4 December 2023

Sad loss of Lidstone butchers ghostsign at South Woodford

I have only just found out about the overpainting of the lovely hand-painted sign that advertised Lidstone Ltd's chain of butchers, a few minutes from South Woodford tube station, here on the corner of Daisy Road. The pic here is a screenshot from that link.

The dry cleaner shown in the pic has gone and the new owners have been renovating the premises, converting it into a café – like we need more of those! Hence, a hand-painted sign that was uncovered back in 2015, having been previously been protected by a boxed ad, preserved for multiple decades, has been obliterated in a matter of hours by a business that will struggle to compete in a bean-soaked saturated market and may well be gone in a year. 

Heathens! The Lidstone sign had, for the past eight years become a much-loved local treasure. Indeed, my friend who lives near here insisted on taking me to see it. It's very doubtful that the locals will be using or even promoting this new café – the new proprietors have clearly shot themselves in the foot.  If they really needed to conceal the old sign, could they not have installed a boxed panel over the top of it? This would have again preserved the old sign whilst providing a flat surface on which they could have painted their own branding. Today, if you go there, you will find the whole wall has been painted brick red. The local paper has written about it, but, as per at that article makes clear, the sign was not a historically listed item. The new owners are simply making use of a space that is now theirs. And this is the nature of these things. 

Consider, for instance, that if you look closely at the image above, a screengrab from google from just after the sign was uncovered, it's clear that the Lidstone sign had already been overpainted with another sign that had larger letter forms within a blue border (hints at the bottom right). I can make out the words LARGEST at middle left, but not much more. Although this might well have been a subsequent Lidstone ad.

So what have we lost? 

The sign appears to date from the period 1910-14 when Lidstone's had a shop at this location and the branches shown on the ad were also listed within the Kelly's Post Office directory of that time. It shows their head office at 75&76 Park Street, Regents Park, NW1 (having moved the office from Bucklersbury in The City of London), with outlets across London, listed in lovely script letterform within three panels at the bottom, the first two panels shown above. The third panel right listed outlets in Highgate Rd, Finchley Rd, Mill Hill and Chislehurst in Kent. The London directory for 1914, shows not only these Lidstone Ltd addresses, but also other butcher shops in the name of Lidstone, so it's fair to assume that these others were probably part of the wider Lidstone family.

I have also discovered a butcher by the name of Lidstone trading at 70 Fore Street, Kingsbridge, Devon, since the 1830s. The shop closed in 2017 but the company name can be seen forged in metal above the shop. This might be the same family, some of whom later relocated to the bright lights and deep pockets of London – the earliest reference I have yet found of Lidstone butchers here in London is in the 1891 directory which shows their shops in the very well-to-do areas around Kensington:

Today, you can find, what I believe to be the (now) only remaining physical reference of this company in London, here above their 1890's Thurloe Place shop, a stone's throw from South Kensington station.

UPDATE 20Dec2023: 
My aforementioned friend who lives round the corner from this sign has sent me this pic showing that the Lidstone ad has be reinstated. By which I mean it’s been repainted and this now makes it a pastiche of the original. Sorry to sound like a moaning Minnie but I don’t like it when signs are touched up or repainted as this loses all the other layers. It makes it no longer a ghost(ed) sign. We’ve now completely lost the hints of large letters that I make ref to above and, unless an information panel is installed to explain the relevance of this new version, then I really cannot see the point. I’d have preferred it if the new tenants had created a new sign for their own company at this site. 

There are other ghost signs to admire at South Woodford – let's hope we don't lose these too...

At the other end of the terrace to the Lidstone sign, there's a multi-layered sign that was also uncovered in 2015. Today, it's easy to see 'J. S. Soundy's / drapery & millinery' but, if you look closely, you'll see that there's another name in larger letters across the top of those two lines. For a very short time back in 2007 when the boxed ad that covered it was being revised, it showed that A. C. Pain had taken over this business with the bottom line reading 'drapery & millinery establishment'. 

Plus, there is a vertical panel on the left/street side that also has multiple layers of paint which could at some point be lost to us being as it is easily reached, but it's doubtful that the wide sign will be overpainted any time soon as it is too high up to access without the aid of costly scaffolding. 

And, finally, there's the lovely low relief sign that's only visible for the station platform – THE RAILWAY COFFEE TAVERN can be seen on the side of this Victorian building which now offers yoga and face treatments, but no coffee. But hey, you'll be able to get a hot drink just up the road where Lidstone's used to be – don't you dare!


  1. The small text in the Lidstone's ghost sign lists 12 of their other establishments. Here's what I think is the full text of the sign:

    Lidstone Ltd
    Head Offices 75 & 76 Park Street, Regent’s Park NW1


    5 Pont St, Chesham Place SW1
    10 West Kensington Terrace W1
    396 & 398 York Rd, Camden Road N2
    Greenhill Parade, Harrow…

    19 Sussex St, Warwick Square SW1
    17 High St, Hampstead NW3
    23 Widmore Rd, Bromley, Kent
    11 The Broadway, Woodford Green

    81 Highgate Rd NW5
    4 Frognal Parade, Finchley Rd NW3
    12 Royal Parade, Chislehurst, Kent
    12 The Broadway, Mill Hill

    The other sign you mention isn't for Gundy's. I think it's:

    J S Soundy's
    Drapery & Millinery

    A C Pain's
    Drapery & Millinery Establishment

    Pain's are listed in the Kelly's 1902 and 1914 Essex directories when Mulberry Way was Maybank Road.

  2. Thanks Roy. I didn't bother writing up all the wording on the sign because it's clearly legible and corroborated in the snaps of the directories. Also when I write up these things I prefer to do it all exactly as is, complete with punctuation after the door numbers – You've got a few errors in your transcription of tthe first panel –WestKenTerrace is W14, CamdenRd is N7 (the Holloway end) and it's 7, Greenhill Parade, Harrow.
    Thanks for the Soundy's info. I haven't got that to hand. I had fully intended to visit Woodford's library to glean further info about all of these signs, as well as others in the vicinity, but I've now shelved that idea since hearing about this overpainting.

    All the best.


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Thanks, Jane