The ‘Commercial Buildings’ ghost sign on Lavender Hill is back

We always like finding a ghost sign – those big faded advertisements in the ends of buildings that date back to before the era of poster boards and LED displays, advertising local businesses and products. There’s one at the junction of Lavender Hill and Kathleen Road, a building we’ve only written about once (in the context of the oddly short-lived Mrs Le’s restaurant being taken over by squatters) – where a very faded painted sign said ‘Commercial Buildings’, presumably from when these buildings (which would have been on the main road, between the railway station and the original Battersea town hall, back when Battersea was still a Borough) would have been used as offices rather than flats.

The building has been undergoing major work for some time now, to a pretty good standard by the look of it – including a substantial extension at the back, and up in to the roof.

The work has created a series of terraces at the back, as well as one at the front with a door opening out over the roof of the restaurant unit.

The work has also seen all the UPVC windows replaced higher quality sliding sash windows that are in keeping with what the building would have had when it was first built. All in all, this looks set to be quite an improvement for a building that had become rather tired and run down. The brickwork has all been cleaned, which sadly often means the end for ghost signs – and we assumed that the end would be near for the very faded ‘Commercial Buildings’ ghost sign. But in a slight surprise – the work has seen it carefully repainted and restored. In the photo at the top of the article the repainted sign is visible behind the scaffolding.

The old one was not especially visible – fortunately an article by Roy Reed on Ghost signs of Clapham includes a photo of the sign before work started, reproduced above, where it remained visible but had faded substantially. He also has photos of a good few other signs in the Lavender Hill area – our favourite of which is the one advertising Redfern rubber doormats in Wandsworth Road (pictured below), and has recently published a book of these signs, and an online map of where you can find them around central London. When the building with the Redfern advert was refurbished in to four flats a few years ago it was reported that it had previously been a rubber factory; we haven’t seen much other detail on it but the unusual structures at the back do suggest some sort of prior industrial or commercial use, before it became flats.

It’s maybe a bit of a shame to lose the faded character of Lavender Hill’s ‘Commercial Buildings’ ghost sign in favour of a new version – but at the same time give that the alternative in a big brick cleaning and re-pointing project tends to be complete disappearance, we’re pleased to see this one maintained and look forward to the scaffolding coming down.

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