Ghost signs in Timaru are fading remnants


of sign painters work on red brick walls.

Become a ghost sign spotter and preserve these fading examples of folk art - digitally. Yesterdays businesses in Timaru relied on word of mouth, sign-writers and the Timaru Herald to promote their goods and available services. These advertisement signs are now called "ghost signs." White lead deteriorated slowest of all the pigments, so many signs today are white "ghosts" of the original like the two on the side of the C.F.C.A. building on Station St., Timaru. The old sign painters used white lead for white and lampblack for black. In the "old days" sign-writers made a paper pattern of the lettering, then perforate the lines with a small device called a pounce wheel, a tiny spiked wheel on a handle. The wheel was rolled around the lines of the pattern and the spikes would leave a series of holes. Or they used a pounce machine which burnt holes in the paper. Then the painter would line up and fasten the pattern to the wall and tap the outline with a cotton bag or sock filled with chalk or powdered charcoal, called a pounce bag. The result was that you had transferred your pattern onto the background. The paint was mixed with linseed oil and vanish, with perhaps gasoline as a rapid drying agent. The result was long-lasting, though time and sun ages all paint.  For decades sign writers were artists as well as "wall monkeys" and were often seen high up on the facades of buildings suspended by ropes and ladders creating these advertisement signs.

Timaru Herald, 14 January 1893, Page 2
Mr James Craigie will have on view at his shop, Main Road, to day one of the finest specimens of the signwriter's art that we have seen for a long time. It is a sign on plate glass executed to the order of a gentleman in Ashburton, The lettering, tracings, etc., are for the most part burnt into the glass with the aid of acids, and afterwards finished off in gold and silver gilt. The whole design is very pretty, and the lettering shows exceptional taste.


Royal Arcade, Timaru ghost sign captured in a photographic study in June 2010 by M.T.
The use of colour and illustrations would have made a relatively expensive sign to commission.

Timaru Herald, 24 September 1875, Page 1
J. DIXON GORE, PAPERHANGER, Painter, Plumber, Glazier, Signwriter, and House Decorator, GERALDINE. Estimates given for general repairs. Buggies and Traps repainted.

Timaru Herald, 30 October 1876, Page 1
A. COOPER, Painter, Plumber, Glazier, Paperhanger, and Sign writer, Next door to the Timaru Foundry, Great North Road. On Sale, all descriptions of paints, Oils, Glass, and Paperhangings. Paints made up to order. [Alfred Cooper]

Timaru Herald, 30 June 1876, Page 1
THOMAS AMOS (Late of Greymouth), Painter, Glazier, Paper-hanger, and General Decorator, Importer of Paper-hanging, Oils, Colors, Varnish, Window-glass, &c., &c, &c. Begs to inform the inhabitants of Timaru and Surrounding Districts, that he has Commenced. Business here, in the above trade, and hopes, by Moderate Charges and First- class Workmanship, to merit a fair share of of public patronage. On hand, a Choice Selection of Paper- hangings, new patterns. Nearly opposite Timaru Board of Works Office. 


Timaru Herald 1st Jan. 1879, pg 9.
Grainer - to paint, stain, etc, in imitation of the grain of wood or leather

Timaru Herald, 23 September 1878, Page 1
NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC. MESSRS SCOTT AND SULLIVAN (the former late of T. Amos), wish to Inform the Inhabitants of Timaru and the Surrounding Districts, that they have This Day COMMENCED BUSINESS in North-street, Timaru, as PAINTERS, SIGN WRITERS, GRATNERS, PAPER- HANGERS, &c. ; and trust by strict attention to business, moderate charges, and good workmanship, to secure a share of public patronage. SCOTT & SULLIVAN Timaru, June 3, 1878.

Timaru Herald, 20 March 1879, Page 1
NEW PAPERHANGING ESTABLISHMENT. T. AMOS, PAINTER, PAPERHANGER, SIGN-WRITER, GLAZIER, & GENERAL DECOBATOR, HAS OPENED his NEW PREMISES, next to Timaru Herald Office, with a large and well selected stock of English and American Paperhangings, newest patterns and designs. Also on sale ad lowest rates, Red and White Lead, Boiled and Raw Linseed Oil, Varnishes, Brushes, Gold and Silver Leaf, WINDOW GLASS, All Sizes, and all Painter's requisites. Experienced Workmen sent to all parts of the district.

Timaru Herald, 27 May 1897, Page 1
English painter. The popular painter from the south A. E. Burrell, St. Andrews. 15 years experience. Coach and House Painter, Sign Writer, Paperhanger, Glazier, &co. Best Materials only used. Estimates given for Contracts; &c. Coach Painting a Specialty.

Timaru Herald, 19 April 1900, Page 2
WILSON BROS., Corner Stafford and Woollcoombe Sts. (Opposite Shamrock Hotel) HOUSE DECORATORS, GLAZIERS, SIGN-WSITERS. In opening Business in the above Premises, we wish to intimate to the Public that all work entrusted to us will be carried out in First-class Style, Sound Workmanship, combined with Moderate Charges. WE MAKE A SPECIALTY OF INTERIOR DECORATION. In our employ we have a First-class Sign-writer, with an extensive experience in the chief Cities of the Colony. Scrim, white lead, red, Linseed oils, Turpentine. Picture mouldings, wood stains, Wall papers.

