courage!They always made me laugh as a child when I travelled on that line!

  5. September 21, 2016

    Divine imperfection! So glad that these ghosts are still telling their tales.
    And — hurrah! — let’s hear it for the sign-painters of yore. I doubt that most of them expected their brush strokes to still be on display….and yet. I’ve always found the term “Palimpsest” to be a bit pretentious — but, in this context, it seems just right. Thanks, as ever, for a wonderfully-evocative post.

  6. pauline taylor permalink
    September 21, 2016

    Thank you. I enjoy anything about Southwark and Bermondsey, where my ancestors have lived since the mid 16th century, but I particularly like the history of signwriting as seen here. We have a customer who is a modern signwriter who will buy any book that we have on the subject, and anything about type faces as well, so all is not lost, he is carrying on a great tradition.

    Although take courage refers to the ale it could be taken in a different way today I feel!!

  7. Yvonne Eade Kolessides permalink
    September 23, 2016

    Absolutely wonderful! Thank you soo much..

  8. September 28, 2016

    Thank you for the write-up and all of your kind comments. The area is great for exploring and The Gentle Author encouraged me to take a few turns I hadn’t taken in the past. There’s always something new around every corner if you take the time to look up, down and around.

  9. Shawdian permalink
    November 13, 2016

    And thank you Sam Roberts
    for your work, bringing Ghost Signs
    to our attention. For years I have
    enjoyed spotting these signs, but
    I have found the majority are not
    aware the signs exist because most
    are looking at their phones and not
    what is around them. Once you spot
    them, you realise how precious these are.

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