In August of 2016 I picked up my camera and wandered out onto the streets of London. I had an idea that it might be useful and interesting to document the incredible variety of the city’s street nameplates –the signs which detail the name of each road. (You can read about the beginnings of the project here.) These signs are a remarkable archive of lettering, a unique collection of styles and forms that stretches right back to the seventeenth century. They hide in plain sight, these modest labels; we use their information daily, but too often fail to really notice them. They are visual anchors, telling us where we are, but temporal anchors too, telling us where we’ve come from.
Almost four years and over four thousand photographs later, I pulled my pictures and research together in this book, published by Batsford –London Street Signs: a visual history of London’s street nameplates.
It’s a hefty little tome. 192 pages, over 30,000 words, and more than 350 beautiful photographs.
I selected the most significant nameplates, the most beautiful, the most curious. From enamel plates to incised lettering, from the simplest cast-iron signs to the most ornamental architectural plaques, the book is a visual record of this rather shaded corner of our collective history. It also tells some of the fascinating stories behind these unassuming treasures, revealing where they came from before being affixed to brick or stone for decades, sometimes centuries, to come – from the iconic nameplates of the City of Westminster to the stunning tiled signs of Hampstead, from the revival nameplates of Lambeth to the ghost signs of London’s no-longer existent N.E. postal district.