Old signs, forgotten shops

Old lettering

Shopfront, old lettering, Walmgate, 2006

Here’s some fine old lettering on a shop front on Walmgate, taken in 2006, as I noticed it in passing.


Walmgate, fine old lettering covered by modern plastic sign, 2013

It was later covered again by the rather more modern signage for a mobile phone shop, and you’d never have guessed how smart and elegant it once looked.

Shop with boarding for building work

Walmgate shop, in process of conversion, 2014

It has been uncovered again this year and I’ve had a few emails about it. The building is in the process of being converted to residential, but it seems from the planning application documents that the frontage of the shop is being preserved.

I’m not sure if the building is listed, whether its old lettering is covered by special protection, but it seems to have survived a long while. I imagine the only way to preserve it for the future is to cover it up again. Maybe it has been, I’ve not been that way since I took these photos, in June.

Here are some close-ups of its recently uncovered loveliness.

Painted lettering, old shop

It reads ‘FALCONER. CHEMIST & DRUGGIST’. In bold capitals with a confident full-stop after the proprietor’s name, and a little decorative detail at either end. In gold with a drop shadow. Handsome, isn’t it. They don’t paint them like that anymore. And the word ‘druggist’ doesn’t suit the modern world, where we like to think of our chemists as dispensers of medicines rather than ‘drugs’.

Old painted lettering

From a handsome example, to a slightly less handsome example, but I had to include this one, uncovered last year (and perhaps still visible), over in Acomb’s shopping centre:

Old shop sign, circa 1970s

Tip-Top discount store, old signage uncovered, Acomb, 2013

This is I think from the 1970s. I remember Tip Top from my childhood, I’m not sure when it closed. If I recall correctly this ‘Discount Store’ was a bit like Boyes on Goodramgate. I’m sure we used to buy toiletries in here for Christmas presents. So, as this was the 70s, Aqua Manda talc, Radox herbal bath, those little packets of bath salts formed into cubes that never quite dissolved properly in the bath. That kind of thing.

Old shop signage uncovered

J Kirby, old shop signage, Heslington Road

Over on Heslington Road – thank you to Elizabeth Hardcastle for sending me this one, also uncovered earlier this year. Elizabeth tells me that it’s now ‘Heso Local’, but that the old signs advertised ‘J Kirby, Stationer, Tailor’. An interesting combination.

There were of course many corner shops in the terraced streets, before the massive out of town supermarkets then the smaller in-town mini-supermarkets cornered the market for virtually everything. So many of these corner shops have disappeared entirely and are detectable only by a patch of newer cleaner brick on a house on a terraced street corner, around ordinary house windows, both filling the space where a larger shop window used to be. (I’ve noticed one that still has the larger shop windows, the residents tend to keep the blinds closed all the time, as you would.)

Old shop signage

Spencer’s shop signage, corner of Falsgrave Crescent, June 2014

A few of the old corner shops are still in use as takeaways, like this one, on the corner of Falsgrave Crescent, off Burton Stone Lane. As you can see, it sells pizza. As you could briefly see, if you passed in recent months when the plastic signage had been removed, it used to be ‘Spencers’. What did Spencers sell? Perhaps someone remembers.

(Update: Bry remembers, thanks Bry. Spencer’s was a fish and chip shop until the mid 1990s, then became an Indian takeaway, then a pizza place.)

Old shop sign

Spencers, Falsgrave Crescent

I rather liked this ensemble. The way the orange of the old painted shop sign matches the orangey tinge from the rusty looking overpainted traditional street sign above it.

Old painted sign on shop

Newborough St, old shop signage, Dec 2013

A stone’s throw away is the fish and chip shop on Newborough Street.

For many years it was ‘Tony’s Plaice’. It has new owners, and is now called ‘The Frying Squad’, continuing that fine old tradition of a jokey pun in the shop name.

Its new signs claim a heritage back to 1895, as the shop has been a fish and chip shop since then, according to an article in the Press when Tony and Margaret Potts retired. It is of course very close to the Bootham Crescent football ground, which is presumably how it has managed to keep going for so long.

Before the Frying Squad and before Tony’s Plaice, R Coupe was the proprietor, as revealed in the old signage uncovered earlier this year while the new owners were fitting out the shop.

To finish, a couple of close-ups of this faded lettering, now covered again with modern plastic signage.

Hand painted lettering, faded

Handpainted old shop sign

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  1. I remember a Tip-Top being in Halifax in the early 1980’s, the one there was a bit like Superdrug.

  2. There’s another interesting ones up Heslington Road, directly opposite the One Stop shop on the first floor is a faded sign for ‘Charlie’s Games’ with hand-painted Sonic the Hedgehog barely visible – don’t know it’s history but it brings back nostalgic memories of games on floppy disk, cartridges and the Teletext Digitiser pages. Nice ‘John Smith’s Magnet Ales’ sign on the corner of Apollo street just across the road too!

  3. Tony Walker

    I remember Falconer’s chemists from when I was a pupil at St. George’s Secondary Modern school in Margaret Street. It had a large sign in the window advertising “Durex”, which was amusing to us pre-pubescent lads at a Catholic school.

  4. I noticed that the ‘FALCONER. CHEMIST & DRUGGIST’ sign is pictured on the google street view, dated May 2017.

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