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Ghost signs on buildings – Fox and Sons, Hither Green Lane.

Email request of the Library.

The owner of www.Ghostsigns.co.uk contacted the library saying he was writing a book about London's 'ghost' signs and plans to include the one attached, photographed here by my co-author Roy Reed (see below). It is causing something of a headache in terms of dating and referencing of the history which I wondered if you might be able to shed any further light on. Or suggest additional lines of enquiry.

A transcription of the text of the sign can be found below, and the following are my notes so far...

While a renumbering of the street appears to occur, there aren't any apparent records of relevant business in the known period of operation for the Fox & Sons brewery, which was sold in 1909. The pubs were bought by Truman's, with the goodwill and trade business going to the brewers Golding & Co. in Sevenoaks. What's not clear is what happened to the brand after this point.

If it could be shown that Fox & Sons beers continued to be available after 1909 then that would fit subsequent records. John Lovibond & Sons opened a bottle shop here in 1920 and remained until at least 1940. They would have served as 'agents for' the brewers, with the sign paid for by the manufacturer. However, this neat solution rests on evidence of Fox & Sons continuing to badge beer after their sale to Golding & Co, or evidence of another, much earlier, off license...

Agent for Fox & Sons, Farnborough Ales & Stout In Bottle and Cask

212 Hither Green Lane, SE13

Tips and leads most welcome... www.ghostsigns.co.uk


As you know our Library and meetings are not open due to the corona virus situation. Our Library records are not accessible at present, so we cannot look up the information you want.

The member that knew about breweries died two years ago and his records were passed to another member to complete his book. I've blind copied this email to him so he can email you if he can help. I cannot give you the email addresses due to GDPR regulations and I don't have permission to pass them on to you.

The Society has three ways at present to communicate with members. The Journal which I have blind copied this to the editor, this is quarterly Journal and it has just been published. The Editor may be interested in a piece to go with your enquiry.

We also run an emailinformationservice that is free to subscribers and again I have blind copied this to the editor. The editor will probably want to use the picture and the details you have sent . Its issued approx. twice a month so I will leave it to her to contact you if she is going to use it.

The other way is for me to put your email onto our web site as a blog and hope a member will respond.

Further details received from www.ghostsigns.co.uk

Thank you for your help. My plan is to publish the following on my own blog which I think presents a better summary of the problem, and includes some new evidence that I have found. Feel free to share this, with any required edits, on your site and anywhere that it might elicit useful information pertaining to this mystery. The photograph below is by and credited to Roy Reed.

This ghost sign featuring the Fox & Sons brewery is proving a crafty little number and so I'm publishing what I've found so far to see if anyone can solve the conundrum that it represents. The sign reads as follows:

Agent for Fox & Sons, Farnborough
Ales & Stout, In Bottle and Cask

The important phrase here is 'agent for' which precedes the Fox & Sons name. This means that we're looking for a bottle shop/off license that was on or near these premises, rather than the brewery itself, which was located in Farnborough.

The building that hosts the sign is now 212 Hither Green Lane, London SE13. This is on the West side of the street, opposite Beacon Road and between Theodore Road to the North and Springrice Road to the South. The building appears to have been built at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries and in 1904 is occupied by a grocer. This remains the case until 1920 when the John Lovibond & Sons bottle shop moves in, remaining there until at least 1940.

This would appear to be case solved, as we have exactly the type of shop we're looking for. However, this all happened much later than the known dates of operation for the Fox & Sons brewery itself. A detailed history of the business can be found on the Farnborough Village History website, but the crucial date in this context is 1909. This is when, following years of financial trouble, the business was sold. The pubs went to Truman's and the goodwill and trade business to Golding & Co.

A key question to answer is therefore what happened to the Fox & Sons brand after 1909? If it could be shown that it continued until at least 1920 then their 'privilege' would be easy to pin to the premises of John Lovibond & Sons. However, if the brand was discontinued by Golding & Co. at any point before 1920 then we would need to find another relevant business on the premises, as it seems unlikely that a grocer would have hosted a privilege sign for beer in the early 20th Century.

A clue which I've so far been unable to follow up is the nature of the terrace that the sign appears on. It looks like the building immediately in front is in-fill (Running Past has it destroyed by fire in 1894) and that there used to be a mews leading behind the terrace and connecting to another entrance on Springrice Road. This can be seen on satellite imagery of the location, and the Springrice Road entrance remains at what looks to be number 51, occupied today by All Renault Ltd.

I think that this final clue is probably the key to unlocking this mystery, and finding out the name and nature of the mews will be crucial. Any help, as always, much appreciated in pinning down this sly fox (and sons). 

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