Wednesday, May 20, 2015
The full set
Apart from the fact that is has one of my favourite English place names, I remember Othery* in Somerset for this fine preserved Hovis sign. I’ve pointed out Hovis signs before, including the typical protruding one I photographed in Brackley, but it’s a long time since I’ve seen this fuller version, in which the words ‘Golden brown’ are added to the brand name. Hovis† flour was a creation of the 1890s, but the company expanded rapidly after 1928, and by the 1930s these signs were in place on the premises of many bakers who used the flour to make the popular golden brown bread. Hovis supplied tins, with the brand name on them, in which to bake loaves. They dished out these signs. And they even produced maps and guidebooks, aimed at cyclists and marking tea rooms where one could enjoy a slice or three of Hovis bread.
Hovis still exists: I had some of their bread only the other day. The brand is as famous now for its effective advertising§ and promotion as it is for its products. The promotion ranges from the famous 1970s commercials, featuring a boy pushing a delivery bicycle up the achingly picturesque Gold Hill in Shaftesbury to the accompaniment of a brass band playing the slow movement of Dvořák’s New World Symphony,¶ to these golden signs, advertising bread still sold today with graphics dating from an earlier era.
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* The Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names says it’s derived from Old English words for ‘other’ and ‘island’, the other or second island. This figures, because Othery is on a kind of extension to a larger island in the wetlands that make up the Somerset Levels.
† Since I seem to have taken an etymological turn, the name is a contraction of the Latin ‘hominis vis’, the strength of man.
§ There’s more about the company and its advertising on the website of the Historic Advertising Trust.
¶ They play this slow movement very quickly, by the way, but it’s still what it is. By linking it to Hovis bread and picturesque English townscape, the commercial has succeeded in linking a piece of music originally associated with Bohemia (aka the Czech Republic, home of the composer) and the USA (where he wrote the symphony), with England. An interesting cultural consequence.