Thursday, March 2, 2017

Malmesbury, Wiltshire

A rare flourish

As I was looking at my picture of the street sign in Louth in my previous post, it occurred to me that a while back I’d seen another good cast-iron sign, probably of similar vintage. Now where was it? Casting my mind back a couple of years I found it in a file of photographs of Malmesbury, and I instantly realised what struck me about it.

Yes. Not just the letters but the decoration – the beadwork, as it were, around the edge and the wonderful flourish at either end. That flourish is a version of the palmette motif used widely in Classical decoration, and so is a thoroughly architectural kind of decoration. Back when it was made (in the 19th century I suppose) this detail must have set the sign apart from the plainer ones in other towns. Now signs like this must be really rare.

Looking again at my pictures I was at first rather disappointed with the lettering. It seemed a bit thin and tentative after the bold Egyptian letters of Louth. Then I examined the detail (below) closely and liked what I saw much more. The letters are actually well formed and stand out clearly from the background. They’d do a better job if the sign was cleaned of its rust and repainted. Maybe that has been done by now. I must return and see.


Maria said...

Love the vintage look of the sign. But yes, it'll look better if it was cleaned and repainted :)
Classes A to Z

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

This looks very much like the street signs of Birmingham before they went functional and modern. These were still being produced, if I am not mistaken, well into the 20th century. There are also some in Sutton Coldfield, which used to be a separate borough. There are of course many hundreds of these still in existence throughout the city. Apart from the ones in Sutton C. there seems to have been some restriction on using them elsewhere: where Birmingham impacts with the Black Country on the western side, there is a different design as soon as you cross the border, as also in Solihull to the east. I remember being surprised at seeing them somewhere else - this could quite possibly have been in Malmesbury. I shall have to find out my notes.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Joseph: Thank you for this comment and for the photographs you sent me. If I knew Birmingham better I would have remembered these signs – when I saw the Malmesbury ones I thought I'd seen similar ones somewhere else but had no idea where.