What is the future for the North East's 'ghost signs'?

Advertising sign painted on wall
Image caption Some so-called ghost signs are in good condition but many are fading

They are reminders of another age and, if you start to look, so called ghost signs seem to be everywhere.

Painted advertisements for products and services that have long gone, but the signs have remained.

Cataloguing and photographing them before they fade completely is Teessider John Rymer's passion.

His Facebook page - Ghost Signs UK - is an indication of how far interest has spread.

"The biggest viewers are from the UK, then the United States," he said.

"But we go all the way down to China, United Arab Emirates, Netherlands, Turkey.

"Virtually every country in the world has appeared on there."

The sign Mr Rymer spotted first, and which got him hooked, is a huge painted advertisement overlooking Redcar bus station.

'Long gone'

The paint is flaking, the letters are becoming more indistinct, but it is still possible to make out the 1940s message urging travellers to use the United bus service.

"I just like the fact that somebody 70 years ago would be looking at that and there it is, still here, after the person who painted it is long gone," he said.

One so called ghost sign in the north of England has recently been repainted.

Displayed on a gable end on York's Lord Mayor's Walk, the 1920s sign proclaims the efficacy of bile beans.

Image caption The people of York raised £2,000 in less than a week to have the sign repainted

The money needed to repaint the sign, about £2,000, was raised by the people of York in less than a week.

"When we decided to repaint it the public response was absolutely overwhelming," said Sir Ron Cooke, former chairman of York Civic Trust.

'Look and grin'

"There were hundreds of people who expressed an interest in it.

"It brings a smile to people's faces, everybody driving along this very busy road tends to look at it and grin."

A lot of the signs are fading and some argue they should be listed, like buildings of architectural merit.

"Unfortunately you would have to have an agency that would be responsible for them," Sir Ron said.

"At the moment nobody owns them, so it's public goodwill that keeps them going."

Fifty miles north of York another sign, from the 1930s, is still trying to persuade Middlesbrough's motorists to buy Esso petrol.

Like many others it too is fading and, if it cannot be listed and no-one is really responsible for it, the question remains as to how long it will last for future generations.

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