Bile Beans, again

Following on from the previous page, and the page before that, I’m returning to the Bile Beans ad, as 1) I’ve made the effort to go up there and take a photo of the restored version of the first restored version, and 2) there’s a Twitter storm about the comma. Well, more of a mild breeze of concern. But anyway …

Spot the difference: 1970s/2012

Here’s Baz Ward’s painting of the scene, painted in the late 1970s, followed by a photo taken by me this week.

Painting of ghost sign on gable end wall

Newly repainted ghost sign on gable end wall

A common factor in the two scenes: the wonky chimney pot on the left. Another, the unattractive green box on the left at the bottom of the wall.

In 2012, bigger shrubbery, fewer chimneys, brighter ‘ghost sign’. Altogether a less charming scene, and one missing the cheery highlight of the red phone box. As mentioned earlier, these are slowly disappearing.

The comma question

On Twitter, there’s been some concern over the ‘missing’ comma, following the recent repainting.

Painted ad, 'ghost sign', on brick wall

Here’s a photo taken in recent years. (Photo copied without permission from a page on which has taken my text without permission.) Looks like a comma, after the word ‘healthy’. But as @ghostsigns said on Twitter: ‘I always suspected that the comma got added after the restoration, its appearance just isn’t consistent with the rest.’

So did someone pop along one night with a paintbrush, to add in the comma? Was it the same person who adds missing commas to information signs in the library? Was it someone wanting to reinstate something of the original, long-lost version?

Did this have a comma?

Faded paint on red brick
Baz Ward’s painting, from around 1978, doesn’t have a comma. Andy’s 1977 photo has something that looks like a comma, but could just be a mark on the brickwork. A bit of it here, enlarged – make your own mind up.

Anyway, it was all covered already by the 1986 restoration.

Thin red line

Just visible on the (digitally enhanced) image above is another long-lost detail, which I wouldn’t have noticed had it not been mentioned by Baz Ward in a recent email:

‘the BILE BEANS letters should each have a narrow red line around them. This makes a huge difference, ‘lifting’ the effect considerably. This line was very evident in my original [large] painting but was left out during the first ‘renovation’… I guess it’s too late now that the scaffolding has gone.’

I think that’s everything on the Beans scene. Except to say that it’s affectionately known by some as ‘Billy Beans’.

Comments welcome below, or on any of the other pages about it.

Beans beans beans

It’s quite astonishing how many photos exist online of this wall, all taken in the last eight years or so. Bile Beans photos, via Google Images

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories
To link to this page's proper location please use the > permalink


  1. #1: The Oxford comma is a matter of style and puuocnatitn; it has nothing to do with grammar. The words and also are redundant, and because the and is a conjunction introducing an independent clause, you should have a comma after ever .#2: Questions of pronunciation have nothing to do with grammar.#3: Your first sentence contains a grammatical error (a dangling modifier) implying that debates are grammatically correct . When joining two words into a single adjective, such as often-controversial , a hyphen is required (but that’s a spelling mistake, not a grammatical one). #4: Irregardless is a non-word used by those who have confused regardless with irrespective ; it’s an error of diction, not grammar.#6: Another error of diction, not grammar; again explained with a dangling modifier, this time implying that people are not as controversial as other grammar rules .#9: The use of the abbreviations and symbols common to SMS-messaging is a question of style and suitability, not grammar.#12: English has dozens of gender-neutral pronouns it, they, them, theirs, anyone, everyone, nobody, someone, many, few, we, us, one (two, three, four, five, etc.). That simple fact is not a grammar rule , controversial or otherwise.#14: The use of passive voice is a question of style, not grammar. Your explanation contains yet another dangling modifier, which implies that many writers are technically grammatically sound .#15: Placement of puuocnatitn marks is a matter of puuocnatitn and typography, not grammar.#16: The use of apostrophes is a matter of spelling, not grammar.#17: E-mail vs. email: spelling, not grammar.#19: The use of various dashes is a question of puuocnatitn and typography, not grammar.#20: Yet another dangling modifier. Eleven items on your list of grammar rules have nothing to do with grammar; four out of 20 explanations contain grammatical errors themselves, and you are unable to identify 99% of the language’s gender-neutral pronouns. Sorry, but you get an F’ on this assignment; please stop trying to teach language skills until you acquire some.

  2. YorkStories

    A quick Google confirmed that this is the weirdest example of ‘comment spam’ I’ve ever seen. Presumably attracted here by the word ‘comma’ in the text above …

  3. I’m glad Flavia was’nt my English teacher at Nunthorpe GRAMMAR ’scule’during WW2,would have preferred to be elsewhere,like an air raid shelter!

  4. I was actually present when that comma was painted on by an irate fellow student at St. John’s in 1998, she got fed up of walking past it every day and decided to correct it with her own paint..

  5. YorkStories

    Excellent – thank you! The mystery solved!

  6. Helenography

    Great post. I’m not a fan of restoration to be honest, I’d rather see what the original sign painter intended, even if it is mostly faded on the wall. It is lovely to have the sign still visible but it would have been even better if they’d kept to the original look of the sign with the red line and the comma missing.

    It might not be correct but it is what the people at the time did which I think is more interesting than making it ‘right’.

  7. I agree with Helenography.
    The repainting in my opinion does not mean anything and looks completely fake. Wall murals are ephemeral and of their time. It is advertising, like shredded poster boards which have a beauty in their degeneration. The images can be recorded and we can look forward to a new generation of wall art?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Thank you for adding a comment. Please note that comments are moderated, but should appear within 24 hours.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.