Archives for posts with tag: King’s Lynn


Each year the historic buildings in King’s Lynn throw open their doors to the public. Organised by the town’s very active Civic Society, it is an opportunity to visit some of Lynn’s excellent old buildings, many of which are private dwellings or only partially open to the public. I have visited many of the main ones (who will eventually find their way here!) but there are also lots of little hidden gems like the Greenland Fisheries.

The sign outside refers to its time as a pub frequented by fishermen (Lynn was once a whaling port) but it dates back to 1605 when it was built as a merchants house:

I was drawn here by the promise of some hand painted lettering and wall decoration and was not disappointed:

The King’s Lynn Preservation Trust have been working on the restoration and made an excellent job of revealing this long lost work from beneath the plaster. Check the links at the end of this post for more information on the restoration and the building.

Above the window on the second floor is this phrase on several wooden panels at about 5 feet long. This is a composite image and will enlarge well when clicked:

In the tiny back yard this dedication stone stood forlornly against the wall…

And even the drainpipes got the typographic treatment in cast iron!

Kings Lynn Preservation Trust
Kings Lynn Civic Society
Whaling from Kings Lynn

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.


I spent a very pleasant early summer sunday morning at Castle Rising with Mrs.Lestaret and my two daughters, Upper and Lower Case. The castle proudly claims to be the finest 12th century Norman Keep in the country, and rightly so. What’s more amazing is that it is still privately owned by the Howard Family since 1544!

After the usual excited roaming and exploring, I got stuck in to recording the various carved graffiti, with much tut-tutting and rolling of eyes from my long-suffering family.

I assume (because of it’s position near the floor and its consistency) this is a more official inscription following some restorations…

W.T. made a decent stab at a crossed W, but didn’t quite make the horizontal alignment work. Then again, this was on a downward facing diagonal over the fireplace!

The seventies made their mark but without the elegance…

Just inside the main hall is this stretch of dressed wall which has been a place of opportunity for many over the years, but sadly this overuse has created an erosion far quicker and destructive than time and the elements ever would…

I have taken quite a lot of these types of images over the years – castles, churches and monuments have always been a target for the determined ‘tagger.’ I guess I am a sucker for elegant graffiti and will sort more out for future post!

Castle Rising

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.

It’s a problem everywhere I know, but the thorny issue of parking is often overlooked by the over-zealous clampers, jobsworth ticket wardens and ludicrous flaunting of the rules by some. For me, parking is the natural habitat for the ubiquitous species “commodo operor non subsisto hic” or Common No Parking sign.

It is difficult for todays generation to believe that in the early part of the twentieth century this species was almost unknown on British shores. In a matter of less than a hundred years it has acclimatised itself remarkably well, adapting to an increasingly more visually aggressive environment, establishing territories of astonishing magnitude.

In some places, like this one above, these signs have learned to roost together, finding safety in numbers but this has led to interbreeding with some alarming mutations.

This specimen is obviously the offspring of the union between a No Parking sign and company sign; a less than handsome example, but one that displays the aggressive corporate elements that can dominate the plumage.

Others, like this one above have bred with less aggressive signs that actually help the No Parking sign with a supporting display.

One of the main characteristics of the urban No Parking sign is it’s almost compulsive habit of establishing it’s territory in the most inhospitable places, with few prominent features and no natural resources.

Like pigeons, shabby, disfigured or lame No Parking signs can often be found in urban areas, desperately hanging onto their meagre territory.

These specimens were taken in a limited area surrounding a Local Authority approved and maintained reserve where twenty-seven different species were identified, tagged and recorded as part of the King’s Lynn No Parking census 2010.

This is one of an old species that has not managed to successfully pass its genes on through interbreeding. Very few of these elegant and authorititve signs remain in the world, and sightings in the UK are becoming increasingly rare.

These last few show how the species has adapted to the local environments. These are unique to very small areas and these specimens are displaying the unique camouflage that besets them when they reach maturity; signalling their readiness to mate and continue the cycle.

