Old haunts: 'Ghost sign' trail set to bring the past to life

Ghost signs of Great Yarmouth to feature in new walking trail

The Victorian Yarmouth General Hospital, to which this sign refers, was demolished in 1984 and replaced by apartments, the current James Paget Hospital in Gorleston succeeding it in 1982. - Credit: Google Maps

Whether they are painted on to bricks or carved in stone 'ghost signs' are a reminder of previous lives lived by people and buildings.

In Great Yarmouth the pace of change has seen all the banks along Hall Quay now repurposed, reminders of what they once were living on in lettering and the minds of those who remember.

Spotting these signs and recording the memories of those who know about the business or place they advertise is now the focus of a project that is looking for the public's help.

Ghost signs of Great Yarmouth to form new walking heritage trail

A sign advertising the former Johnson and Sons Ltd Hosiery Works in Admiralty Road. - Credit: Google Maps

The Time and Tide Museum and Great Yarmouth Borough Council have paired up to create a walking trail to introduce residents and visitors to some of the ’ghost signs’ in the town centre.

‘Ghost signs’ are old shop signs and architectural features that have survived despite the use of the buildings changing.

Ghost signs to form walking trail in Great Yarmouth

Just off the town centre in what is now Market Gates Road stands the former Canterbury Tavern which closed as a pub in 1914, becoming a boarding house and then a restaurant. Its name is still prominently painted on its roof-high stonework, as is the previous road name Middle Market Road. - Credit: Google Maps

The trail team wants people to share their memories and photographs to help create a downloadable map of historical advertising and signs across the town centre.

Some of the sites included are: Great Yarmouth General Hospital (Deneside), Arnolds Department Store (Regent Street/King Street), Slipper Baths (Stonecutters Way), Municipal Art School (Nelson Road), Regent Theatre / Cinema (Regent Road), Lacons Brewery Stores (North Quay) the Old Post Office and Telephone Exchange (Hall Quay).

School of Art to feature in Great Yarmouth ghost sign trail

Great Yarmouth's former Art College in Trafalgar Road was built as a school of arts and crafts in 1913. It closed in around 1996 and was converted into apartments in 2011. - Credit: GYBC

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Carl Smith, council leader, said: “This is a great opportunity for us to shout about our rich, cultural heritage, that we are lucky enough to have on our doorsteps. I encourage residents to speak to their families and friends and come forward with their memories and photos so they can be shared and preserved.”

Ghost sign trail launching in Great Yarmouth at Easter

The former Station Hotel in Gorleston which was trading from 1903 to 1999. It was somewhat cut off from the inner relief road, but retains a ghost sign which is now off the beaten track. - Credit: Google Maps

Colin Stott from Norfolk Museums said: “Ghost signs offer tantalising evidence of how the town has changed over the years, with some buildings changing use many times. Capturing people’s memories will really help us to bring these stories to life.”

Ghost sign trail to launch in Great Yarmouth at Easter

The former ABC/Regent Theatre in Regent Road pictured in 1974. It is being included in a new heritage trail looking at buildings and their various uses over the years. - Credit: GYBC

Tony Calladine, of Historic England said they were an important part of our social history. He added: "This fantastic project gives an important opportunity to celebrate the town’s characters, well-loved shops and lost ways of life that enhance a sense of community and belonging.”

The trail is part of the £2.4m Great Yarmouth High Street Heritage Action Zone project.

Trail of ghost signs to launch at Easter in Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth's general hospital in Deneside which opened in 1887. All that remains is a sign in white paint advising parking for doctors only. - Credit: Archant Archive

To contribute to the project,  email Yarmouth.museums@norfolk.gov.uk by the end of March. The trail is due to launch for Easter.