Trade Signage and Literature – More in Common Than You Might Think!By Matthew Stratten

dickens dog and pot sign

You might just think of trade signs as a stationary advertisement for your business, projecting your branding and promoting your restaurant or retail unit on the highstreet. But for some it can mean a whole lot more.

Last month saw The Charles Dickens Museum open its latest exhibition; A City Observed. It features three shop signs and looks at the impact the signs had on Dickens’ writings, and his representation of Victorian London.

In the exhibition you’ll find the dog and pot sign that had been advertising Anthony Walker’s ironmonger’s shop for 160 years, and which began its life around the 1720s, before being installed officially in 1780. Since then it has found itself in a number of museums and exhibitions, including the Cuming Museum.

Then there’s the Little Wooden Midshipman and the Goldbeater’s Arm. Both advertised businesses in The City, with the Little Wooden Midshipman advertising an optical instrument maker, and the Goldbeater’s Arm held a hammer outside a house in Soho where a character in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ lived. You’ll also find a rare dog and pot coal hole cover, which was only recently removed from Colombo Street.

While Dickens was living in London, it was the city itself that inspired much of his writing – which included the details he observed during his long walks around the capital’s streets. It was this urban environment, and the signage that decorated its architecture, that appeared in much of his writings, whether it was in his work as a journalist or his own novels.

The Charles Dickens Museum is located in Dickens’s former town house, where he lived from 1837 until 1839. A City Observed is open until 15th November 2014. For more information on this shop sign exhibition, visit the Charles Dickens Museum website:

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