One frosty morning, walking across the campus of Birmingham's Aston University, I nearly slipped over as this ghost sign distracted my attention from the icy ground. Loss of dignity aside, what a great start to the day!
The sign is on the end wall of the Gosta Green pub, and clearly pre-dates the windows as well as the name sign now partly obscuring it.Enough remains visible for us to make out the words 'Holt Brewery Co Ltd - Brewers of ... Malt Ales & Stouts, Importers of Wines...' Flickr comes to our rescue here: an earlier photo shows that the missing word is 'Pure Malt Ales'.
Not to be confused with Holt's of Manchester (still brewing today), the Holt Brewery Company was founded in Aston in 1887, taking over Henry Fulford's brewery. They continued to acquire other breweries, as well as 250 pubs, but were themselves taken over by Ansells in 1934. Its logo, a red squirrel, survived in Ansells' beer labels.
Along with this ghost sign, another intriguing trace left by the brewery is its black book of 'habitual drunkards', discussed on Wayward Women. History can survive in unexpected ways!