Recently I found myself in the Cambridgeshire town of Wisbech with an hour or so to spare and my camera to hand. Dubbed ‘The Capital of the Fens’ and twinned with Arles, Wisbech is known for its well-preserved Georgian architecture and bustling marina and port (despite being situated about 12 miles inland) but I’ve not really spent much time here and I don’t know the place very well. So I thought I would take a look at it through its typographic presentation…
There is a significant redevelopment of the marina and waterside area of the town, with some major upgrading and rebuilding going on.
It was here that I saw the march of progress and decided to record this sign before if was lost. Slightly heavy of heart, I continued to make my way into the town centre.
This building, once a Girls School, stands on a very unusually angled corner and can quite easily be overlooked; with its high windows and dark, Georgian brick, and without a grand entrance, it seems to go unnoticed amongst it simlilarly constructed, but less attractive neighbours. As I was taking these, an old lady coming out of the florists opposite asked in a broad Fenland accent what I was taking photographs of and I pointed out the inscription high above the arched windows. “Well I never noticed that before!” she chuckled, then went on to add “I can’t read it though because I haven’t got my glasses on!” and off she tootled, chuckling away with a big bunch of chrysanthemums sticking out of her shopping trolley. Unnoticed, I thought to myself and captured this stone set into the wall at the side of the florists:
The building was nondescript red brick with plate-glass windows at street level. I wonder what old E.B. Bellars Esq. would think of that?
A nice bit of hand lettering on the door light, partially obscured by white van man… note the unnecessary full stop.
And so on into the main shopping district. I was pleased to see that most of the big name stores had taken up residence in the newer Horsefair development which left a lot of the older buildings to develop in a more gentle way. This small side panel to a shop window caught my eye – you don’t see this type of opportunism these days – taking advantage of a strip of blank space poking out into a pedestrianised area, and attracting attention by employing a plethora of typographic and graphic styles.
There are some good old-fashioned shops too, that have retained their original frontage despite the prevalence of flat, double glazed and acrylic that have blighted many a little market town.
There is so much wrong with this sign that I love! This takes me back to my childhood where every local shopping precinct had a newsagent, butchers, knitting wool shop and a mysterious ‘fancy goods’ shop. Now it is all betting shops, kebab houses and hair’n'nail boutiques. Alas, alas.
But the post office has got some extravagant lettering, made all the more beautiful in contrast to the modern sign. I wonder…
Hmm, maybe not, but it’s a diverting thought.
I also spotted this lovely stone cut sign way up above the first story windows of what sadly is no longer a pub.
And this slowly eroding plaque on a memorial to Thomas Clarkson, the anti-slavery campaigner and the towns most celebrated son. This just across the road from the post office – I wonder if the similar Lombardic styles have a connection?
Back into the town again and I did a bit of a double-take at this butchers shop, painted on the hoarding. I was immediately struck by the markings on the side of the connecting building which remind me of the kind of height charts you find on the inside of cupboard doors in family homes, showing the growth spurts of various offspring. They must have some big kids around Wisbech way…
There are two or three more of these painted shops opposite, which make a more pleasant environment than empty or boarded up shops.
Facing the market square is the Rose & Crown Hotel, another fine Georgian pile, and like a few parts of the town, is showing signs of wear and tear. The ampersand is a little out of keeping here and is probably a much later replacement for the original, but I thought it had a lot of character. I’ll leave you with a close up, but will be back with some more from the “Capital Of The Fens.”
GoogleMap of Wisbech
So what’s in your neighbourhood?
I am putting out a request for contributors for the “my type of… place” section of this blog and would like you to put together your own typographic tour. If you are interested, download the contributors information sheet for more details, ideas and specifications here.