Since publishing Ghost Signs of Bath late last year, four more ghost signs have been uncovered in Bath. The most impressive is in Oldfield Park, which appeared when the old party shop was refurbished to become Fire & Brew, which serves pizzas alongside local craft beer and cider. This sign almost made it into the book, as we were alerted to its discovery as the book was going to press. However, once a tiny bit of it had been revealed, it was decided to hold off revealing the rest until a plan of action to safeguard it could be worked out. So, as we could not hold up publication, we reluctantly had to leave it out. Now that it is revealed, the care and attention lavished on it can be seen to have been well worthwhile. This is a splendid sign, painted on glass and dating from the early 20th century, It has a curious feature, however, which we did not spot straight away, but, once you have clocked it, is obvious. This store started out as a branch of the Twerton Co-Operative Society, which, after a merger in 1922, became part of the Bath Co-operative Society – so the sign had to be changed. Instead of replacing the whole thing, the section with ‘Twerton’ on it was removed and replaced by one reading ‘Bath’ – which has three less letters, and, as can be seen, did not take up the same amount of space. The style of lettering is also slightly different … so not only a great sign, but one with a bit of history that is not immediately apparent.
The next sign turned up on Lansdown Road, just below the old Old Farmhouse pub, on the corner of Ainslie’s Belvedere. This is a particularly well-preserved old butcher’s shopfront, dating from the days before refrigeration, when the windows could be opened fully, and hooks for meat hung from the awnings designed to keep deflect sunlight. Around 1919, it was taken over by Fred Cornish,who had his name – FT Cornish – painted below the window on the side. In the 1950s he was succeeded by WT Cornish (presumably his son) who altered the sign to read WT Cornish – and this is what it still reads today, although if you look carefully you can see the ghost of the F beneath the W.
Next to emerge was a sign for GJ Davis at 45 Bradford Road, Combe Down – not a particularly old sign, as he was there in the 1950s, but still a pleasing reminder of a lost age.
The most recent to appear is a good deal older. Sometime before 1910, W&J Warren opened a fish and fruit merchant’s at 7 London Street. They had gone by 1914, but the sign – admittedly not that easy to make out, and with traces of other writing as well – has now resurfaced over a century later. Whether it is covered up again remains to be seen.
That makes a total of four signs in six months … and word has reached of another possible sign on Bear Flat, which I’ve yet to check out. The story of Bath’s ghost signs is one that clearly is not going to stand still.