Last week a ‘ghost’ sign hidden for decades was discovered on the side of a North Staffordshire building as the demolition of the Zanzibar nightclub continued.
The sign – believed to date back to the 50s – was in incredible condition, shielded from sun fading and harsh weather behind the former club and snooker hall.
The advertisement was for F&E Butterworth grocers, which sold the ‘famous’ Beehive Preserves’.
How the sign was found
The hand painted sign was uncovered on February 26 following work to demolish an iconic nightclub in Newcastle. The bulldozing of the Zanzibar building, which closed in 2004, is part of a £15 million regeneration scheme by Aspire Housing, who plan to develop it into social housing.
We love nostalgia – it’s a key part of what we do here at StokeonTrentLive.
So much so that we’ve got a dedicated Facebook group – that’s all about nostalgia!
It’s called Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire Nostalgia.
It’s a look at the history and heritage of Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, including local places and faces, lost buildings and industries, military history and a nod to our proud past.
You can read more nostalgia stories as well as join in with the conversation – sharing your own recollections and photographs.
We look forward to seeing you in our group!
Who were F&E Butterworth?
Digging into The Sentinel archives, we discovered that the ‘E’ behind F&E Butterworth was a Mr Ernest Butterworth. The greengrocer featured in an article about VE Day, on May 8, 1945, having supplied food to a street part in Newcastle.
The article – which recalled street parties across the county in Hanley, Cobridge, Normacot and Newcastle – read: “People of all ages went out to celebrate VE Day on May 8, 1945, at hundreds of street parties in North Staffordshire – and happily the weather stayed fine. There was plenty of food for everyone, in spite of rationing, and at many places couples danced to records played on wind-up gramophones. Bonfires were lit in some streets, including John Street, in Hanley, and Garden Row, in Cobridge, where effigies of Adolf Hitler were burned.
“Three teenagers tucking into the goodies at a party in Wesley Place, Poolfields, Newcastle, where the food was supplied by local greengrocer Ernest Butterworth, the white-haired man in the background. There weren’t enough seats for everybody at this party in Seaford Street, Shelton.”
One of the teens later came forward – Elizabeth George (née Cashmore) – on the far left. The picture was taken when she was just 14 years old, alongside Margaret Cherry (née Pyatt), and a London evacuee called Elizabeth.
Ernest Butterworth can be seen in the background of the black and white photograph, enjoying the celebrations himself.
Ernest was the son of John Butterworth, who was born in Audley in 1824. He became a grocer in the 1840s, then a commission agent. His eldest son, Frederick, followed in his footsteps and worked as a grocer in Basford, and later, a fruit preserver – but this man is not the ‘F’ to F&E Butterworth…
It was in fact one of the younger of John’s five children, Frank, who joined his brother, Ernest, in the grocer trade, and ran Frank & Ernest Butterworth – a wholesale grocers – in the Brunswick Buildings. They later expanded the business in 1912, also trading from 23 Etruria Road after their father’s death in 1900.
The business was handed down to Frank and Ernest’s sons, Eric and Reginald in the 40s, with Reginald Ernest Butterworth still running the business in 1955, seven years after his cousin, Eric, passed away.
What about Beehive Preserves?
Well, remember earlier when I mentioned that John’s eldest son Frederick became a grocer, then a fruit preserver? Beehive Preserves was in fact his business.
An article by ghost sign specialist Sam Roberts revealed that Frederick began fruit preserving between 1881 and 1891, which was registered as ‘Beehive’ by 1928. These dates appear to match up with the claim that the preserves had been ‘famous over 75 years’, as seen on the ghost sign, estimated to date around the late 50s.
Who painted the sign?
There were few sign painters operating in Staffordshire in the late 50s, and it was initially believed that the sign could have been the work of former StokeonTrentLive journalist Jenny Amphlett’s grandfather, Ewart Brown.
Mr Brown is known for his work on the frontage of a number of Staffordshire buildings, most notably Price’s Teapots, which was partially demolished in Longport, in 2019.
But as demolition continued at the Zanzibar site, the signature in the bottom right of the advertisement was revealed as Cooper Signs, of Queens Road, Hanley – which is now Northwood Park Road.
The full sign reads: “Beehive Preserves. Famous for over 75 years. F&E Butterworth LTD. Wholesale grocers, cheese factors & provision importers.
“Sole proprietors of Beehive self-raising flour and other food specialties. And we also sell and recommend Lin-Can.
“Fruits picked and canned in a day. Peas in packets and in cans.”