Monday, September 17, 2007

Southwark, London SE1

Commit no nuisance
I first came across a sign bearing the words ‘Commit no nuisance’ on a wall in Southwark, London SE1, and realised fairly quickly that it means, in the words of one dictionary definition, ‘Do not use this place as a lavatory’. The sign – and the problem it addresses – is not unique to London. I’ve since spotted examples in other towns including Winchester and Cheltenham, where it is placed low down near one of the entrances to the former brewery, a building designed by virtuoso Victorian brewery architect William Bradford. A recent web search also revealed ‘Commit no nuisance’ signs as far afield as India and South Africa. There was probably one in Dublin, too, because James Joyce includes the phrase in Ulysses. Most of the British examples look as if they are in Victorian or Edwardian lettering; the Cheltenham brewery dates from 1898 and Joyce’s novel is set on 16 June 1904, Victorian values – and nuisances – surviving in to the 20th and 21st centuries.


Stephen said...

Could we see photos of the signs, please?

Philip Wilkinson said...

There are photos of the London ones here:
I'll try and take a picture of the one in Cheltenham next time I'm passing.