Sunday 5 May 2024

Signs through time: along the A10

A quick look at changing styles of street signs, all from a stroll along the main road from Dalston Junction to Stoke Newington stations. (It's the A10, although its name changes from Kingsland High Street to Stoke Newington  Road and then Stoke Newington High Street.) They are a great example of how the materials, typography, and styles have evolved - but also look out for the changing local authorities and postcodes. 

The oldest signs were not standard in format, and some are quite elaborate. 

On a brick wall, a stone tablet in a carved stone surround says 'Garnham Street'. To its right is a modern sign with black and red lettering on a white backround saying 'London Borough of Hackney Garnham Street N16'; above are traces of a painted sign.

Garnham Street has a rather rich collection: fantastic old, non-standard signs; the faint traces of a painted replacement; and below it, the current 'official' sign. And on one side of the street, there's also the faded remains of a painting on tile.

 On a brick wall, a painted sign in a moulded rectangular frame says Garnham Street. Above it is part of a tiled panel with painted figures faintly visible.

Brighton Road has traces of a sign painted directly onto the brickwork (once quite common) above a modern sign attached to it. 

 A rectangular sign with black border and rounded cornders says 'London Borough of Hackney Brighton Road N16' in black and red letters. Faint painted words are visible above.

This blue and white sign is quite unusual, with something of a French feel to it. It looks like a move towards the contemporary format, although it still has a way to go. 

 Photograph of a white, rectangular sign with royal blue letters saying 'BOROUGH OF STOKE NEWINGTON HIGH STREET'

The standard format has itself changed significantly. Sometimes the changes are subtle - look in particular at the 'of' and the '6' in these two signs. 

On a white background, red and black text says 'BOROUGH OF HACKNEY STOKE NEWINGTON ROAD, N.16.' The word 'OF' is in a smaller font and the stroke of the '6' extends above the height of the neighbouring characters.

Photograph of a street sign, black and red letters on white, saying 'BOROUGH OF HACKNEY SANFORD LANE, N.16.'

 A more modern version has no borough name; the postal district 'N.16' has faded from red to pink.

A sign reading 'STOKE NEWINGTON ROAD N.16'

There is a nice pair of modern styles on Beatty Road, showing how much they have changed even in recent decades.

 A section of wall with two signs for Beatty Road, each in a different but quite modern style.

Crossway shows yet another modern style and colour scheme, but there's an intriguing plaque alongside it.

A blue sign with white text says 'LONDON BOROUGH OF HACKNEY CROSSWAYS N16'. It seems 'N16' has been placed on later. Also on the wall is a shield-shaped plaque.

A closer look at the plaque shows that it is a boundary marker - not for a parish but for the Borough of Stoke Newington. It is dated 1901; today, the borough is no more. As the street signs tell us, it has been absorbed into the Borough of Hackney.

A shield-shaped metal plaque on a wall. It is streaked and darkened, but says 'Borough of Stoke-Newington boundary centre of road 1901'.

Other signs have fared badly but still share their information as best they can. We can see that in fact, they tell us more than their words alone spell out!

A metal sign for Belgrade Road has been painted over in the same cream paint as the wall behind, but the raised lettering is still visible.

A sign for 'Tyssen Road' is a patchwork of different colours and texts - the borough and postcode details appear to have been stuck on later.