Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Unexpected Alphabets No 21



On Sunday afternoon the skies above Bedfordshire were awash with vapour trails and echoing with the evocative engine noises accompanying the last flying day of the year at the Shuttleworth Collection. I get very excited by flying machines and the magnificent men who fly them so well, but you can probably guess by now what it was that had me running about pointing with childish enthusiasm. This is a 1913 McCurd, a 5 ton box van that is very likely the only survivor of its kind. Look at that stunning script flowing over the top of the radiator, marvel at the beautifully drawn packs of sugar and the Afternoon Tea box. It is, quite simply, one of the the best signwritten vans I've ever seen, and apparently it still belongs to Tate & Lyle. Imagine it, rumbling on its solid tyres out over the cobbles at the Silvertown Refinery in the East End of London. Very sweet.

9 comments:

Philip Wilkinson said...

Stunning. The detail in the painting on the side of the van is extraordinary. Although the skill and control of the traditional signwriter is nearly always impressive, this is a shining example. It's literally shining too – there are beautiful sky reflections when you click on the image to blow it up. How wonderful that it is so well kept and has lasted for 100 years.

Peter Ashley said...

Tate's certainly appear to get it right. All power to their treacly elbows in looking after treasures like this, and for keeping the Golden Syrup tin just as we like it.

The Vintage Knitter said...

What a beauty! The radiator script is beautiful - it makes me want to take a wax crayon rubbing of it! As for the sign-writing, well it's perfect. Makes me wonder though if there is a new generation of sign-writers out there to carry on the art and tradition. I hope there is.

James Russell said...

The script on the radiator reminds me of the old Bristol buses/lorries logo - great!

Peter Ashley said...

Ah, Vintage Knitter, I do hope there is a new generation learning this inestimable craft. The trouble is you can do almost anything on a computer, and another one will run it out at a 'signwriters'. The recent proliferation of what looks like original lettering applied to pub walls is an excellent example. But there ain't anything like 'ticking in' with a brush.

James: I'd forgotten the 'Bristol' logo. Your mentioning it brought back memories of Bristol Lodekka buses designed for low bridges, with the upstairs gangway set very low so that you crawled into your equally low long seat. This gangway protruded oddly into the downstairs 'saloon'.

Jon Dudley said...

Another gem! This lorry was rescued as a total wreck many years ago

Comments about the craft of sign writing disappearing are apposite. Thankfully, a number of 'proper' brewers employ these people...Harveys and Shepherd Neame immediately spring to mind. We should support their products as often as we can...

Philip Wilkinson said...

There are quite a few proper signwriters about, and some of them offer courses in the skills of brush control and mahlstick-wielding. I hope Scottish distilleries support such signwriters too, as I am about to support one of those.

Obat darah tinggi said...

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Stephen Barker said...

Carter's Steam Funfair is a home to fine signwriting. Jobey Carter decorates their rides and vehicles.