About Signs

Bringing A Ghost Sign Back To Life

What Is A Ghost Sign?

An old hand painted advertising sign that has been preserved on a building for many years. They have survived the test of time, most likely because the paint contained lead, which keeps it strongly adhered to the masonry surface. Ghost signs are the most interesting of all wall signs. Faded to the point of illegibility, they linger on old buildings, echoing the robust commerce of times past.

Example Ghost Sign

Ferry Works Building

The riverside Ferry Works site in Thames Ditton was a factory originally constructed in 1879. In 1911 the building was taken over by Messrs. Auto Carriers Ltd, makers of the famous AC cars, where they would stay for more than 70 years before being bought and relocated by Ford in 1986. During this time, the words AMAZING CARS adorned the brick work on the river side of the building.

Ferry Works Building Historical Image


In recent years the building has been divided among a number of enterprises and we were contacted by the luxury property developers Octagan who have their head office at Weir House. Their request was to reinstate the long since faded ghost sign that used to adorn the building. Scaffolding had been erected for refurbishment works, which was ideal for us to gain access to the riverside wall.

Ferry Works Building - Before Image

Traditional Skills

Having trained as a traditional sign writer, John Newman was the ideal person to restore the ghost sign to its former glory using time-honored methods and his trusted brushes.

Ghost Sign - During using Traditional Sign Writing Skills

The End Result

Although many fans of Ghost Signs believe in keeping the fading originals as they are, repainting the signs signifies that people care about the area and its appearance. This, versus the neglect, which might be implied by fading ghost signs, can create a different view from those that see them, like visitors and potential investors such as future residents or business owners. In the case of the Ferry Works building, the new lettering not only looks clean and smart, but also has a nostalgic effect, reviving memories of times past.

Ghost Sign - After Image sign renovation

Ghost Sign - After sign install Image 2

It’s unlikely that you have a ghost sign that needs renovation, but with the ‘vintage look’ becoming ever more popular, the age old skills of traditional sign writing can transform a blank space into something truly beautiful.