Waimate Daily Advertiser
, Volume II, Issue 142, 8 May 1900, Page 4
H. C. FERGUSSON, PAINTER, PAPERHANGER, SIGNWRITER, Etc. Is Prepared to undertake work in Town or Country. Traps and Buggies, Repainted. Lined, and Varnished. Picture Framing specialty, Wall-papers, Paints, Glass, etc., always in stock. Create wall murals.


Ghostly sign - Mackay Co. Ltd Complete House Furnishers, Strathallan St, Timaru


D.C. Turnbull & Co. Agents. Wool & Grain Store. Taken from the Strathallan St. from over bridge, June 2010, by M.T. Travel down Station street past the old custom house with street view and the old red brick C.F.C.A. or Canterbury Farmers Co-operative Association warehouse comes into view and straight ahead you can see the Atlas Flour Mill. The darker the brick, the stronger the brick, that is why buildings were made with red brick.


Alliance Assurance Co.          A. Montgomery. Agent.
Note that a window has been bricked up.
Looks like the artist signed his work - MURDOCH.


Below is also Murdoch's work.


Royal Arcade, Timaru. R. Orwin, Agent.   Photo taken Sept. 2011 M.T.

Reuben Orwin was born 5 Aug. 1854 Prospect Row, Chatham, Kent. He landed at Lyttelton in 1874 from the ship Geraldine Paget, he went to Dunedin, where he resided for seven years. Returning to Canterbury, he spent twelve months in the Cathedral City, then came to Timaru, where he commenced business as a general commission agent. General Commission Agent, The Arcade, Timaru. This business was established in 1882. Mr. Orwin is district agent for the Australian Alliance Fire Insurance Company of Hamburg, and local agent for the New Zealand Accident Insurance Company. In 1889 appointed secretary and treasurer to the South Canterbury Hospital and Charitable Aid Board. Nov. 1906 Mr Orwin takes up the local managership of the New Zealand Insurance Company. He is chairman of the Timaru Floral and Horticultural Society, and secretary of the United Friendly Societies' dispensary, Timaru. A member of the Masonic fraternity, he is a Past Master of Lodge St. John, No. 1137, E.C. He is an Oddfellow of twenty-seven years standing, has been through all the chairs of the Lodge, and filled the office of grand master of the Hand and Heart Lodge, Dunedin. Mr. Orwin is married, and has four children. Died 16 May 1943, Timaru.   


Miles Archer & Co. Wool Stores. Corner of The Terrace and Strathallan St. Timaru. Nov. 2011


We pass these fading examples without a second glance. C.F.C.A. or Canterbury Farmers Co-operative Association warehouse, Station St., Timaru  


Evans' Atlas Flour Milling Co. Limited Timaru                    Evans' Atlas Rolling Milling Co.   

Belfield Flour Mills, Hayes St, Timaru built in 1878, consists of four storys with a frontage 48', architect Mr M. de Duval erected by Mr. A. Ormsby on the beach, at the end of North-street. Mr J. Anderson of Christchurch, the engineer. Mr Drew the miller. All the bricks were manufactured in Timaru by Mr Shears. The walls of the lower storeys are 2ft thickness, and those of the two upper storeys are 1ft 6", all being of brick, and resting on a solid concrete foundation. Adjoining the mill is an engine house. The engine is supplied by a well sunk (spring water) at the end of the engine house to a depth of 82ft.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

Marlborough Express, 21 August 1913, Page 4
It takes all sorts to make a Parliament, says the Dunedin Star. The composition of the House of Representatives, apart altogether from parties, and government by party, is one of its most interesting features— perhaps the most interesting feature, and one that possibly explains many peculiarities and defects. Of the eighty members, 27 are either farmers or land-owners, 10 are lawyers, 10 are politicians, having no other lawful visible means of support, three are doctors, two are described as brewers, two are booksellers, one the proprietor of a picture show, one a scientist, one a sign-writer, one a dentist, and one, to quote his own definition, a "humanitarianist." One member owns a newspaper. All things considered, it is hardly surprising that the House is a wonderful study in advanced Democracy.

Colonist, 17 March 1886, Page 4
The following is vouched for by a gentleman in Timaru. A few days ago he was travelling in a second class carriage to Waimate, in company with a hard working son of the soil, whom we will call Smith. At Waimate Junction another man of the same name entered the carriage, and our informant introduced one to the other. After a few minutes conversation one Smith asked the other what part of the Old Country he came from, and after some further conversation they discovered themselves to be brothers. It appears they came out to Melbourne many years ago, and lost sight of one another, each giving the other up for dead. The strangest part of all is that they have both been working in different parts of North Otago and South Canterbury for the last four or five years without meeting.

A counter sign read : "Established yesterday— no old stock."

Preserve CHCH