Monday, 4 August 2014

Sign Language



In the current Spectator, Ross Clark expounds on the loss of individualism, and the need for people (well, not us in Unmitigated England obviously) to not want to do things alone. Clark thinks that it's because since the 1980's children grew up not being allowed to run about outside on their own, climb trees or disappear into the woods unsupervised. He cites the desire now for them to stand with 200,000 others at Glastonbury, or sit two feet from half a million others on Brighton beach when you can in fact be virtually on your own just along the coast.

It's obviously also affected the sign world, or at least the highways department of Leicestershire County Council. My top picture shows the Rutland boundary sign in 1995, just over the willow-fringed Eye Brook at Stockerston. (Incidentally the front cover shot on my first little book Rutland: Much In Little.) The simple effectiveness of it has now been completely ruined by the crassness of whoever thought it was a good idea to attach the Leicestershire border sign on the back of Rutland's, even using the same posts to attach it too. Why? Particularly as Leicestershire has put another appallingly designed sign on the other side of the road. So of course the next fluorescently-clad highwaymen turn up with their signs for a pending road closure (equally badly designed) and think "Ooh, this is where signs are erected". Ignoring the fact that the closure will in fact take place a hundred yards previously at the convenient road junction, but there must have been great comfort in grouping everything together to make even more of a visual mess. Oh it's so good to have a rant. Haven't had one for ages. Not since Western Power dug up the lawn in front of Ashley Towers.

8 comments:

Sue said...

Oh dear - reminds me of the way High St shop signage has developed over the years. My mum is making a nostalgic trip to Rutland soon - better warn her!

Philip Wilkinson said...

How splendid and alone Rutland's appropriately small, distinctive, and well designed sign looked when given the space it deserved. What a mess it all is when it's stuck on the back of Leicestershire's big board - which no doubt reminds us that the county is 'the Heart of Rural England'. If it all started as a scheme to save money, what a pity someone didn't take a look and say, 'This just doesn't work.' It couldn't have saved that much anyway - there can't be that many routes into Rutland from Leicestershire. The other thing you see is standard-length poles, so that tall poles appear above the top of the sign, detracting from its shape and destroying its impact.

Stephen Barker said...

Bad as that is Peter, driving from Church Langton to Tur Langton I was struck that the speed limit is now 50mph and the number of signs between the two villages which are only a couple of miles apart. It felt one was driving along a suburban street not on a road in the countryside.

PS You are the PA that did the Pub sign for The Bell at East Langton. If you could confirm that would be great, I am leading a tour round part of The Langtons shortly so I need to get my facts right.

Peter Ashley said...

Stephen: I did indeed design the sign for The Bell. I was commissioned by the then landlord who had the first Langton microbrewery at the back. (I did the Caudle and Bowler labels at the same time.) Although painted on both signs in proper signwriting oils the next landlord destroyed it by painting over it. The next, more enlightened landlord re-instated it, but on vinyl film that faded in the sun. The last time I looked this too had been removed, leaving bare metal. Perhaps my sign will receive a third life. Who knows. Alas, it may be that the only record of the sign will be my photograph of it in my Letters from England pocket book. But at least that's the original.

Stephen Barker said...

A modicum of good news that your design has been reinstated with letters PA in the corner, which reminded me that it was your artwork.

Jon Dudley said...

A lot of modern signage is not only inappropriately placed, it's also crappily designed and thought out. A lovely example of a new electronic sign on the outskirts of Brighton today proclaimed the message 'Sign on test' whilst another said 'Sign not working'...you couldn't make it up. I wonder where that Valhalla for proper old road signs is? the ones that got taken down during the war to confuse Adolf and his boys....

Peter Ashley said...

Thanks Jon. Unmitigated England is of course the place to look for pre-Warboys Committee road signs. I've just discovered a 'No Through Road' sign complete with its red triangle on the corner of a street in Stamford. (Behind All Saints church if anyone cares to look.) Perhaps here is the place to start a campaign for restoring these signs in 'heritage' areas.

Jon Dudley said...

Of course your coverage of those rarities (particularly the red Dorset ones) is excellent but I was thinking of those government wartime propaganda pics of bundles of road signs in council yards throughout the land...did they all get returned to duty I wonder?