It’s back to King’s Lynn in Norfolk, England again, for another typographical meander through this eastern town, once a thriving and important trading port with Europe, with plenty of its ancient history left intact (more of which in another post) and many more recent artifacts on display or waiting to be rediscovered…

I’m going to start with a nautical theme for this one, beginning with this image taken from the Lynn Ferry, which has operated across the Great Ouse since at least 1285. A much underused service, the Lynn Ferry runs between the Ferry station at West Lynn to the landing at King’s Lynn pictured above (reached via Ferry Lane off King Street.) The ferry itself is typographically unremarkable (except in its ugliness) but can be seen in the links at the end of this post.

Although not as busy as it once was, King’s Lynn still is an active port and large vessels still navigate this tidal port with the aid of local pilots. I am often disappointed with ships typography, but am a little more forgiving when more exotic and (seemingly) glamorous locations are moored for a few days whilst they are loaded with grain.

Further along on the King’s Lynn side is the Purfleet quay, where amongst the historic buildings the harbour masters vessel lies, along with these buoys which were sat on the quayside and looked as if they had been recently repainted.

The Saint Edmund is the vessel that patrols the river and estuary and sets all the buoys and markers for navigation.

I love how the rust has discoloured some of the letters whilst leaving the rest bright and clean.

Into town now, away from the river, but not turning our backs upon it. The weather vane on top of St. Margaret’s Church serves a more important role than those on churches inland as much of the community economy and life was dictated by the weather and it’s effect on the sea. These stones in the main entrance are testament to what can happen when we turn our backs to the sea…

The floods in 1953 inundated much of East Anglia, Suffolk, Essex and Kent, taking the lives of 307 people, over 40.000 head of livestock and necessitating the evacuation of over 30,000 people. The sea looms large in the minds of those who live in this low lying area.

Continuing with official memorials and markings, we’ll wander across town to the South Gates (King’s Lynn was once an entirely walled community) which is one of the towns most important landmarks, not only for it’s history, but because much of the towns incoming traffic has to squeeze through it’s single arch twice a day!

This lovely glazed sign is embedded in its front flank at the bottom right of the picture below and is one of a few erected by the Civic Society on it’s oldest buildings around the town. Like many towns, the historic is often flanked by the new, or often just by the ordinary. We are no exception – this sturdy castellated gatehouse is surrounded on one side by a used car lot and an ex-car showroom now home to a tool hire shop. The building itself is of little architectural merit, with its apologetic nod towards art deco, but does have a concrete Ford build into the wall!

What is most interesting about it is that it not the actual Ford logo. With it’s elongated descender and filled in counters, and its cheeky little ball terminal in the top of the lower case ‘f,’ it is a very deliberate attempt to be different.

Although in no way related to the almost classic Paul Rand redesign in 1966 that was never implemented, there are some similarities…

Back towards the river, adjacent to the Purfleet quay is King’s Staithe which consists of many old converted wharves and merchants houses. As i rounded a corner on my way elsewhere it noticed this acrylic sign in the doorway of one of the buildings.

I haven’t yet found out anything about the Mill theatre, but I like the fact that this sign remains in memorium, quietly reminding us in Letraset…  On the opposite side of the doorway is this terracotta tiled sign that has been rudely encroached upon by the doorbell mechanism. The building now appears to be a private dwelling and apartments and all i can find out about it is “King’s Staithe Mill. Built in 1749 by William Langley, merchant and Mayor, as a mill for the production of oil from rape seed. After 1800 it was used as a granary and later as an animal feed mill.” from the Rotary Club’s plaques.

Into the town centre and avoiding the usual retail garishness, you can find more modest attempts to identify oneself:

Or just let the postman know which way to go with your mail.

Whilst I was crossing town to go see something more historic I was brough to a halt at this container in the backyard of one of the shops in the town. Although typographically uninteresting, I was fascinated by the length of its serial number (on all sides – I checked) – are there people who collect these, like train spotters?

Not a minutes walk from the container was this industrial unit. Helvetica works exceptionally well in isolation like this. Especially with that particular shade of blue (Pantone 2727)

Continuing the blue theme, but abandoning any typographic identity, this shop harks back to the days of ‘make do and mend.’ I use this shop regularly and buy lots of bit of cloth, ribbons and threads for my bookbindings. It is full to the rafters with odds and ends of fabrics, coverings, threads, yarns, buttons, laces and a load more stuff I can’t name. A real throwback to a more frugal time, but seems to be thriving in this throwaway age. By the way, Fent, in this case means remnants of fabrics and similar materials, because I know that there are other meanings! (See links)

I think every British town has a garage with this typeface.:

I think that it is worth mentioning that the colours of the local football (soccer) team are blue and yellow. But also look at the sign at the right – ‘ASK FOR QUOTE’ – I think that the is enough room for ‘A’ in there, don’t you?

And whilst we are looking at local interpretations of advertising, I couldn’t help but include these from a furniture store just behind the South Gates. 10% off? I should think so.

I also wanted to include this too, down a back alley off the main street; a charity shop which has clearly tried its best to reproduce to the logo on its back door to appear more corporate.

But let’s go back to the river to finish; this wharf stands proud against the quayside, hemmed in by wine bars and retirement flats…

But the amatuerishness of the amperand is really endearing…

This post has shown quite a lot of the towns history, but I want to finish with it’s most recent addition, the Palm Paper Mill, a German family business that produces newsprint and corrugated board. Officially opened in June this year, the mill dominates the skyline as you approach the town. Not beautiful, but absolutely immense – it houses the most modern newsprint manufacturing machines in the world. You really can’t appreciate the scale of it in any of images i took.

It is when you consider the size of the letters on the sign on the (smallest) side of the building that you can achieve some sense of scale. I have superimposed an illustration of myself against the sign – I am not quite six feet tall, but even if I was, these letters must be ten feet high! I guess size really does matter…



This was another opportunity for me to record the typography that I surrounds me. Although I have deliberately set out to record the examples I have previously seen, I always come back with many, many more that become visible when you look at the familiar a little closer. There will be more on King’s Lynn to come …

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.