This is a spectacular ghost sign - and although huge, it's also one of the most hidden away I've ever come across. It reads:
HOLBORN BOROUGH COUNCIL
CIVIL DEFENCE HEADQUARTERS
VOLUNTEERS WANTED ENROL HERE
It dates, I would guess, from the Second World War - when, as you can see, Holborn had an active civil defence operation. It's just possible that it's from the period of the Cold War, when fear of a Soviet nuclear strike prompted a revival of civil defence teams, particularly in sensitive areas such as Holborn in central London.
The sign is entirely obscured by Holborn Library, a building completed in 1960 - this photo was taken from the local history section of the library on the second floor looking out through a rear window.
The library building itself, on Theobalds Road, has been described as 'a milestone in the history of the modern public library'. Camden Council intends to refurbish the building - the spot I took this photo from is set to become a luxury apartment, and the local history collection is to be banished to the basement.
And the former Civil Defence HQ - in a building built between the wars as a furniture warehouse (and currently used by the council for storage and as the base for a number of arts and similar organisations) - is set to be demolished, though we don't quite know when, and the site redeveloped. Its side aspect is on John's Mews, if that helps.
Holborn Borough Council, by the way, was swept away in the 1965 reorganisation of London local government when it was amalgamated with St Pancras and Hampstead in the new London Borough of Camden.
So if you are in to ghost signs - or Holborn's history - or you are just curious (which is a good thing to be) - don't delay in getting a glimpse!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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