Monday, September 8, 2008

Salisbury, Wiltshire


LETTERS FROM SALISBURY (3)
The last of my trio of bits of lettering from Salisbury buildings is what’s left of the shop front of Knight and Company, dealers is poultry, fish, and game. Tiles formed a very popular finish in the late-Victorian and Edwardian periods for food shops and pubs. They were prized because they could be embossed with interesting designs and glazed with bright, eye-catching colours. They were also easy to clean – a plus for food retailers.

Companies such as Maws, Minton, Doulton, and Craven Dunnill produced acres of these tiles, which were stuck up walls and around windows, each piece moulded to fit the architecture. The lettering was part and parcel of the ceramic design, and often the strokes and serifs of the letterforms took on some of the flowing curves of Art Nouveau. There’s a hint of that tendency here in way the R breaks out of the imaginary box that normally confines an upper-case letter.

Pheasants no longer hang in Knight’s Game Mart and its façade is a sorry ghost of its old self. My guess is that the protruding bits were chiselled off when someone attached another sign, now vanished, over the tiles. The survivors stubbornly remain, to remind us of a time when shop fronts were seen not as the fruits of ephemeral fashion but as something built to last.

9 comments:

Thud said...

Galkoffs Jewish butchers in Liverpool is a beautiful example of the pride that was shown in all past work.

Anonymous said...

You are, I'm sure, aware of the John Wisden Coy (the cricket almanack people) tiling which is part of the facade of Leicester Square tube station and the Japanning works in Tabard Street SE1? If not, do take the opportunity to check them out.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thud: I'll look out for that one.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Anonymous: Thanks for your comment. Yes, I used to pass the Wisden tiling regularly, and blogged about it back in January. The Japanning works I think I remember vaguely from long ago, and will have to revisit.

Neil said...

In Paris back streets there are often individual houses with exterior tiling of this date, but no lettering, indicating that the house was (prior to the loi de Marthe Richard in 1946) a legal brothel, or maison close. The tile were chosen for the same reason of ease of cleaning!

Chris said...

Could I be pedantic for a second and point out that there is no such thing as 'upper case'? When printing started, capitals and minuscules were kept in the same type drawer or 'case', but it was found more convenient to give the minuscules their own drawer underneath the caps drawer - the 'lower case'. So for printers, letters are lower case or capitals, never 'upper case'.
Sorry about that. I'll go out and get a life now. Chris

Philip Wilkinson said...

Chris: You have brought back old memories (some of them, it has to be said, nightmares) of writing endless marks on galleys. And yes, 'l/c' and 'caps' were among the marks I used to make. Now a 'font' is something to do with making letters appear on a computer screen, a 'printer' is a fearsome piece of hardware that makes my computer crash, and a 'case' is something I never put my spectacles in. Heigh-ho.

Peter Ashley said...

And 'ink' is something I used to get all over my fingers but is now something that appears to run out every half hour and costs the same as lunch at Claridges without wine.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Don't get me started on ink. The last load of ink I bought cost more than the printer. They should review ink cartridges in computer mags, not printers, in my opinion. (I also have a laser printer, which is very cheap to run, but behaves like a prima donna half the time - though, also like an opera singer, it does tend to make comebacks.)