“Ghost Signs” are largescale advertisements painted by hand directly onto the brickwork of buildings, widely used in the 19th and early 20th century to publicise small local companies, as well as big brands such as Gillette, Hovis and Tetleys. These painted advertisements were gradually superseded by the introuction of billboards, featuring more transient printed advertising posters in the 1950s.
These ghost signs provide a window into the past and evidence of the craftsmanship that once went into their production. The majority of signs that have survived were often located on highly visible sites near busy thoroughfares, and later boarded over to take the newly printed and brighter posters – hence their clarity now as they were protected from the elements. Many existed as an income stream for those with a gable ended building to rent out.
Many ghost signs still survive, often faded and half-hidden, but they are disappearing fast, due to weathering but also as a result of property development and demolition. Leeds Civic Trust is interested in collecting any images of ghost signs the Leeds area, to document them before it’s too late, whilst also raising awareness of these small glimpses of the past for others to enjoy. If you see any in Leeds, please email us your photos, firstname.lastname@example.org
The History of Advertising Trust maintains a national archive of ghost signs, resulting from a project in 2009/10 which set out to photograph, research and archive the last survivors of this fading advertising medium. More information is also available on the Ghost Signs website, www.ghostsigns.co.uk