28 November 2023

Ghostsign for Hackney Empire in Dalston

Out for a wander up Kingsland Road and Dalston High Street this past weekend and I checked up on a few old friends. Specifically, a couple of ghostsigns that face each other near the junction with Englefield Rd.   

The palimpsest on the side of No.474 is well known, shown here as screen grab from Google Streetview. It shows ads for Gillette safety razors, the Sunday Illustrated newspaper, a cafe, and more as yet undeciphered.

But there's another sign on the other side of the road that has intrigued me since I first started taking photos of these things. It's on the north side of the KTS's corner shop at No.415-417, a joy in itself! The hand-painted sign here often goes unnoticed being as a marvellous tree obscures it for most of the year (Google snapshot below is from here).

Being north-facing, only the very top of the sign has been affected by the weather, leaving blue letters at the middle and bottom that were always to me intriguing but difficult to decipher. I'd often assumed that the sign was simply an ad for a bygone business at that corner. I'd take some snaps and say to myself, "I must get the old directories out and look into this one when I get home"... but then I'd get distracted by something else. 

Well, ta-da! – I've finally had a better look at it. The first pic shows a fair representation of the light available from the street on Saturday at approx 3pm 25th Nov 2023, and the pic on the right, taken by standing on the front path of one of the houses adjacent to the sign gives a straight-on view. My original pic was dark and gloomy, but with a simple but of photo enhancement, beefing up the contrast and colour balance (whilst on the bus home, no less! duh! why had this taken me song long?!) it's now clear that the signs reads:


I am pretty sure that the top faded part alluded to the Hackney Empire, about a mile away due east in Mare Street quickly accessible via Richmond Rd. Indeed, the Our History part of the theatre's website shows this old pic of the building with a similar sign on the side.

If only all ghostsign sleuthing was this easy!

Other signs for 


  1. I do like spotting these old painted advertising signs on my walks through London. I have yet to walk this area, though, so I will have to remedy this oversight soon.

    1. You really should join me for a walk sometime. See www.janeslondonwalks.com where, if you click on the A-Z section, you'll find a whole sub-section of ghostsigns walks. The Dalston route is still in the making.


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