16 March 2022

Another ghostsign – Benjamin, Shepherd Market, Mayfair

You probably think all I look for and write about about these days is ghost signs. Well, that's not true – I've got a folder fit to bursting with mosaics, ironwork, etched glass, architecture from all eras, parks, gardens, and lots more that I just haven't the time to collate. 

It's just that when I spot a faded sign on a wall I stand there scribbling notes that later are almost undecipherable (just like the sign!), hence I do the research for these asap, while it's all fresh in my mind. And this is what happened yesterday when I was walking around Shepherd Market in Mayfair, planning an idea for a guided walk in the area. 

I'm surprised I haven't written about this sign before, or indeed this enclave of delightful little streets which still has that village feel. It sits on the corner of what is is today No.34 Shepherd Market. However, back in the day this was No.8 Market Street, as is clearly shown by the hand-painted street sign.

The sign reads N. BENJAMIN / TRUNKS & BAGS for all CLIMATES. There is some over-painting here, most visible in the lower left part, so the name and the product could be from two different eras. 

In 1910 Edwin Alexander Atkins, trunkmaker, was at this address and this ties in perfectly with the products offered, but the name is wrong. He also had another shop opposite at No.10 selling boots (sort of where I took this photo from)

The sign is evidently for Nathaniel Benjamin, portmanteau dealer, who, in the same year, was next door to the boot shop at No.12. Tho why Atkins would want the name of his immediate competitor advertised on his own building is beyond me. Perhaps these men were related. Or perhaps Atkins offered smaller bags whist Benjamin offered larger ocean-going luggage for those Grand Tour experiences and the two companies bounced off each other? As ever, any further info welcome.

I'll leave it there for now. I've got the aforementioned bulging 'ToDo' folder to attend to, and I still need to design those walking tours and create some slides for my online talks...!

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Thanks, Jane