The Big Ipswich Historic Lettering: big R thumb
From 30-32 Westgate Street
Des Pawson (see Links for his Museum of Knots & Sailors Ropework) writes:"I first moved here [Ipswich] in 1976  when I took over managing the Rymans [stationery] shop that at the time was on the corner of Westgate Street and High Street; I think it is Moss Bros now.  In the roof  I found a letter R that had been left there from one of the previous businesses (Radio Rentals or Redifusion or some such, possibly local Radio and TV company). I have forgotten if I ever really knew. It stands about 15 inch high and would have had light bulbs in it."

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Des Pawson's R

This is a unique example of Ipswich historic lettering on this site, we think and - thanks to Des - Ipswich Historic Lettering is now the proud owner of this venerable consonant. His anecdotal history of it and the fact that it's a piece of lettering detached from its original site are intriguing. You could tuck it under your arm and take it round the world. The body is made of metal with seven screw-in light bulb sockets which would illuminate a coloured glazed front face. The old, brown, cloth-covered wiring is still in place at the back. If anyone has more information on the previous ownership of this shop, we'd be pleased to hear it. Perhaps the shop will show up in one of the books of period photographs of Ipswich which abound. Otherwise it will take someone going through the Kelly's Directories for this address.

It could be Radio Rentals by the letter form. However web research reveals no font similarity to earlier logos. Similarly for Rediffusion...

Radio Rentals Ltd was started by Percy Perring-Thoms a radio dealer in Brighton in August 1930 and by 1936 had become a Public Company with about 50,000 rental customers and by the firms Silver Jubilee in 1955 had over 280,000 radio subscribers.  Its radios were made usually by E.K. Cole Ltd (who made "Ekco" radios) or Mains Radios and Gramophones Ltd, a Yorkshire firm, which it acquired in 1945. Radio Rentals was one of the first companies to concentrate on the rental of television sets after WW2 and Mains Radios and Gramophones started television manufacture in 1948. Radio Rentals Ltd ceased renting radios in 1965 to concentrate on televisions. Mains Radios and Gramophones Ltd was established in 1929 had Works in Manchester Road Bradford. During WW2 the firm was one of those that manufactured the "utility" radio (U31) and changed its name to Baird Television Ltd in 1961 when Radio Rentals acquired the name from Hartley Baird Ltd. The Bradford factory, which by then was at Beckside Works, Lidget Green, Bradford closed in 1978.

In 1928 the Broadcast Relay Service became one of the first companies to relay Radio Programmes by wire in Clacton Essex. This service was named Rediffusion. Rediffusion was a business which distributed radio and later TV signals through wired relay networks. The business gave rise to a number of other companies, including Associated-Rediffusion, later known as Rediffusion London, one of the first companies to win a terrestrial ITV (commercial television) franchise in the UK. Shops handling radio and television rentals were a feature of many high streets until the companies break-up in the 1980s.

Of course, the company Des worked for also begins with an 'R', so we looked at Ryman as a company namestyle, too. Once Ryman Conran, when it was owned by design guru Terence Conran, Ryman actually dates back to a stationery business established in Great Portland Street, London by Henry Ryman in 1893. However, there's no evidence that they ever used a font with this flared serif capital. For many years 'Ryman' has favoured a flattened typewriter-style font.

Until we get more information on the 'R', this will have to suffice. See also The Big Query for a much bigger, much more public character at the Wet Dock.

[UPDATE 27.2.2014: "Hi Borin, I was at the record office a couple of days ago and checked out the street directories for 32 Westgate Street, which in my time was Rymans. Prior to Rymans 30-32 Westgate Street was the home of The International Tea Co. Stores Ltd right back to 1925 (see Wikipedia, as they were later known as International Stores). Before which it was Goffin Brothers  going back at least until the late 1800s  Could the R be from International Stores? All the fun of the research. Cheers, DES"] Many thanks to Des Pawson for this information.

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