Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Berwick Street, London

The red and the black

The multiple name sign in my previous post reminded me of this conjunction of old and newish in Soho. I mostly associate street names made of individual ceramic tile letters with Hampstead (London NW3), although they also appear in other places, including Ilfracombe, I believe. In NW3 they go back well into the Victorian period, and help create the pleasing coherence of the street design in that part of North London.

In my picture, however, similar letters were used in Berwick Street, Soho, and now they are a little the worse for wear. What to do, when two letters fall off and no replacements can be found? Resisting the idea of renaming the street Erwic Street and being done with it, the solution seems to have been to install one of the City of Westminster's more recent sign designs. These enamelled steel plates are now ubiquitous in Central London and so familiar that the overused word iconic might be applied to them by the unwary. The design was produced in around 1968 by Chris Tinings (and/or Misha Black: sources vary) of the consultancy Design Research Unit. The lettering is in Univers Bold Condensed with a careful use of red and black to make the information really clear.

So while the standard metal sign tells us where we are, the remains of the old tiled sign remind us how we might once have found our way around. Once more, graphic clutter reveals a bit of the past.


Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Ah - bet the ubiquitous enamelled signs will shortly be replaced by ubiquitous plastic ones! Nice post.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Indeed! Could that be why the council are currently selling the metal signs to people who want an 'iconic' bit of London, or whatever?!

bazza said...

I'm amazed that the iconic ancient street name sign in Queen Anne's Gate hasn't been 'liberated'. It reminds me of this Berwick Street sign and of your previous post because one can see the previous name showing through (Carteret Street I believe).
I think there is plenty of mileage in this fascinating topic!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Peter Ashley said...

Mysteriously, one of these enamel signs is propped up in my shed behind the lawnmower.

More individually tiled street signs in Torquay.

Philip Wilkinson said...

What street? Ashley Place?