20 December 2023

Theobald's Road ghostsign – a family business?

On the East-facing wall at the corner of King's Mews on the side of No.12 Theobald's Road, there are remnants of a painted advertisement.

It's clear that this wall was once completely slathered in lettering, but thus far, all I have managed to decipher is the word FAMILY (at the extreme left, directly above the horizontal) followed by another word starting with a small cap S. The sign is tough one to photograph. It's not always visible, by which I mean, on most days it's barely noticeable at all. I have tried messing about in Photoshop but no matter which way I blast it, I can't make it any clearer: 

I had an idea that the old postal directories might help and give me a 'ping' moment. But I am still flummoxed. Also, signs on walls do not necessarily advertise the services available in that particular property and I think this might be an example of an adjacent business paying to advertise on this prime site. 

To illustrate my point, I'm here including three excerpts that show this stretch of Theobald's Road in 1899, 1915 and 1939:

Perhaps this was an ad for one the many solicitors along that terrace who specialised in family law? Or the sign could well have advertised the corner shop opposite; the 1915 confectioner or the 1939 Italian refreshment rooms? By the way, look how many businesses are listed with offices at No.12 in 1939.

Another idea is that this advertisement directed the reader to a business at the other end of Kings Mews in Northington Street, previously Little James Street. Again, I'm showing listings for 1899, 1915 and 1939:

As you can see, this back street has been an ever-changing mix of small shops, tradesmen and manufactories. I can get lost in listings like this especially when I see names or businesses that I recognise from elsewhere, and I particularly like how in this 40-year period we see horse-powered transport and coach-building evolve into the era of motor cars. 

If you do manage to decipher anything else on that wall, please do let me know.

Northington Street is still today an interesting little street. The motor garages and public houses are still evident albeit converted for residential use and Cockpit Yard is today Cockpit Studios, a hub for designer makers. Well worth a detour if you are visiting the nearby Charles Dickens Museum

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Thanks, Jane