Sunday, 18 December 2016

Give us a bell

I made a pilgrimage to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry earlier this year. It's a place I'd always wanted to visit, and I wasn't disappointed. We were given a warm welcome, and enjoyed the fading museum exhibits which tell of its impressive history. The shop was a delight - you're allowed to ring a selection of small bells, and I bought a tiny tourist bell as a memento of my visit. So I was sad to see the recent news that its future is uncertain. Activities will cease on the Whitechapel site, in the East End of London, by May 2017 and negotiations are underway to settle the future of the business. 

As the signs say, the business was established in 1570 and it has been on Whitechapel Road since 1738. Spanning the reigns of 27 English monarchs, it's Britain's oldest manufacturing company. The Liberty Bell and Big Ben were cast here. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Disappointing secret

The sign's promising, but the staircase isn't. I was very excited to see this sign at Palace House, once the gatehouse to Beaulieu Abbey in the New Forest. I couldn't wait to climb the starcase and discover the history behind it.

Unfortunately, it was roped off and no one knows why it was built, leaving the sign more exciting than the staircase.

The rest of Beaulieu is really worth seeing, though - great motor museum, lovely gardens and beautiful surroundings, so don't let this little secret put you off.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Saturday, 12 November 2016

No parking

I find this No Parking sign in Liverpool very pleasing - there's something of the Monopoly board about it.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Usual toll applies

There's a bewildering list of tolls on this sign on the Old Toll House in the village of South Brent, Devon. Reading this, I think I understand where our complex tax laws come from. I particularly like the catch-all "For every stall exposing article of whatsoever description for sale" - the usual toll, of course, applies. The toll house dates from the late 18th or early 19th century and is a grade II listed building.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Intelligent graffiti

Do you think you're more intelligent than the average person?

Graffiti on building wall

The average person thinks they're more intelligent than average.

Graffiti on side of building wall

Sign spotted in London Road, Liverpool.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Proper use of the paper

Surprise venue of last week was Irlam station, which turned out to be a delight. The station, built in 1893, was derelict for 25 years, and opened last year after a £2 million revamp. The restorers clearly had a love of signs and railway paraphernalia, creating a venue worth a visit in its own right. There's a great cafe where you get to sit in seats decked out like third class railway carriages, plus evidence of a sense of humour and a loving touch. Just watch your behaviour when you use the toilet.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Up the library path

I love this innovative path leading to Liverpool Library, doubling as an artistic sign to advertise the tempting books it has on offer.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Ring a bell?

I love everything about this brilliantly pointless plea from the past: the sign's nearly-neat writing, the rich brick blackened with age, the arrow directing us to the ghost of the bell. It's in Henry Street, in the historically interesting Ropewalks area of Liverpool, which contains many 18th and 19th century buildings including warehouses and merchants' homes.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Gun ho

This ghost sign in Lisbon city centre looks like it's straight out of the Wild West. Advertising shotguns, revolvers, pistols, loads, all accessories for hunters and articles for fencing (more swordsmanship than gardening, I guess) it's on a building which now sells men's clothing. I've no idea how old it is (can anyone enlighten me?) but it's not alone - there are a number of fine ghost signs in this pretty city.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Nice day for a nuclear bunker

We visited Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker last weekend, and it's surprisingly interesting. Offering a careful mix of the chilling and cheerful, this ugly bunker nestles in the Cheshire countryside and is now a successful tourist attraction.

Hack Green was a radar station in World War two, and went on to play a key role in the Cold War, its long-range radar designed to detect hostile Russian bombers.

With nuclear weapons still in the news, it's a sobering visit. The usual Protect and Survive leaflet is there (hide under the table, built a shelter out of your house doors), which would be funny if it wasn't serious government advice to its citizens.

A huge amount of memorabilia and equipment has been gathered together and displayed in a thoughtful way, with a great soundscape and a smell of damp which I don't think had to be artificially created. There are lots of great signs for the sign enthusiast - my favourites feature here - and best of all there are three bunker cats.

It's worth a visit, even on a sunny day.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Wisdom and effort

I walk past signs like these all the time and rarely make the effort to look at the detail. This pretty milestone in Didsbury bears Manchester's coat of arms. Granted in 1842, the symbol is packed with information. The motto "Concilio et labore" means something like "Wisdom and effort". The ship represents Manchester's trading. The lion is of course a symbol of bravery and the antelope symbolises peace and harmony; both bear the red rose of Lancaster.

Most familiar is the worker bee - the globe at the top is covered with them; you can see it more clearly on this larger sign near Spinningfields. The bee is a symbol of industry, adopted during the industrial revolution. You can find bees all over Manchester, from the tiled floors in the Town Hall (a giveaway when it's used in films as a stand-in for the Houses of Parliament) to bins and bollards.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Take cover

Rather a chilling sight on a sunny afternoon in Stockport: a sign directing you to shops, taxis - and the air raid shelter.

No, it's not a bleak peak into a seemingly inevitable future, but an invitation to step into the past and see the second world war air raid shelters cut into the sandstone cliffs. They're still there, and they're worth a visit. Check out my previous post for more information. 

Sunday, 31 July 2016


Shh, please close the doors quietly at St Katharine Cree in Leadenhall Street, London. How can you ignore such a graceful sign? Spread across two doors, it seems to have stood the test of time.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Modern effigy

Slightly creepy figure of a girl, acting as a signpost for the nearby school. The figure is a few years old now, leaning a bit and somewhat reminiscent of a medieval effigy. The staring eyes and dirty legs don't help - this one will haunt me in my sleep.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Old Virginia

I love the mills in Stockport - this sign is in Higher Hillgate. Virginia Mills is listed in the 1862 Official Catalogue of the Industrial Department (the directory of the International Exhibition) as a tobacco and cigar manufacturer.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Eye eye

Most signs can be improved by a pair of googly eyes, I think. 

Saturday, 4 June 2016


This sign on a beautiful drinking fountain in Lincoln's Inn Fields in London is urging you to push. The park was once the site of duelling, jousting and public execution. Now it's a pleasant place to wander round, play tennis, eat or, increasingly and sadly, sleep on a bench.