The Cycle of Life in Warmley, Bristol

Cliff Headford’s Raleigh and Humber Cycles sign. Photo: Jordan Crouch.

This Raleigh and Humber Cycles ghost sign in Warmley, Bristol, was painted by Cliff Headford in the mid-twentieth century. Visit this earlier post for a short film that I helped to make about Cliff shortly before his death, and lots more photos of his work.

Cliff was paid about £18 by the bicycle companies to paint the sign, which was a privilege on the premises of the Webb’s of Warmley shop. This local business, founded in 1902, was the long-term occupant of the building, but eventually moved to new premises in 2013 from where it is still trading.

Webb’s of Warmley c.2013. Photo: The Week in Bristol.

After the bike shop moved out, the property’s owner submitted a planning application to convert the premises to residential use. This was approved in June 2015 with a number of stipulations, including the following that made specific reference to the painted sign.

“The wall painting (Raleigh and Humber Cycles) on the end (east) elevation of the building shall be retained at all times following the development hereby approved.”

South Gloucestershire Planning, PK15/0419/F.

This requirement for planning approval was justified with the following reasoning.

It [the sign] is an important historic feature in the locality and on the end elevation of this locally listed building and in the interests of the amenity of the area to accord with Policy L15 of the South Gloucestershire Local Plan 2006 (saved policy) and Policy CS1 and CS9 of the South Gloucestershire Local Plan Core Strategy 2013.

South Gloucestershire Planning, PK15/0419/F.

This presents quite an interesting precedent, in that a sign can acquire protection within the context of planning being granted for a change to the building. Could be one to watch for those who would seek greater protection than that afforded by local listed status.

Work in progress on repainting the ghost sign. Photo: Karen Gilmore.

Fast forward to 2021 and the development is now complete. Within the works themselves, Frenzy Designs were commissioned to repaint the ghost sign. This looks to have remained relatively faithful to the original layout and lettering. However, I would question the colour choices. These don’t seem to tally well with what went before, which appeared to feature green on the Humber letters, and for the shadow of Raleigh. The resulting lettering and shadows on Humber are left too close in value, and therefore lacking in contrast.

The Repainted Raleigh and Humber Cycles sign. Photo: Karen Gilmore.
2016 and 2021. Photos: Jordan Crouch and Karen Gilmore.

Although we have lost Cliff, and now the shop itself, the ‘cycle’ of life continues. His one-time ghost sign is now freshly painted again, ready to fade and perhaps become a palimpsest in the future.


With thanks to Karen Gilmore, Jordan Crouch and The Week in Bristol for their support in creating this article.