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Bath's Beautiful Ghost Signs

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by Tom Tide (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son. I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath every day, and about many other things besides. Curious? Have a look at my blog and say hi, at www.tide478.wordpress.com
Published July 18th 2017
There's something strange - Ghost Signs
Bath is a city steeped in history, and much of it is preserved. The centre itself is a World Heritage Protected Site, and its honey coloured buildings are painstakingly maintained. Even the exterior walls are lovingly cleaned, using a special water-based treatment. Thank goodness they are, because there is a whole world to see, pained on those buildings. Look up and you may see them: large, intricate signs and advertisements from the Twentieth Century and before, glowing in pastel hues from on high. They speak of a nostalgic, bygone time, and are fascinating. Here are some of the most interesting.

Ghost Sign
Bath 'Circulating Library', built by the Georgians


Some of the signs are little more than faded paint flecks that resemble lettering, yet others look as if they were unveiled yesterday and distressed to give them a 'Vintage look'. Here are two such signs that represent these polar opposites (both on Moorland Road).

Cycle sign
Flowing pre-21st Century lettering


Sign
Mysterious lettering from a bygone era


The wonderful thing about the signs is how many of them there are, and finding them is half of the fun really. Some only show up in certain weather conditions also, and so stumbling across previously unnoticed ones is common. Just today I spotted an old pub sign on a chimney, stenciled above what is now a gallery. I love these mysterious glimpses in to the past.

Chimney Sign
Previously the Frog and Flower Pub


Ghost signs are like a portal in to the past, in that they starkly show how greatly our society has changed. They advertise products that simply are not advertised anymore, and some with very good reason. Ironically, this tobacco advert looks distinctly smoky in its faded grandeur, and almost like a cigarette packet itself.

Tabacco advert
A smoky reminder from the past


An absolute must see ghost sign can be found on Moorland Road, adorning what is now the 'Fire and Brew' pizza bar. When renovating the shopfront of the then fancy dress shop, carpenters revealed the long hidden 'Cooperative Ltd sign', which nobody in living memory was able to recognise. Lying dormant for almost a Century, it is still vibrantly coloured, and now adds a lovely sense of history to the road.

Gilt sign
Part of the unveiled Co-op sign


So, if you fancy a wander around town with your head in the clouds then this is right up your street. I have deliberately only revealed a few signs, because the truth is, there are actually over 150 to spot (150 so far discovered, that is). Keep a sharp eye on end of terrace buildings, and any corner building that stands at an intersection or junction with another street. I warn you though, ghost sign hunting is extremely addictive, and will give you a whole new sense of perspective...

Cycle Supplies
On your bike!


Sign
Just kidding, no sign here. Or is there...
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Why? Beautifully mysterious link to the past
When: 365 days a year, easier on dry, sunny days.
Where: Throughout city centre
Cost: Totally free
Your Comment
I too love ghost signs. Thanks for sharing. May
by May Cross (score: 3|1123) 150 days ago
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