Signage is ever-changing as businesses come and go, areas transform, or fashions and tastes change. If you stand for a few moments in one place in a town or city and look around you will find that the letterforms on the signs combine to create a unique snapshot of the area that represents it at that specific moment in time. This is the fourth year that I have taken people on guided walks through Dalston and the one guarantee is that there will always be change. Sometimes a new sign appears and it is difficult to remember what was there before, other times I feel a heart-wrenching sadness when a favourite vanishes without warning. The Mockingbird sign was hand painted by Peter Hardwicke, but now all that remains of the letters are the slight raised edges as if embossed into the new layer of paint that now covers them.
For the first two years we would walk straight past the closed-down William Hill building because there was nothing remarkable enough inviting us to stop and talk about it. The following year it was wrapped in scaffolding, but through the gaps there were tantalising glimpses of beautiful letters like the ornate, gold ‘S’ to be seen. This year the building was unwrapped to reveal the full wording on the back board of the Victorian glass sign reading ‘Wine merchant’ and ‘Wine shipper & bonder’ along with the name of the Dalston Junction Railway Tavern’s landlord from 1899 over the door. However, new tenants signed the lease this week and will most likely cover over the sign again. Go and take a look now while you can at this beautiful lettering that has survived for over a century.
Ridley Road Market is going corporate as the vernacular, hand painted signs bursting with personality and humour are being replaced by vinyl lettering in the specified market typeface. On the last safari we arrived at Dalston Kingsland Station to see an empty metal frame where its sign used to be. And change is inevitable over Ruby’s Bar and Lounge as their chatty cinema sign nearly always has something new to say.