Friday, February 12, 2016
‘Follow me. I’ll pull in at Desborough. There’s something there you’ll like,’ said Mr A. So I followed the Jaguar’s tail, knowing my friend’s unerring instinct for buildings and interesting bits of England, and soon the car turned into a small hardstanding. I was confronted with the long brick elevation of the former Co-op Corset Factory.* Mr A knew that I’d admire the restrained brick facade (even though the window frames have been replaced), the neat vents along the roof one, and, above all, the lettering.
I have an enduring fascinating with the different styles of lettering on buildings, and the different methods used to create it. Here, the letters have been built up out of white bricks or tiles, with special corner pieces to make the curves of the C and O, parallelograms for the sloping legs of Rs and As, and even tiny triangles to create the ends of the hyphen in ‘CO-OPERATIVE’. The lettering is not perfect. I suspect that those for whom God is in the details would have refined that E, for a start. But it’s clear and legible and part of me finds the informality refreshing. It stops the lettering being as tight-laced as the factory’s original products, after all.
Later update: I should perhaps have added that this lettering is very similar to that on the Co-operative Bakery in Kettering, which I spotted a while back. The Desborough factory is from 1905, five years later than the bakery, and the design is attributed to an in-house Co-op architect.