Culture Magazine

Street Signs

By Carolineld @carolineld
Photograph of part of a Victorian brick wall with a sign reading 'EDWARD STREET S.E.8' in the center. The metal sign is rusted and damaged at the edges; the writing is in black on dirty white, with the postcode in red. Above it is a window. Below is the top of a bricked-up arched window. To the left are three arched windows, now bricked up, and part of a white sign with blue text, for a food and wine shop.

London has an impressive diversity of street signs, as I was reminded today when this example on Deptford High Street caught my eye (much to the bemusement of a passing cyclist!). It's a little tattered and rusted around the edges, and dirty all over, but still boldly proclaims 'EDWARD ST. S.E.8'. That makes three more full stops than are found on the modern sign.

Detail of the central section of the previous photograph, showing the 'DEPTFORD S.E.8' sign.

There are so many other variations to be found on the city streets. Below are just a few from my collection. However, if you would like to see many more signs, and learn a lot more about them, then there is now a dedicated book by Alistair Hall, London Street Signs: A visual history of London's street nameplates. I would strongly recommend it: there is so much wide-ranging information, from the development of the London postal district to the creation of alphabets; from official regulations to the materials and manufacture of signs. And of course, lots and lots of photographs.

Photograph of a street sign in front of a wire fence. The modern sign is white, with black text saying 'BRAITHWAITE STREET E1 formerly Wheler Street, LONDON BOROUGH OF TOWER HAMLETS'

Photograph of a sign mounted on a concrete alleyway roof, white with faded lettering saying 'City of Westminster' in a gothic-type typeface, 'BROAD COURT' in thick, narrow typeface, and 'W.C.' in faded italic type.

Photograph of a pale stone wall with carved decoration. A modern street sign with a City of London crest says 'ST. MARGARET'S CLOSE EC2'. Below, painted directly onto the wall, are the words 'CHURCH COURT' in fading black paint.

Photograph of the corner of a brick building. On one wall are two signs, both saying LOMAN STREET SE1'. The upper sign is older and smaller; it says 'Borough of Southwark' at the top, abbreviates 'street' to 'St' and writes 'SE1' as 'S.E.1'. The lower sign is a modern one. On the other wall is a tall, narrow arched window divided into many small panes.

Photograph of a section of brick wall. In the left half of the picture is a fancy cream tablet with leaf and flower decoration, cracked and with 'SCLATER STREET' barely legible; it is surrounded by a red brick frame. To the right, in the lower part of the image, are two smaller rectangular signs. The upper one says 'SCLATER ST. E.1.'; the lower one, smaller and a little battered, is in Bengali script.

A photograph of a brick wall with a black, metal drainpipe and large bracket on the right-hand edge. There are two signs, similar in age and style. The upper one has a cracked white background and says 'BOROUGH OF HOLBORN' in red, 'THORNHAUGH STREET' in black, and 'W.C.1' in red italics. The lower one has black text reading 'LEADING TO WOBURN SQUARE'

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