Culture Magazine

Ghost Signs (142): Fortescue Bros of Reading

By Carolineld @carolineld
A ghost sign painted on red brick: a white background, with black text reading 'FORTESCUE BROS LTD CYCLE MAKERS. A manicule points left, with the text 'TO WORKSHOPS'

This ghost sign is tucked inside a covered alleyway off West Street, Reading - but it was worth stepping around the bins for. 

A photograph of the ghost sign and surrounding alleyway: the red brick wall, covered with graffiti tags, joins onto a flat concrete roof. To the left of the picture, a daylit yard is visible; to the right, a colourful shop front. In the foreground is the top of a large red commercial bin, bleached pink by the sun. 

It (literally) points passers-by to the workshops of Fortescue Bros Ltd, cycle makers. In business by 1898, they continued through at least the first half of the twentieth century but are now long gone. The workshop may be defunct, but a jaunty manicule gestures on, jacket sleeve flashing a strip of cuff and cufflink, nails forever neatly trimmed. 

A detail of the ghost sign: a photograph of the manicule.
There is even a local London connection for me! Another branch of the Fortescue family were part of Saunders and Fortescue, who made and sold cycles in Lewisham, Peckham and Croydon.

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