It’s a sign

Well, hun­dreds of signs ac­tu­ally. This is one man’s quest to log all Nor­folk’s vil­lage signs

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - Fol­low Andrew’s quest at www.face­book.com/sign­so­fanor­folk­sum­mer

FROM OUR sprawl­ing, bustling well known vil­lages to the tiny, se­cret ham­lets hid­den away largely un­heard of in the depths of the coun­try­side – they all have their own his­to­ries, mys­ter­ies and tales to tell.

And there is one thing that sym­bol­ises these com­mu­ni­ties’ sto­ries like no other, the hum­ble vil­lage sign.

For the past six months, Andrew Tul­lett has em­barked on his Signs of a Nor­folk Sum­mer pro­ject, cover­ing hun­dreds of miles by foot, cy­cle and car to pho­to­graph, log and in­ves­ti­gate the rich her­itage and folk­lore of Nor­folk’s fas­ci­nat­ing vil­lage signs.

“Our vil­lage signs rep­re­sent the largest free art exhibition in Nor­folk and col­lec­tively the signs de­pict the his­tory of al­most all the set­tle­ments in the county. These are very lo­cal his­to­ries and many of the sto­ries de­picted are not de­scribed in any of the main his­tor­i­cal texts writ­ten about Nor­folk,” he says.

He set out on his quest to pho­to­graph ev­ery vil­lage and town sign in Nor­folk – be­lieved to num­ber around 520 – dur­ing Bri­tish Sum­mer Time.

“There is no of­fi­cial list so no­body knows for sure. The only thing that ev­ery­one agrees on is that Nor­folk has far more vil­lage signs than any other county. Some of them are re­ally hard to find, some have been taken down, some are in a real state of dis­re­pair.

“These signs cost sev­eral thou­sands of pounds and are of­ten rich in his­tory, yet of­ten there are no records of them with the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. There is a mass of his­tory be­hind them and some of the signs are just plain bonkers with the most in­cred­i­ble sto­ries.”

Andrew, who is a for­mer teacher and lives in Nor­wich, says he got the idea for the pro­ject from his father, who had started to do some­thing sim­i­lar 20 years ago.

“I have no idea why dad started pho­tograph­ing vil­lage signs. I think ini­tially I thought he was a bit nuts, but then when I saw the pho­to­graphs again I be­came in­ter­ested and thought I would like to con­tinue his work. Now my chil­dren think I am mad, but I just say I col­lect vil­lage sign pho­to­graphs and they col­lect foot­ball cards, it’s no dif­fer­ent. I have re­vis­ited all the ones my dad did and it is sur­pris­ing as many have changed even in the last two decades.

We have had ju­bilees and the Mil­len­nium cel­e­bra­tions and ei­ther a new vil­lage sign, or adding some sort of plaque to an ex­ist­ing one are good ways to com­mem­o­rate these things. Of­ten it is also a time when com­mu­nity fund­ing is avail­able to do it.”

It has been a chal­leng­ing pro­ject due to the dis­tances in­volved but, says Andrew, he has dis­cov­ered places in Nor­folk he never even knew ex­isted.

“I have had to cover a con­sid­er­able dis­tance to get to some of the signs. I live in Nor­wich, so the ones in the far west of the county have been the most chal­leng­ing. The com­mute there and back takes a while, find­ing them can be tricky, and I need to be back in time for the school run! I have trav­elled over 2,700 miles in search of signs so far, cy­cling just over 520 miles and driv­ing most of the rest. I would have liked to have done more of them on my bike, but the dis­tances you need to cover in Nor­folk are ridicu­lous – do­ing this has been a real re­minder of the sheer size of our county.”

Andrew is hop­ing to put all the pho­to­graphs, de­scrip­tions and sto­ries to­gether in a book and his ad­ven­tures have been shared on a Face­book page through­out the sum­mer, with peo­ple help­ing solve some of the mys­ter­ies sur­round­ing some of the signs.

“I have been par­tic­u­larly keen to re­search the im­ages de­picted on each sign. I think it is a real shame that most do not come with an ex­pla­na­tion of what they show. Vil­lage signs are ex­pen­sive to pro­duce and usu­ally take a com­mu­nity a long time to or­gan­ise. They usu­ally look fan­tas­tic but visi­tors could ap­pre­ci­ate them even more if it was im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent what they were rep­re­sent­ing.”

“The dis­tances you need to cover in Nor­folk are ridicu­lous – do­ing this has been a real re­minder of the sheer size of our county”

Andrew Tul­lett

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