Leeds Civic Trust

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The Writing is on the Wall - reports Garance Rawinsky, Heritage at Risk Group Member

I was first drawn to Ghost Signs when researching a Cinema Walk for the Trust which included the Tower Picture House in New Briggate. Prior to delivering the walk, I did my final checks and was horrified to see that what a few weeks earlier had been one of the longest 'ghost signs' in Leeds ("Tower - Always a Good Programme, Popular Prices... Open 2 to 1030 Daily...") had been defaced by a couple of RSJs supporting the conversion of a new nightclub.

Ghost Signs are all about our Heritage, about looking and thinking, about what some may remember as another way of advertising. Words painted by hand onto brickwork.

Painting messages on walls was a practice used by ancient Egyptians but more recently, this technique was used in the 19th and early 20th century to publicise small local companies as well as big brands such as Gillette and Hovis. This practice declined in the 1950s with the advent of mass printed posters and billboards.

The majority of signs that have survived were often located on highly visible sites near busy thoroughfares and boarded over to take the newly printed and brighter posters - hence their clarity now ar they were protected from the elements. Many existed as an income stream for those with a gable ended building to rent out. Most were destroyed when property owners decided to render the brickwork or just demolish the building.

How can I help document #LeedsGhostSigns?
I am interested in the small things that make a difference and the significance of looking, thinking and caring about our past. For the likeminded, we would be thrilled if you could join us in documenting Ghost Signs you spot around Leeds. Send us the photo, and we'll post these on our website/twitter. Alternatively, if you have a Twitter account, send them to @LeedsCivicTrust or the #LeedsGhostSigns . Remember to include the location!

I believe we need to document them before it's too late, whilst also raising awareness of these small nods to the past for others to enjoy.

if you would like to learn more about the phenomenon then visit www.ghostsigns.co.uk or read this Guardian article. A feast for the eyes and no doubt a certain twang of nostalgia for the soul!