Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The Road to Ditchling

Braving the dark world that is Southern trains, I ventured off to Ditchling on Saturday. Not the biggest place on the planet, with only 2,000 residents, Ditchling is best known for its artistic and typographic connections, and more recently for its Museum of Art + Craft.

Ditchling, in East Sussex, was for a time the home of Eric Gill, one of Britain's best sculptors and typographers, and to Edward Johnston the typographer. Ditchling is thus the birth place of both the Gill Sans typeface and of the Johnston typeface used on the London Underground.

(For an excellent introduction to both typefaces, see the recent book "Johnston & Gill - Very British Types" by Mark Ovenden [Lund Humphries, 2016])

As the museum is currently holding an exhibition on the work of Eric Gill, it was time for a visit.

The typeface of the sign is of course Gill Sans.

Rail access to Ditchling is via Hassocks station, across the border in West Sussex, and then a pleasant 20 minute walk to the village.

The station, rebuilt in 2013, has no clock, and so the first (of very few) clocks seen on the road to Ditchling is at Hassocks Infant School.

The clock was installed to commemorate the millennium, although is a standard design and is now slightly obscured by its deteriorating cover.

 Nice gate though.

Along the road is the cricket pitch behind the Keymer community centre.

The view of their clock is a bit distant as I didn't want to traipse across their nice grass, especially for what is a fairly plain clock.

 The third and final clock is on St Margaret's church in Ditchling. The current building dates from the 12th century, but is built on a much older site of worship.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


I have never quite got to grips with the concept of Stoke-on-Trent, which is a major city in the form of six towns amalgamated together. Sort of. Going there for the first time on a flying visit didn't really help, and I think you would need to stay in the city for several days just to get your head around the basic geography.

It has the industrial heritage / decline of so many cities, but without much of the shiny new redevelopment. As Matthew Rice says in the introduction to his excellent book on the city*, "Stoke should be lovely but it's not".

[* "The Lost City of Stoke on Trent" - Matthew Rice. Frances Lincoln Ltd (2010)]

This posting is confined to just one of the six towns (unless I inadvertently strayed into another) - Hanley, which forms what can be seen as the city centre.

Our first clock is on the side of Lloyd's Bank in Fountain Square.

The back of the clock gives its date away as being 1936.

 Just around the corner in Market Square is the Girobank clock.

As can be seen by the plaque at the base of the column, the clock was presented by Girobank in 1988. Perhaps someone will celebrate its 30th birthday next year.

One of the things I like about Stoke is that it brings together into one building the two "W" signed retailers that I often confuse from a distance - Waterstones and Wetherspoons.

The building in question is The Tontines, a former meat market opened in 1831. The market closed in 1987, and the building eventually ended up as a bookshop and pub.

The Wetherspoon's side of the building is called The Reginald Mitchell. Mr Mitchell was the aeronautical engineer for Supermarine Aviation, and is of course famed for designing the Spitfire. Born in 1895, he attended Hanley High School. I am happy to raise a pint or two to Reginald Mitchell.

From aircraft to airwaves. Net up is the home of BBC Radio Stoke on Cheapside. I like the design of the building, although the clock is a bit out of character.

Now it is not often you see a fish and chip shop with its own clock - I think this is the first example I have come across.

The Venus Fish Bar is on Lichfield Street, and comes complete (or perhaps that should be incomplete) with a one-handed clock. I am guessing that this building original housed something different - does anyone know?

But a one-handed clock is better than one with none at all!

This is St John the Evangelist on Town Road, a Grade II* listed building built in 1790. It is now empty and hemmed in by the Intu shopping centre.

The proximity and impact of the shopping centre can be judged by this next picture taken from the rooftop car park.

And finally, not a very exciting clock, but a very standard post office on Leek Road.

One day I hope to come back and cover the whole of Stoke-on-Trent. Perhaps if it becomes City of  Culture in 2021 which it is bidding for.