Advertisements painted by hand directly onto the brickwork of buildings were once a common sight in cities, towns and villages across the country. The rise of printed billboards soon led to their decline but many still survive, often faded, clinging to the walls that host them. These ‘Ghostsigns’ provide a window into the past and evidence of the craftsmanship that once went into their production. However, they are disappearing fast, often due to weathering but also as a result of property development and demolition.

Over 2009/10 a nationwide effort started which set out to photograph, research and archive the last survivors of this fading advertising medium. The results of this work are now available via the Ghostsigns Archive on The History of Advertising Trust catalogue.

Ghostsigns Archive

Over 1000 examples have now been documented for this archive, touting many different products and services, some familiar, some less so. Alongside advertisements for Hovis, Nestle and Boots are others for Bile Beans, Puck Matches and Peterkin’s Custard. The collections also showcase the styles and techniques employed by the craftsmen responsible for producing the signs. The diversity of lettering forms and illustration highlight the skill and flair that each signwriter once brought to their work, in contrast to the ‘carbon copy’ posters of today.

Explore and enjoy!


Anyone can contribute to the archive, if you spot a Ghostsign and would like to send a photograph of it to us please click here.

Further resources and a blog documenting recent research can be found at