Monday, March 23, 2020

Park Street, London

Take Courage

This is one of my favourite London ghost signs, one that I’ve been meaning to post for a while: now seems like a good time. The plain brick structure is in the area of Southwark known as the Borough, and was once part of a brewery – the largest brewery in the world, I’m told.* It advertises the products of the brewers Courage, who once owned this building.

The sign is said to date from 1955, which which was when Courage (founded in 1787) merged with Barclay, Perkins and Company, who already owned the Anchor Brewery on this Southwark site. The building with the sign accommodated brewery staff. Brewing on this site stopped in 1981, when much of the land was sold for redevelopment – a common pattern with industrial buildings in central London in the 1980s, when many firms realised they could make money by selling their valuable properties and relocating on a cheaper site elsewhere. Mercifully the sign, although faded now, is still there.

The way the sign straddles the wall, the two gables crowning it and drawing attention to it, must have caught the eyes of thousands of people, including many passing to and from London Bridge station. When passing myself, I’ve heard others puzzling over its meaning and assuming that it’s simply an appeal to people to stiffen the upper lip and face misfortune bravely. But beer drinkers, especially those who live in London, know that it refers to their favoured tipple, and when I lived in the capital, Courage Best and Directors bitters were the standard pints in many a London pub. I expect they still are. In these tough times, when pubs are closed, we need courage as much as ever – and Courage too, many would add.

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*It is actually on the corner of Park Street and Redcross Way, close to some of the many railway tracks that criss-cross this part of London, mostly elevated above the roads on brick arches.


bazza said...

Isn't it always a delight to see these old signs? When a shop in our local high street was recently renovated an old shop name from several incarnations ago was revealed. It was fruit and veg and now it's the FOURTH of 100 shops to become a Vietnamese Nail Bar. Yuk!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s righteously rebarbative Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Joe Treasure said...

Thanks Phil. Beautiful and timely. As a cub scout I once took part in a scout sketch show in Cheltenham Playhouse. Another small child and I were sawn in half as part of a magic trick (he was the head, I was the feet). In an earlier sketch, which I watched from wings as I waited to go on, one character urged another, who was dealing with a crisis, to "Take courage!" "Thanks," came the reply, "I don't mind if I do." That seemed like a good joke when I was seven.

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

I immediately grasped its meaning, and suddenly felt very thirsty.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Phillip. There's a very good ghost sign at Bridgnorth Shropshire as you cross the river; Ridley Seeds. CHJ