The flatlands of the Cambridge fens have few hills, but
the small mound
upon which Ely with its extraordinary cathedral stands is visible for
miles. Below is an example of wall-lettering from Broad Street
a shop - now a furniture dealers - bearing the name 'Graven' on the
Clearly an important business, the characteristic large, pale painted
with its quadrants nibbled out at each corner bear the sign:
making it very visible to travellers along this once
busy side road. There is an apparent drop shadow on the characters.
James Graven & Sons Ltd is a well established
family business, founded in 1860. At the height of the industrial (and
agricultural) revolution this company serviced (and perhaps supplied)
the mechanical implements which were becoming widely used in this
heartland of the most fertile growing soils in the country. Today the
company owns and operates two supermarket sites trading as Budgens, in
Soham and Dersingham, along with three BP service stations, situated in
Chatteris and Ely.
High Street/corner with Chequer Lane
'BANK ... The
Capital & Counties'
The Capital and Counties Bank
group was taken over by Lloyds Bank in 1918.
The letterforms chosen for this section of the sign – very different
from the deeply incised 'BANK' in is cartouche at the corner entrance –
show style and flair. It looks as if it came from the Letraset
catalogue around 1970: the condensed characters with the 't' having a
very highup cross-bar and a rather wonderful ampersand.
The Hampshire Banking Company was established in
Southampton in 1834. It quickly expanded, rescuing a number of failing
firms, and became the first English bank to establish a presence in the
Channel Islands. The North Wilts Banking Company was established in
Melksham in 1835, from the private bank of Moule & Co. established
in 1792. The Hampshire & North Wilts
Banking Company, as Capital & Counties Bank was originally known,
was formed in 1877. It was a result of a merger between two already
well-established joint-stock banks, the Hampshire Banking Company and
the North Wilts Banking Company. The new bank was renamed Capital &
Counties in 1878, the directors having decided that they wanted a less
The newly merged bank had its head office in Southampton and 56
branches throughout the south and south-west of England. The next half
century saw further expansion, mainly under the direction of Edward
Merriman. He was the bank’s chairman between 1885 and 1915. In 1878, in
an attempt to gain entry into the London Bankers Clearing House,
Capital & Counties purchased City of London bank Willis, Percival
& Co. Membership of the Clearing House was deemed important as it
was an acknowledgement that a bank had really arrived in London.
Several of Capital & Counties’ applications failed, but it was
eventually accepted as a member a few years later. Soon after, it moved
its head office to Threadneedle Street in London. The Bank continued to
expand through a series of takeovers and branch openings; at the start
of the 1890s it had emerged as one of the few banks to have a truly
nationwide network. By 1918 it had 473 branches when it was taken over
by Lloyds Bank in 1918.
26 High Street
Barclays Bank at no. 28
presumably once also occupied no. 26 which bears the plaque.
And peeking over the top of Bank Chambers, an alien visiting the
planet for the first time might think that a space travel facility
might exist behind it. However, from the second storey of the excellent
bookshop opposite (Topping & Company Booksellers of Ely at no. 9)
one sees, rising to the skies, the Great Ship of the Fens, Ely
Cathedral. This was originally established in AD673 Etheldreda
(also known as ∆thelthryth), daughter of a Saxon king. The West Tower
we see today is 215 feet high. In the very flat fenland, the slight
rise upon which the cathedral stands and its loftiness means that it is
visible from miles around.
Return to Historic Lettering from outside
Please email any comments and contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich
website: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express