Saturday, 2 December 2017

Captive audience

This cheery sign welcomes you to Dartmoor Prison Museum. Bleak and dark, even on a sunny day, Dartmoor prison is the major establishment of Princetown, high up on Dartmoor in Devon. It was built for French soldiers taken prisoner during the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s. Bleak though it is, it must have been better than the cramped prison ships it replaced, which were anchored at nearby Plymouth and rife with disease. American prisoners started arriving in 1813 and Dartmoor soon became overcrowded. Outbreaks of typhoid, pneumonia and smallpox killed over 11,000 prisoners. Once the wars with France and America were over, Dartmoor prison was used for domestic convicts from 1850 and is still in use today. The prison museum is worth a visit - crammed full of history and detail. You get a friendly welcome, and some of the staff are prisoners helping out before they move to an open jail. The prisoners are no longer dangerous criminals working in chain gangs breaking stone on the harsh Dartmoor landscape; instead, they are low category prisoners who are encouraged to do training and learn skills to help them when they are released.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Model houses for families

An early example of social housing, with a sign proudly proclaiming its purpose. Built by the wonderfully named Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes, this handsome Bloomsbury building opened in 1850. It housed 48 families. Each dwelling had a living room, two bedrooms, a scullery and a water closet, and there were communal bathrooms and a laundry. It made a profit of about 5.5% for its investors. The Society's President was Queen Victoria's husband Albert. They had already experimented with a large development in Birkenhead, Wirral, which housed over 300 families; this had not been a success, as the buildings were too close together and the bedrooms too small. However, the London buildings were successful, and as well as homes for families, the society had lodgings elsewhere in London for single men and women. The society was taken over by the Peabody Trust in 1965.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

When things were simple

Remember the simple days when you got your gas from the Gas Board, your electricity from the Electricity Board and your phone from the Post Office? Wait, what - the Post Office? It doesn't sound quite so obvious in these days of multiple providers, myriad models and a bewildering array of packages to pick from. I bet the phones supplied by the London Telephone Service were big, black and hung in the hall. I took this photo a couple of years ago and I can't remember where this handsomely lettered sign on a long blocked-up letter box is, though the geo info on my (not big, not black) phone says it's somewhere near Regents Park.

Everything is connected

Illuminated sign by artist Peter Liversidge, near Manchester's Piccadilly station.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Philosophical wall

"All greatness is precarious" (Plato, I think). Sign on a wall in Glasgow. Apt for the building it's on, which is beautiful but in need of attention.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

No horse traffic please

Fine old sign surviving in a narrow passage in Jedburgh, Scotland. No horse traffic please.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

In my good books


This gorgeous tiled welcome is in Duke Street, Liverpool. The sign on the handsome building tells us something of its history - it housed Liverpool's first public library. It was built around 1800 and was originally the Union Newsroom, becoming a library in 1852. It's now offices and they've kept the lovely tiles and the sign.