Map of Area covered

It can hardly be described as a red carpet venue for world premiers, but the Majestic Cinema in King’s Lynn is a jewel amongst a pile of rhinestones. A faded, chipped jewel, but a jewel nontheless. With it’s verdigris copper topped tower (it is on Tower Street you know) and it’s handsome clock, to its rounded facade and arched portico, it certainly looks the part, but like many buildings that are struggling to survive against the rising tide of Hollywood-backed multi-screen extravaganzas offering all kinds of uncomfortable seating in tiny, uncomfortable rooms to watch any number of the latest remakes of the great and the good on screens the size of a bathtowel, this little movie house is a little battered and bruised by comparison to these new cinematographic behemoths.  Golly. I don’t know where that little tirade came from.

When you step inside the  portico any earlier aesthetic judgements are null and void. On the floor in grey and black marble is an elegant mosaic about six feet long:

It is tightly laid with very finely cut detailing shown above. I have included a large scale image assembled from a number of photographs. Click on it to see it much bigger!

It’s not all mosaics though. I’d love to say that this was the first of many delights to be found but there is nothing on the scale of this. There are some neat stained glass windows though, including this curiously arranged date…

Majestic Cinema
Majestic Cinema Wikipedia

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.

Welcome back to King’s Lynn at the gateway to East Anglia. If you don’t know anything about the region, it is probably best that I state here that one of its most predominant geographic qualities is its flatness. The East Anglian and Cambridgeshire fens, along with Norfolk’s more famous ‘Broads’ simply go on and on. This may sound dull, but as a replanted Yorkshireman, I think this area has a  beauty and romance that infects the soul. Maybe it is the ‘big skies’ or the rhythms of the seasons told through the fields, its ever-present (and rapidly moving) coastline or the quintessence of it’s well-preserved villages, but the flatlands seem to exert a hypnotic pull…

One thing about the flatness of the region is that landmarks are few and far between. King’s Lynn has a just few tall buildings that dominate its skyline, but this is changing rapidly. The Campbell’s factory closed down  a year or so ago and the site has been bought by the neighbouring Tescos, who want to pull everything down, build another enormous superstore and a bunch of other ‘business units’ which I guess will take the usual ‘concrete block-and -red-corrugated-steel roof’ format. ( I always feel sorry for all those architects who were originally inspired to take up the profession by Guggenheim, Wright and Mackintosh et al, and spent seven years studying the science and technology of construction, only to end up building fields of ‘units’ and starter homes.’  Alas.

Sorry, I got distracted then. The Campbell’s tower is threatened with demolition. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a beautiful structure, and doesn’t have any architectural merit, but it is one of just a few landmarks. There is even a local action group that have lobbied hard to preserve it and get it listed as a Historic building. They have not had ultimate success but have done a lot of work to get local people to think about the visual qualities of the town.

I confess to having a great fondness for Campbell’s tower. It can be seen for miles and miles and has long been used as a navigational aid – “You know when you are near King’s Lynn when you can see the Campbell’s sign.” And it will for me, just as for many others, be ever associated with Andy Warhol.

King’s Lynn’s most famous son, George Vancouver still has his family name above one of the wharf buildings along the river. Guess which Canadian city is named after him?

There are lot’s of historical and important signs around the town, which I will continue to explore in this series, but I am also drawn to the less prominent:

There are many thing’s I could criticise about this sign, but decline to in order to appreciate the spirit in which it was created and subsequently amended. I think that the positioning of the apostrophe between the G and S is very odd – but if you are going to stack the letters up on top of each other, just where is it supposed to go?

King’s Lynn has a small, but well-preserved historic quarter that shows it’s Hanseatic links through its architecture which I hope to focus on in another post, but as I was making my way towards St. Margaret’s church I was distracted by this subtle but arresting signwriting: 

The slate plaque on the left is one of many dotted around the town to mark prominent people who lived, died or stayed here. There are a number of different plaques on buildings (a plague of plaques?) that helpfully inform passers-by:

Clifton House is probably one of the most architecturally important buildings in the town (mentioned in Pevsner’s guides no less!) and is instantly recognisable by its ‘barley twist’ columns on either side of the front door. Astoundingly, it is still a private home (currently owned by the Director of English heritage Dr. Simon Thurley) but is opened to the public a couple of times a year.

