The Hidden Lettering of St
Helen's Street, 'ITFC' & 'bicycle'
Argyle Street/St Helens Street
Ipswich Borough Council put up rather
attractive fencing around two sets of flats in Woodbridge Road (above
Blanche Street) and Argyle Street/St Helen's Street. This would be
unremarkable if it wasn't for a piece of hidden lettering in a section
of the fence with closely barred and shaped rods, set at 45 degrees on
the juction of Argyle Street and St Helens Street. The image of the
'normal' view is unexceptional. Drivers
queuing down Argyle Street during the inordinate hold-ups during the
rush-hour are probably the most likely to spot:
grille, but you have to be at the correct angle
from either side.
most surprising is both that the designer took
the trouble (presumably he or she was commissioned by Ipswich Borough
Housing***) and that it works so well in a bold serif font: all
by slight tweaks and flattening in the vertical bars. Clever, eh?
It is possible that many people walk past and don't see this lettering
regularly - always an attraction for this website - and the streams of
high speed traffic on this junction distract passers-by as they try to
ensure (a) their own survival and (b) safe passage across the road.
[UPDATE 21.1.2016: Des
Pawson of the Museum of Knots &
Sailors Ropework (see Links): "The chap who developed in the early 1980s the fencing
system was Stuart Hill who was a blacksmith at Claydon. An Artist
Blacksmith he once had a show at Christchurch Mansion. I think he
now lives on an island off the Shetland isles!"]
[***UPDATE 4.12.2020: 'I have
much enjoyed reading your article about lettering in the railings put
up by Ipswich Borough Homes, particularly as I used to work there and
remember those railings being organised.
It's great that Des remembered Stuart Hill was the blacksmith – the
reason why I am emailing is both to express my appreciation of your
website, but also to say you may wish to include a link to the Wikipedia
page. Although it doesn't refer to his work making the IBH
railings, it is an interesting story! - Juliet Freeman.' Many thanks, to Juliet for the kind words
and link to the page about Stuart. Also for clarifying that 'IBH' stood for
Ipswich Borough Homes.]
For more examples of lettering in Argyle Street, try Ipswich Board School and Harry Seaman; for more in St Helens Street
try County Hall, H.W. Turner, Tramway Place, Hales Chemist and The Regent. Whether this qualifies as
'Historic Lettering' as billed by the title
of this website or not, it perhaps joins 'The
Mill' lettering as newly
arrrived, but here to stay for a while...
Portman Road/Alf Ramsey Way
Mike O'Donovan trumps this lettering with 'ITFC' in precisely the same
wrought iron technique: "You may be interested in the attached photos
which I took at the Sir Alf Ramsey Way just off Portman Road. They seem
to be only viewable at an angle." We don't get round that way too much
as we're not interested in football (heresy!) however, for the
uninitiated 'ITFC' stands for Ipswich Town Football Club. 'Portman
Road' is an expression much more associated with the sports stadium in
Ipswich (see also 'The Kop', 'Whitehart Lane' etc.) than the original meaning of the twelve 'capital portmen'
to represent/govern the inhabitants under the borough charter given to
Ipswich by King John in 1200.
Photographs courtesy Mike O'Donovan
Civic Drive/Gt Gipping Street
"Seeing your shots of the IBH and ITFC railings last night, I was
reminded of a similar example on the pedestrian/bike path rising from
Great Gipping Street to the lights on Civic Drive. Built into the first
set of white railings is the imprint of a bicycle, again only visible
at an angle. Nicely done like your other examples. Be seeing you,
Ed Broom". Many thanks to Ed for
this tucked away symbolic example of the Artist Blacksmith's craft. Do
we have the full set now, or are there more to be found?]
There is a bicycle symbol on each side panel at the bottom of
the ramp (which is much-used by cyclists). This must be one of the more
challenging shapes to render by the 'compressed tube' method with its
simplification of frame detail and circular wheels.
[UPDATE 26. 1.2016:
"Just seen, although couldn't take a picture. Roundabout end of Queens
Way, off Nacton Road. Fence has "Queens Way" pressed into tubes. Is
visible on Google street view. Paul S. Smith". So we could no better than go along and
see for ourselves.]
Above: the angle may be correct, but little is decipherable from a few
meteres away (surely the point?). Below left: seen from the centre of
the roundabout, the characters are ghostly, but can be made out –
probably thanks to the upper line being defined by the change of colour
on the background. Below right: the view from just in front of the
parked van shows 'QUEENS WAY' to its best advantage.
Below: a companion stretch of railings, again heavily parked against
and cluttered with street furniture.
See also our Lettered castings index page.
Please email any comments
and contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission