Monday, February 27, 2017

Louth, Lincolnshire


While still on Lincolnshire themes, it struck me that when in Louth I really should take a photograph of at least one of the cast-iron street signs that are a feature of the town. These modest items of street furniture make a huge difference to the character of a place. So many towns have modern street signs, made of thin metal (or even plastic) – no doubt cheap to produce and easy to clean and maintain, but totally lacking in character and without much in the way of visual flair.

Louth is one of the places that have preserved a high proportion of their Victorian signs. They score highly for clarity – the bold, clear, lettering sees to that. They are distinctive, because, although other towns have this style of sign, none are quite like the ones in Louth. They are clearly very durable. They do need looking after – repainting every so often, particularly. But it’s a price worth paying in my opinion.

The lettering, by the way, is in the style old-fashioned sign writers and those who care about the design of these things mostly know as Egyptian. That has nothing to do with ancient Egypt, but everything to do with the design of the letters, which are distinguished by the way the serifs have no curves (or very minimal curves) – they are basically short, straight-line embellishments to the ends of the main strokes.* These particular Egyptians are squarish in proportion, and have some variation between the width of the strokes, but not extreme variation. They work really well painted in black against the white background, within the slender black frame line of the whole sign. The other lovely touch is the incurving corners – another bit of distinctiveness. Hats off to Louth for preserving these exemplary signs.

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* If this was a font for printing, I’d be describing the letters as having ‘slab serifs’. But I take ’slab serif’ to be a term from printing and typography. These signs, on the other hand, come from the world of the sign writer and sign-maker, so I use the term traditionally used in that world: Egyptians.


The Greenockian said...

I much prefer the older street signs - they add character to a place.

Jenny Woolf said...

I seem to remember visiting Louth and being quite impressed by it. I entirely agree about street signs - in fact, street furniture in general. It makes all the difference.