Ghost signs offer a glimpse into yesteryear, and Leeds has a slew of them for you to hunt out…
They’re remnants of Leeds’ history that have yet to be removed, and the city’s ghost signs offer a revealing insight into the past. From ancient ads selling beer, clothes and everything in between, to signs that tell what the building was once used for and which businesses once lived there, if you dig deep enough, these ghost signs have a story to tell.
Along the bustling highway of Meanwood Road in Sheepscar, lies a building that initially looks like just another old warehouse, but it has a long history that’s told through its ghost signs. It was home to the Roscoe Clothing Company until 1974, and their name stretches along the top of the ground floor, before being passed to J&J Brightbart, whose name you’ll now find on the next floor up in its own distinctive font. Believe it or not, Brightbart still exists as a tailor today, although they’re now on New Briggate, while the building itself is home to Geoff’s Upholstery.
Meanwood Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 2LP.
At first glance, it might look like this ghost sign is advertising sweets, but that’s not the case. On the corner of Belle Isle Road and Balm Road is a sign for Bile Beans, which was once a popular medicine in the UK, and as the sign states, it was ‘the ideal tonic laxative’, helping to ease kidney and liver problems.
1 Belle Isle Rd, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 2DH.
A. Walker and more
On the side of a house on Hudson Road in Harehills is a ghost sign that will mess with your eyes a little bit. The reason? It’s actually got more than one – in fact, you’d do well to count them all. Only A. Walker and Junction Stores are totally legible, but there are many more that have faded with time. It proves that this was one of the most popular spots to promote your business in the good old days – and the residents probably made a pretty penny for the trouble.
Hudson Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 6DJ.
Towards the back of a shop on Hyde Park’s Woodsley Terrace is a ghost sign that shows what folk were queuing for in their local pubs. It was an ad for Combe’s Ale, made by the Watney, Combe and Reid Brewery, which dates back as far as 1837, when each of those names were separate companies. Taken over by Grand Metropolitan in 1972, it only lasted until 1979 when it was swallowed up in a reshuffle.
Woodsley Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1DT.
This ghost sign is a little bit different to the rest, because it’s been carefully restored in recent years. On the side of The Palace Hotel on Kirkgate, closest to the Minster, is a sign for Melbourne Ales, one of Leeds’ much missed breweries. The sign harks back to the building’s past, because The Palace was once ‘Another Melbourne House’.
The Palace, Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DJ.
You’ll find one of the city’s coolest ghost signs where Conway Road and Harehills Lane meet. It’s for Puck Match, one of the brands that belonged to Bryant and May, the famed match company that had a factory in Leeds until 1956. You’ll find their matchbox on the wall, alongside their devil mascot, which is adorned underneath, and although it’s now surrounded by fans, cameras, alarms and satellite dishes, it’s managed to survive through the years.
Conway Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 5JH.
Tower Picture House
Leeds, like most cities around the UK, were once awash with cinemas – and you can still find remnants of the city’s classic picture houses today. Walk along Merrion Street, which is now a popular nightlife spot, and you’ll see a huge old sign with the word ‘Tower’ stretching down the street. It’s for the old Tower Picture House, a conversion of part of Grand Arcade, which opened in September 1920 and carried on until 1985 when it was converted into a club, before becoming Brotherhood and Manahatta.
Manahatta, 11 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
Just across the road from Burley train station, in the heart of Leeds’ student area, is a house that wasn’t always a house. On the corner of Lumley Avenue, it’s been modified from its former life as a corner shop – and how do we know that? Above the front door is a pretty remarkable ghost sign that identifies it as Westwood Newsagents. They once sold ‘sweets, stationary, etc’ – but not anymore.
Lumley Avenue, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2LR.Cover image credit Tim Green licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.