Friday, 19 September 2014

Unexpected Alphabets No.24


Now this really was unexpected. I discovered it on a wall at the Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge and immediately knew what this was all about. Not that I'm given particularly to non-shrinking wool underwear, but when I was a lad I walked past the Two Steeples factory in Wigston Magna every day on my way to my junior school. The large Leicestershire village was sometimes called Wigston Two Steeples, on account of it having, well, two steepled churches: All Saints and St.Wistans, (later two of the houses at my next school), probably only half a mile apart.

But it was another memory that was stirred on seeing it. The owner of the factory lived at the top of the cul-de-sac road I lived on in Wigston Fields, in a large mid Victorian house, and every day could be seen walking very purposefully down the lane to his work. He wore heavily checked plus fours and carried a cane that he raised to us in greeting. I think he had a monocle, but this may be something I picked up from a character in the Eagle comic. Opposite my house my friend had a large yew tree in his front garden and we would perch up in its sooty branches to spy on people walking below. "Here comes Spring Heel Jack" we whispered as one poor chap strided beneath us as if on rubber springs, his head in a cloud of pipe smoke. I'm not sure what we called Mr.Plus Fours but it was either Two Steeples or The Colonel. He had a mate who used to come and visit him driving a mid blue 1920's Rolls Royce with disc wheels, the hood down and him sporting a Panama and a huge white moustache. "Here comes Mr.Pastry" we shouted to each other, and ran behind the car trying to jump up on the back. Blimey, all this from a sheet of vitreous enamelled iron advertising wool underpants. Whatever next.

10 comments:

The Vintage Knitter said...

A superb advertisement! As a knitter, I would be proud to have this sign affixed to the back wall of my house along with the rest of my collection.

Peter Ashley said...

It is good isn't it VK. I too have a few enamels, very satisfying.

Philip Wilkinson said...

A brilliant sign – albeit for a product that sounds somewhat itch-inducing.

Thank you also for mentioning Mr Pastry: a much forgotten figure from long ago and one of those performers apt to inspire comments such, 'Oh, Mr Pastry: I haven't thought about him for years...', in the kind of tone adopted when remembering one's earliest memories of television.

Philip Wilkinson said...

PS I've not often seen such eccentrically placed inverted commas. They almost look like umlauts that got lost and ended up on consonants.

Mike @ A Bit About Britain said...

Glad you made it to Blists Hill. It's amazing what a stream of thought can be unleashed simply by looking at an innocent sign. I wonder if you spotted the one saying, "Wanted, young girls for pickling and bottling."? Amazingly, we had a Mr Pastry too; he certainly got around!

Hels said...

I love finding faded memories of personal childhood... decades later. Few people on the planet will share the memory, and fewer still if the product/building/music has been destroyed. But the events of primary school years are sacred.

stephen Barker said...

Interesting that the owner walked to work, not many would live close enough today to do that.

I do not have enamel signs but have recently added to my collection of letter press posters including an excellent one from Herefordshire 1834 with a good selection of typefaces used on a routine piece of printing.

Jon Dudley said...

Wonderful enamel sign.The 'will not shrink' message reminds me of the proud boast on a Taddy's Imperial Tobacco sign - 'Will not affect your throat' but possibly more believable. Was it 'Harris Tweed Extra Special Agent' in the Eagle? All good stuff Mr A.

Peter Ashley said...

Yes Jon, I do believe it was Harris Tweed. My Two Steeples chap was not quite as rotund, possibly because of all that walking swinging his cane about.

Jonathan Dudley said...

Silly me! it was Craven A that didn't affect your throat…Taddy's was 4d an ounce...