4 Jun 2014

Ghost Signs and Public Lettering in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter

Ghostsigns and Public Lettering in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter plotted on Google Maps
Ghostsigns and Public Lettering in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter plotted on Google Maps

On 21 May, before my Type Talk at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, I helped lead a walk through the city’s historic Jewellery Quarter. This was in collaboration with Geraldine Marshall of the Birmingham Graphic DNA Project, and focused on the ghostsigns and public lettering that can be found in the quarter. It was fascinating researching material from another city and I was struck by the number of recently repainted signs that we found there, some of dubious quality.

I have made the locations on the walk available via this Google Map. This also includes points of interest that we discovered along the way, or that I found on other trips to the quarter. This is by no means exhaustive but merely an indication of the rich material available within this relatively compact area of Birmingham. The photos are all available in this Flickr Album and I’ve included a handful of my favourites below. Thank you to Geoff Field, Jane Anderson and Caroline Bunford for your additional research input.

I hope to do the walk again in the future and perhaps add it to the walking tours I’m already running in London’s Stoke Newington. The two areas share a lot in both being conservations zones with listed buildings present. As with other places, such as Bath, I believe this has led to the inadvertent protection of many ghostsigns and other pieces of public lettering. I hope that many of these will survive the ongoing development happening in the Jewellery Quarter, and that any restorations will be done more sensitively than some of those we found along the way…

Small plaque for Pickering & Mayell
A small plaque for Pickering & Mayell on the Reliance Works building which also features painted signs on the walls and some gilded glass work.
Sign for Henry Jenkins & Sons
Some beautiful lettering and layout on this sign for one of the quarter’s heavyweights.
Sign for Buncher and Haseler
This business name reminds me of the various business owners in Robert Tressell’s ‘Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’
Carved brick commemorating wedding of Charles and Diana
Memorial brick commemorating the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Spotted at shin level while testing the walk.
Sign for Squirrel Works
Appears to be an enamel sign. Found in an alley way while having to take an alternative route on the walk due to road works.
Sign for Apollo Castings
A very bespoke sign fixture with letters compressed to fit the available space.
Painted sign on brick for Jones and Palmer
One of a handful of painted signs on brick found fading in the Jewellery Quarter.

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