Monday, 16 February 2009

Unexpected Alphabets No 8

Stamford didn't want the railway anywhere near it at first, but when they finally succumbed in 1848 its Tudor manor architecture became an heraldic trumpet for this outstanding stone-built Lincolnshire town. It's worth a detour through the old coalyards (now crowded with new houses) to see it, and, if you like this sort of thing, to visit Robert Humm's transport bookshop housed in the old stationmaster's quarters. Over on the 'Leicester' side there is what was once an island platform, now with the far side bay overgrown. On the embankment are these white letters slowly sinking into the earth. I think they've been there since I regularly arrived here on steam trains in my school holidays. And that the makeshift sign was planted out with crocii and snowdrops in the spring, dahlias and wallflowers in the summer. Of course not much of this goes on now. The station is remarkably untouched, thanks to the stern eye of English Heritage I suspect rather than the altruism of whatever garishly-striped franchise is stopping and starting here. And trains are remarkably frequent and very well used. But Mr.Humm and his delightful assistants appear to be the only occupants. Every station door was locked on our visit, including the waiting rooms, and the only remote human contact seemed to be a timetable and a poster telling you what will happen if you don't buy a ticket.

15 comments:

Philip Wilkinson said...

Hurrah for Stamford and its station. And for the unexpected signs one finds at such places. I'll never forget the delight of arriving at Loughborough Station to see on the platform a sign saying 'Welcome to Loughborough, home of Ladybird Books' - with large Ladybird of course. Another bit of Unmitigated England. I wonder what happened to the sign.

Peter Ashley said...

I have often wondered what happened to the Ladybird sign. These days one would have no problem selling it at a vast cost to someone with an equally vast wall to put it on. I still mourn the loss of the Ovaltine girl up against a tree next to the railway line at Kings Langley, once the bucolic home of the bedtime beverage.

Jon Dudley said...

Excellent! We used to see quite a bit of 'White Brick Sans' back in the days when railway porters in the five or six hour interregnum between goods train arrivals used to hone their gardening and typographical skills. Garages were another source of these vanishing arts and even the occasional AA box had its tiny garden bounded by white-painted stones, the location being spelt out in pebbles as well as being painted on the box itself.

Peter Ashley said...

You've got me going now Jon, as always. John Betjeman did a little film about the railway line between Kings Lynn and Hunstanton, and did a piece to camera sitting on a platform seat in front of a hedge that had been very neatly trimmed to read 'Snettisham'.

Jon Dudley said...

I saw that piece of Betjemina. I'd quite forgotten the topiary aspect! The hours of care that must have been devoted to these projects. Pride in the job and pride of place I suppose. A relatively recent victim of hedge grubbing accompanied the demolition of the old Caffyns filling station on the A21 out of Eastbourne. This boasted marvellous signage carved from the living box. Now a home for the elderley (like much of Eastbourne), a totally undistinguished computer-generated sign solemnly declares the purpose of the new building. Something ghastly like 'Sunnyview' - ok in fretwork but souless in pvc.

Affer said...

I have just three words to add to this: 'The', 'Railway', and 'Children'.

Simon Clarke said...

I bet the Ovaltine girl you had up against a tree is mourning the loss of you, as well...

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou for that Simon, the thought had never crossed even my mind.

Ron Combo said...

Lovely station and a bookshop to spend hours in. And we like crocii.

Toby Savage said...

The first of my crocii are just showing flowers. A reminder that Spring is soon to be sprung. 'El Hamdullah' as they say where I've been.

Diving off on a tangent, I hear some signs make excellent bases' for worn out double beds ;-)

Peter Ashley said...

The secrets of the bedroom are never safe. Are they Toby?

uphilldowndale said...

'dahlias and wallflowers in the summer'
They seem like a distant dream.....

Our station is equally devoid of humans, every time I use it I bore my children with tales of 'when I was a child, each platform had a waiting room with an open fire;and there was a signal box.'.....and on and on I go....
As I can still duck in under 50yrs of age,it's not so very long ago is it?

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