Before starting on this challenge, I wanted to go over my closest City and look into the changes it’s faced over time and how this has changed it’s identity. Historical changes to this medieval city have vastly changed the roads, networks and population and I wanted to look into this a bit more.
Looking at British History Archives, it’s clear there were some shifts through time that developed York – most recently being 1904-5 where a massive emigration happened due to locomotive works being shut down and this put a stop to road developments that were in place at that time. during 1825, the once Roman based, cobbled streets were beginning to be paved over and new streets being created, this developed over time towards the end of the Victorian Era. From 1910-1928, there was a major reconstruction of most York roads and signage reflecting the shift in population and modernisation of the City.
It’s also fascinating going back to the Roman era of the city – where multiple limestone plaques have been found during building works or excavations. I’ve put some examples below and focussed on the typography of these gorgeous items, despite them being digital versions.
These three are placed in the Yorkshire Museum so unfortunately I can’t get hold of the pictures of the real objects – unless anyone knows how? They’re not on the Yorkshire Museum site!
There’s also a vast number of ghost signs that are from either pictures I’ve taken during my time living here or i’ve snapped from Google Earth. Being an estate agent in a previous chapter of my life, I’d become so so used to these signs, some of them just became part of the city wayfinding (at the John Smith sign turn right etc):
Finally, probably the most famous Ghost Signs in York – the Bile Beans sign. It’s been recently updated with the addition of a sign to advertise the local theatre which is quite inventive, if not a tad ugly!
I live in Osbaldwick, about 3 miles outside of the city walls. I knew nothing much about this village until this task which is embarrassing!
Osbaldwick is a medieval village, it’s semi-rural and has been around since the 11th Century. It was also mentioned in Doomsday and was named a Conservation Area in 1978. There have been a number of developments to the area – more recently the extended housing development built in the 1950’s (one of which I live in, it was previously owned by a gentleman who had bought this house in 1951 having served in the war). Then came a large 2006 development followed by a large eco-development in 2007.
There are some very old buildings interspersed with modern properties but there is the 12th Century church next to the beck that runs through the village. The street called Moatfield is so named because of it’s location – on the old Osbaldwick Manor house that was surrounded by it’s own moat.
The village was most altered by expansion of the York suburbs from the 1920s with the
clearance of the inner city slum areas. The population of the village rose from between 120
and 260 individuals in the 19th century but the new estates to the south and west of the
village increased the population to nearly 2000 by 1931 and by 1986 it was nearly 3000.
Over the next few days I’m hoping to go around the village and record old and new letterforms and signage based around this small locality, rather than going into the city.
Examples of letterforms in Osbaldwick:
Of course, I couldn’t stop at 10 so I’ve put a little slideshow here with the other letter forms found around my village:
MU – Wooden sign stating : MURTON WAY. The wooden textures on this sign really add to the ageing of the lettering. A number of other signs are written in this same form and on wood, suggesting this is one of the main characteristics through the village. The signs all seem to be for more “individual” places which are very historical such as the vilage of Murton, or pinfold based at the south of an old Moated manor. For me, this sign shows the beauty in weathering over time rather than suggesting historical changes.
An old, hidden sewerage signpost – Again this is a very similar letterform and I find it really beautiful. Stonecarvers in York were known across the country and it’s still practiced today at the minster. I struggled to find much out about this but I really love the detail and the slight weathering to this letter. This sign sits next to what would have been the old Light Railway running through the village – this was ended in 1928 and by 1946, developments began alongside the old railway and it was paved over. This suggests the sewerage works would have been developed here to compensate for the new developments.
I love these older wayfinding finger posts – they haven’t been repainted or cared for in a long time but looking at the information, Millenium Way suggests these posts are approximately 20 years old. This path also lies on an old 1920s railway but sadly all traces of this have been removed. These fingerpost signs are dotted around the village, despite York City’s fingerpost signs having all been updated recently. The peeling paint within the carved lettering gives a faded sense to the sign, as well as suggesting that perhaps York suburbs are not so well cared for.
This stencil 0 really stood out to me. It was so hidden and hard to find but I spotted it as we were looking for something else. Again with this one, I’m struggling to locate information – I’ts a really beautiful bit of ghost signage. I was hoping this would be approximately 70 years old with the very traditional stencilling pattern reminiscent of WWII styling. However, the CE marking appears to have become a legality in 2014 so perhaps this is much older. The stencilling markings are really striking and bold.
This gravestone lies on the floor path around the outside of the church. These gravestones are predominately limestone which explains the erosion of this stone. The weathering on the stone hints to the age of the grave which, from analysing the details, was from the 19th Century (1800s). Having researched further, I’ve found an excavation document showing the age of this stone to be 1878. The growth of moss and other plants around the letter aids the sign of aging and gives a beautiful aspect to an otherwise morbid form of lettering.