This sign, on the front of King’s Lynn Guildhall, lists the main treasures held within its unique flint and sandstone chequerboard facade:

The sign appears to be ceramic with very rich coloured glazes, and smoke fired which brings out the crackles in the glaze:

I have had a long fascination with almshouses since I was a child (there were some next to my Junior School) and the town has a few.

This considerable entrance bears the name of the person to whom the almshouses be built in memorium. The stonework is very fine, with a very curious M:

And a very sonber cast sign in the archway:

There is a more modest, but equally interesting iron sign at the back gates. Less elegant, but quite ambitious.

The towns hub is the Tuesday Market Place where the Duke’s Head Hotel stands opposite Corn Exchange in all its pink splendour.

On an adjacent side to the square one of the buildings still bears the marks of its original purpose above the acrylic counterparts of it’s current occupation:

Just around the corner, this pediment stands largely unseen (except by me and the pigeons) high above the grand corner entrance to a former bank, now a spicy chicken franchise. Alas.

There are plenty of excellent websites and blogs dedicated to ‘ghost signs’ so I am not going to go into too much detail here, but these next few caught my eye…

I am often curious as to why a large capital letter is painted in isolation upon a wall.

On the Purfleet Quay there are several noteworthy buildings, but barely legible sign was my main attraction today.

On the side is another painted sign, faded to reveal ‘TO LET.’  A ghost of a ghost sign?

As I mention before, I have many more images of typographic King’s Lynn which I will continue to post, but I will leave you with this  last image. I do not include this one to cast aspersions upon the town – I firmly believe that all conurbations consist of the sublime and the ridiculous, and I am sure that there are many other images around the world like this:

I have walked this way many time before and never seen this. It makes me smile.

What’s On in King’s Lynn
Pevsner’s guides
Clifton House
List of Plaques
News item on Campbell’s Tower
An alternative view of Campbell’s Tower

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.

Welcome to what I hope will be the first of many reflections on the typography and lettering that help make our environments interesting and unique. 

For this first post I will focus on a particular feature of King’s Lynn. An ancient and once important East Anglian trading port, King’s Lynn has a wealth of historical landmarks, quirks and treasures, many of which I hope to feature here in future posts, but to start with I want to draw your attention to a number of street signs around the town centre:

There appears to be a fair amount of name changing going on. Although I quite like the stroke of the arm on the lowercase ‘r’ below, I think that the correct form should be a capital…

I would like to see a modern-day town council meeting where it was unanimously agreed to change of the names of two historically named streets into ‘High Street.’ But seriously, I haven’t been able to find any concrete reason why any of these streets changed their names. I have found stories and ideas about why, but nothing that explains why so many of them were changed. If anyone knows why, or knows of a good web reference for this information, please let me know.

Baxters Plain – it just works better doesn’t it? They really know how to re-name things around here.

Whilst I was taking this shot I realised that was also taking a photo of a CCTV camera and thought I would end up being collared for suspicious activity:

It is a little-known fact that King’s Lynn was the first town in the country to install CCTV in its town centre. It is also the first town to install a resident pigeon on each camera. ‘Watch Pigeons’ are part of the boroughs tough stance on anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

King’s Lynn still has a number of these old revolving barbers poles outside its tonsurial temples. This one stands incongruously above a rather posh ladies salon these days but I’m glad it’s still there.

 The obvious typographical flaw in these signs is in the word spacing. Some may describe the spacing as ‘generous’ or ‘deluxe’ but we all know what we really think, don’t we? There are a number of kerning issues too; look at the word ‘formerly’ below to see that the r-m relationship is not visually consistent with the rest of the spacing, which is compounded by the more balanced relationship between the r-l-y.

There are a few others too, and rather than just point them out, I have made the kerning and spacing adjustments I think this particular sign needs.

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.

Street Name Sign information
London Street Signs
Amusing Street Names