A town of gates, scores and staithe
Let's start in Hungate, a fair distance out of the
centre. Here is
a fading sign:
In Saltgate, not far from the market square, we find another fine building, well cared for, and boasting a wonderful coloured, curving sign - now, sadly misleading and redundant: 'Cinema' in gold mosaic lettering on a two-tone blue ceramic background. The town lost its cinema at least ten years ago, we understand, and this finely detailed building with its crest, square columns, pediments and roundels was later a shop and now (2006) one of the continental cafés so ubiquitous in our towns.
Following this street out of town towards the river, we move into Northgate and further down the hill past fine Georgian houses (and several plaques to comemorate the great and the good who once lived there), is one of the best lettering examples to be found on these websites: 'STAITHE, SMITH & EASTHAUGH, CORN & COAL MERCHANTS, Dealers in Malt & Hops of the best quality. BEANS, PEAS, OATS, POLLARD, CINDERS, WHOLESALE & RETAIL, Wherries constantly attend the Traders & Steam Vessels for conveying goods to and from the Wharf.' This is a grand, historic piece of trader's sign writing. Glimpsed as we drove through the town down this winding narrow road in 2001, we were able to stop for the 'Brass Foundry' above, but not for this one, so it's been added in 2006. (It was also mentioned to Borin by Robet Malster - see Reading List - when the former gave a talk to the Suffolk Local History Council in 2004.) Now somebody - presumably the owner of the wonderful redbrick house which stands at right angles to the road and on whose end wall the sign is painted - obviously cares for this lettering and it looks to be regularly retouched judging by its almost mint condition. We owe the preservers of this sign a debt of gratitude.-
The dormer windows of this property suggest that this has always been a dwelling place - presumably that of either Mr Smith or Mr Easthaugh - rather than a converted storage barn or maltings. The whitish painted rectangle runs over bricked in windows of a dutch gable end and is bisected horizontally by a line caused by the lower brickwork being recessed slightly from that above. A delightful mixture of fonts and styles is on display here: Italic, serifed caps at the top with the decorative 'A', san-serif caps for the name and trades are followed by a full stop. Then follows a line of serif roman lettering with 'Malt' and 'Hops' bearing capital letters; back to sans-serif caps for the list of further products this prodigious business dealt in; 'Wholesale & Retail' balance on a fine ampersand in serif capitals, then the final triumphant announcement with its direct link to the nearby wharf and the attendant wherries which used to lighter bigger trading vessels. The archaic 's' which resembles an 'f' in 'Vefsels' at lower left may suggest that this sign is older than it actually is. If we assume that the industrial revolution started around 1770, it's possible that steam vessels were visiting Beccles from around the mid-1800s or later, perhaps. The signwriter was pleased to provide us with the double-s of old and new style characters. We have gone into some detail on this sign merely because of its great historical importance in Beccles, in Suffolk and in England as a whole. We would be pleased to hear of a rival elsewhere.
[Message from Ed Broom of this parish (15.11.06):
'Love that STAITHE, SMITH & EASTHAUGH entry, and so well
maintained. Hats off. That mix of fonts and styles rather reminded me
of an old ad for my distant relations (true), the Freston Bros
of olde Ipswiche towne.' His website is on our Links