Ghost Signage

The imprint of the past can been seen all around us when we really want to find it. Design has been a main stay in the advertising world throughout the ages as has using lettering and typography. Today advertising is somewhat ephemeral as campaigns on billboards come and go. In days gone by, the gable ends and clear spaces on buildings were used to advert and sell a shop or a commercial premises. Today we heavily rely on the use of photography to capture the mood for the consumers and to target selling. In the past the use of just typography to sell is maybe something to aspire, as images are being thrown around left, right and centre. Whether it be a photograph or an illustration, we seem to rely on that to capture peoples imagination while selling. 

As you go around any historical town, the chances are you’ll find more history than just the architecture itself. Just look closer! Everyday on my way to work the opportunity is there if I just want to look up. On the top of a building on Crown Street, Ipswich you can see the remnants of a ghost sign. The sign is for Ergerton’s garage (below) which was only 100 yds away as can be seen on the photo.

Egertons, Crown Street


So what is a ghost sign you may ask, there are a lot of different definitions that can be used for them but essentially they are signs that were used for commercial way finding or advertising purposes. These can be defined by signs that were used to mark the place where the shop or place was and now because of the natural elements they have somewhat eroded and started to decay. Many shops and and establishments would use signage painted straight onto the brick work of their building to sell their wares or services. In recent years the relics of our past have been popping up across the web, from old ones which have been seen for years but also some have been uncovered under new cladding and signage. Dotted all around many of the cities and towns we can see these. Here are a few examples I’ve found.

Elliott Street Bakery, Ipswich

Ewers Grey-Green Coaches, Old Foundry Road

Edward Fison LTD, Ipswich

Iron warehouse, Bridge Street Hadleigh

Spectacle Speclist, Dial Lane Ipswich

Fred Smith & Co, Princes Street Ipswich

Suffolk Road Stores, Ipswich

Suffolk House, Hamilton Road Felixstowe

J.W.How House for sale, Salisbury Road Ipswich

Drill Hall 1901, Garrison Lane Felixstowe

Suffolk Seed Stores, Church Street Woodbridge

Haste & Sons Garage, Hamilton Road Felixstowe

E.F. Decorator, , Hamilton Road Felixstowe

Garage, Hamilton Road Felixstowe

Petr- & Die, London

Car Park, Shoreditch London

Percy Dalton Nut importers, Crispin Street

Toms, London

W. Wakefield, Spitafields London


Even when you go further afield, aim to really explore. While on a trip to France and Paris Found a couple of examples of signs. For these you don’t really have to go out of your way but never the less they have survived in the wake of our ever changing urban landscape. 

Cafe Quotidieu, France

Hotel De La Croix, Soisson France

32 Rue de Fontenoy, Vic-sur-Aisne, France

I would invite you to just look around and see if you can find any. Often in our daily lives we are in a rush and don’t really get the chance to breathe in our own towns history. 

I know this might not be new to many of you but the idea that we can find something that has helped others move around our own towns in times gone by is interesting.


A local historian has been able to capture a lot more of the signs and lettering from Ipswich and Suffolk. Check out his website here: Ipswich Lettering

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