11 April 2024

Guinness advertising in London

My last post about the mural over the railway in Camden got me thinking about other examples of old Guinness advertising on London's streets. We might not have the huge signs that used to be at Piccadilly Circus or the moving clock near Angel tube station shown below, but there are still a few remnants clinging to the walls, hinting at the colourful ads of the past.  

First, the Millennium Time clock on the side of The Archway Tavern which has been gradually falling apart for decades.

The montage above comes from this post I wrote in May 2017 – but it's looking even more sparse these days. That link also includes my pic of six happy Guinness glasses that used to be on the corner of Rosie McCann's pub in York Way. Below is a screen grab from Google streetview showing the pub with its jolly sign in August 2008. Rosie and the sign were gone by June 2012.

Which reminds me of a few others that have recently disappeared, such as the large painted "Sláinte" (health/cheers!) that used to be on the side of The Eaglet in Holloway, N7. For some reason, in 2019 this 6ft pint of the black stuff was completely overpainted a dull black and nothing has as yet replaced it, as shown in this Google screengrab pic (all pics from here will be from Google unless I specify otherwise):

Back in Camden, but we're now on the High Street looking at the top of The Camden Head, where a neon sign advertising Guinness and The Liberties (its previous name), was still in place until Summer 2015, albeit not illuminated, the pub having reverted to its original name by 2009. 

On the same day that I happened upon the railway mural, I'd already discovered another Guinness sign nearby, in the form of a plaque above the doorway of The Lord Southampton public house at the other end of Southampton Road. 

I'd have gone inside and tested this information claim but the pub is closed at the moment. It appears that some moaning minnies who live in the area do not want it to reopen as a pub because of the noise. Hmmm. One wonders why they chose to live close to a pub in the first instance! After all, this pub, with its gorgeous handmade blue Doulton Lambeth tiles and original wooden interior has been a community hub for over a century. It's one of the oldest pubs in the vicinity and would have well-served people visiting or working at Queen's Crescent shops market. Pubs don't have to be noisy and only a handful of people get drunk. I'm guessing the moaners are noisy themselves and assume everyone else is too. 
I took a pic through the window – it's lovely in there and I hope this interior, with its wood panelled walls and bar, is retained.

Probably the best, most intact, heritage pub signage in London can be found on The Crown & Cushion pub on Westminster Bridge Road, almost opposite Lower Marsh where there are two Guinness signs. The panel on the left depicts three flying toucans each balancing two pints of the famous stout on their bills!  Note that the top bird is 3D and protrudes from the board. 

And, d'uh. I almost forgot to mention The Toucan in Carlisle Street, near Soho Square, which is daft because I spent a lot of time in there back in the 1990s, usually in the basement bar which was a welcome refuge on hot days rather than sweating in the noisy street outside. I haven't been in there for over ten years. Is the list of Guinness cocktails still down there? I must go back soon. 

As regards the signage here, the faded hanging sign at the top of the basement stairs is fairly old, but the two flying toucans above the awning are quite new – they were installed in 2013 to fill the spaces where air con units used to be. 
The White Swan, Deptford has two different hanging signs protruding from the building – one is the standard black and gold roudel. I particularly like the other sign of the Guinness mug with a handle, something we rarely see or use these days. The pic below is from 2015, but the pub didn't look open the last time I walked past a few months ago and might well have closed its doors for good by now.

But definitely gone, is the once lively Ravenscourt Arms in Hammersmith, a flat roofed pub, looking welcoming in the pic below but today the site is being developed and the four toucans on the sign have flown away to who knows where.

A ghostsign I missed – I never managed to get to Balham to photograph the remains of a painted sign that used to be on the side of the launderette. A friend who lives near there had told me about it but by the time I visited her in early 2019 it had been overpainted. Maggie has taken a good pic of it here. There must have been more hand-painted ads like this all over the country so it's surprising to have never actually seen one myself. 

Sometimes the brand can be found within street art. In Islington, there was a cute little cherub in Pickering Street (off Essex Road, near South Library) holding a broken bottle of Guinness. But this has since been overpainted white: 

I didn't find out who the artist was – most likely to be the work of Bambi who had other artworks on the same building back in 2014. If not her, then it could be Loretto or Pegasus who have similar pieces in this area.

What else? I only have to look at a wall like this one to think of Guinness, ditto those tubular street litter bins when they have a white polythene waste bag dribbling over the top edge. 
A friend told me about this artwork in Hackney Wick which has clearly been added to and, of course, we've got the Guinness Trust buildings all across London. If you can think of any other instances, on the outside of buildings, not inside pubs or on glasses or mats, please let me know.  

Finally, as a teenager I used to have a black long-sleeved sweatshirt with the Guinness brand in white on the upper left side. I'd bought from a stall on Romford Market. I also had a JPS one (Jane Parker Special!). I wore the Guinness top to take my driving test, which I passed first time, and later that day realised that it was a bit daft to be wearing an alcohol brand whilst driving a car and under the pub drinking age! People sometimes asked me what the other side was. Oh ho ho ho. It wasn't until a few years later when the sweatshirt was old and Mum and I were doing some painting and decorating that she suddenly exclaimed "Martini's the right one"! Too late!

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Thanks, Jane