Ten things you didn’t know about village signs
PUBLISHED: 10:27 12 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:27 12 January 2020
One of Norfolk’s gifts to the nation, the village sign began in Norfolk in the early 20th century, but did you know some of the fascinating history which lies within their colourful emblems?
1. The first village signs appeared on the Sandringham Estate after Edward VII suggested that they would help motorists and add a bit of character to the estate's many surrounding villages.
2. It was George VI who took village signs from Norfolk and decided to roll them out across the country in 1920, after giving a speech to the Royal Academy about their benefits. The first village signs outside of Norfolk were designed in a competition ran by the Daily Mail which awarded a £2,000 prize to the ten winners, whose signs were displayed at Australia House in London.
3. The village sign at Bablingley features a family of three beavers to commemorate the legend of a family of beavers who rescued a saint in the village and was ordained for his troubles. According to the story, a ship carrying Saint Felix was nearly wrecked near the village during a storm in 631AD. The vessel was saved by a family of beavers from the village who helped guide it to safe harbour. In gratitude, St Felix ordained the head of the family.
4. Worstead village sign features a sheep in front of the village's St Mary the Virgin Church. The sheep's presence on the sign is to represent Worstead's yarn making past, which saw Belgian weavers settle in the village.
5. There's romance in the air at the village sign in Topcroft, which features a picture of Margery Brews, composing what is believed to be the oldest surviving Valentine's message in English. The message was written at Topcroft hall in 1477.
6. While Hilgay's village sign appears to depict the village's church being attacked, the sign's cannon actually represents a Manby Mortar, invented by Captain George William Manby to rescue passengers from ships in distress. Despite being Great Yarmouth born, Captain Manby is buried in All Saints Church in Hilgay. The sign is not the only tribute to him, he also has a Toby Carvery in Gorleston named after him.
7. Village signs are still being made today. One of the newest village signs in the county is at Bessingham, which unveiled its first village sign in 2012, costing a whopping £3,000.
8. Not all village signs are made of wood, one sign in Capel St Andrew in Suffolk is a scrap metal sculpture which stands in front of a barn.
9. Perhaps the king of village signs is Harry Carter, in 1929 he designed the town sign for his home town Swaffham and designed over 200 signs in his lifetime up until his death in 1983.
10. The man standing over a group of farm animals on the Bawburgh village sign is in fact St Walstan, the patron saint of farm workers. St Walstan was born in the village to parents of noble birth, but forsake all riches in pursuit of his faith.
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