According to the firm's history, Pearce Signs started out as a small sign-writing business in late 18th century Southwark, expanding to a factory in New Cross Road during the 19th century. In the 20th century it diversified into neon lighting and then, during the Second World War switched to war production: 'Domed headlights were designed and manufactured to reduce the visibility of car lighting from the sky and incoming enemy aircraft'.
Robert Hatton remembers that as a child he was 'blown through the fence of Pearce Signs' by the V2 rocket on 25 November 1944 which destroyed Woolworths opposite, killing 168 people. A temporary mortuary was established at Pearce's.
With peacetime, sign manufacture expanded once again. According to local historian Malcolm Bacchus, who gave a talk earlier this year on the history of New Cross Road at the New Cross Learning Centre, the signage for the first UK McDonalds - in Woolwich - was made there.