York Walks /3

Signs and symbols – part 1

Photographed in July & August 2004

On my wanders I've discovered a lot of signs of one kind or another (I don't mean in the mystical sense). Often I've got no other photos to go with them, so the signs are homeless. Which isn't good obviously, as by their nature they're intended to belong somewhere, so this page is a home for them in all their quirky loveliness.

Signs are usually to show the way – whether literally, or in a more spiritual sense, like the beautiful example on the right, a weathered painted sign at the church of St Philip & St James, Clifton. Sometimes they give useful information on what you're allowed to do, or, more often, not allowed to do. Sometimes they're just a bit odd, or quaint, and make you smile. York is full of signs, on walls, bridges, gates, and even underfoot.

  'A welcome for all' – sign at St Philip and St James, Clifton
Monkgate plaque – Yorkshire Buildings Preservation Trust   Monk Bridge Construction Co Ltd, York 1931

Above, left: I'd never noticed this sign on a wall on Monkgate, until I was out with my camera. The Yorkshire Buildings Preservation Trust plaque says: "19-21 Monkgate – These houses were restored for future generations to enjoy – 1984".
Above, right: reads "Monk Bridge Construction Co Ltd, York 1931, on the unappreciated but rather beautiful Monk Bridge, by the DEFRA building, Foss Islands Road. Unfortunately it's locked up, and we can't walk across it, but we can admire it.

This sign correctly indicates the name of the pub, but is really there just to add a certain something, perhaps an "olde worlde" charm.

Some years ago my mother popped in to the Olde White Swan while out shopping in town, because she noticed on the sign that it served "Porter", which she remembered was an old traditional drink. On asking at the bar for some "Porter", she was slightly embarrassed because they didn't know what she was talking about. She mentioned that it was advertised on the sign outside. The barman pointed out that it also said "Fresh hay and Wheelwright available".

  Ye olde sign – Old White Swan
Scarcroft Lane sign  

This sign is on a wall on Scarcroft Lane, which cuts through from Nunnery Lane towards Scarcroft School and the stray. I've got nothing amusing or informative to say about it, unfortunately. Except that I don't think this lane or wall belongs to me. Which is a shame.

And also – that obviously someone's going around repainting these old signs at regular intervals, which makes you think that society maybe isn't sliding into hopeless anarchy after all.

On the gates to the walkway, Fishergate Bar, and I guess they're on all the gates to all the walkways on the walls, though it's a detail I never noticed. The image may be familiar to anyone who has the excellent guide to York – The York Book – as it features on the cover.

  City of York
Railway Institute sign: cycles and dogs not admitted

Signs in the Railway Institute premises, on Queen Street, of the "rules and regs" variety. The one on the left conjures images of an anarchic jumble of cyclists and barking dogs all trying to get into the RI gym.

Railway Institute private parking sign
CoYC – private property – keep out  

Another officious sign, rather battered, like the gates it's attached to. This isn't my side of town so I was a little confused about what was what, but I think this is the Moss Street Depot, a former council depot which has been disused for a long while now, and the subject of many plans and discussions regarding its future. It would make a nice walled garden for the local community, but I expect it might end up being a big heap of flats. Apparently we need about 50 million of these in York within the next 6 months.

Update – shortly after I photographed the rusty gates and the bent sign, they were gone. Demolition and development had begun – see York Walks /3: Changes.

Handy conversion table, provided by British Rail. On a wall in a rather abandoned looking rail workshop site off Leeman Road. (See York's other railway museum.)

Part of an area soon to be redeveloped, so this, and all other things, will be swept away in the redevelopment. It's not beautiful, but it was no doubt useful, or was intended to be. I like the little footnote: "If in doubt, ask your supervisor". I was a bit doubtful myself about many things, like whether I was trespassing and in danger of being inadvertently locked in, but there was no supervisor visible.

  BR conversion chart

This sign seems to belong with the one above, I thought, when compiling this page. "Can't sleep? Talk to the Good Shepherd" is rather like "If in doubt ask your supervisor".

I'm an agnostic, personally, so I'm more interested in the exterior of churches and their history, rather than what's going on inside of them. But as I'm wandering around I can't help but notice that they are being welcoming and helpful. This sign was discovered by the doorway of St Barnabas church, Leeman Road.

  Sign on St Barnabas Church, Leeman Road

This page was entitled signs and symbols, and here's a symbol rather than a sign. Glimpsed over a garden wall on Groves Lane, on a sunny Sunday morning in August, a toy windmill, which obliging whizzed round as I passed, in a cheery kind of way. A symbol of summertime, that comes with a wish that you're all having a good one.

  Happy toy windmill, Groves Lane