Seventy at Seventy

Life Begins at 70

Leave a comment

[50] Jessant-de-lys Reversed

[50] Jessant-de-lys Reversed – A Blog about Heraldry

I wanted to say a bit about heraldry after a brief allusion in Tewkesbury Banners.

Heraldry used to be for individual men and families but we see it more often now for towns, counties and organisations. [Sorry but heraldry is very sexist. Women were not considered relevant until very recently.]

I won’t say much about where I found these pictures. It’s more of a general introduction to heraldry.

The Arms of Cheltenham

The official blazon granted to the town of Cheltenham in 1877 is as follows: Arms: Or a Chevron engrailed Gules between two Pigeons in chief and an Oak Tree eradicated in base proper on a Chief Azure a Cross flory Argent between two open Books also proper binding and clasps of the first. Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours upon a Mount between two Branches of Oak a Fountain thereon a Pigeon all proper. Motto: ‘SALUBRITAS ET ERUDITIO’

You could write the blazon in more modern English as: Arms: Gold with a wavy red chevron. Two pigeons above the chevron and an oak tree with its roots exposed below it in their natural colours. A blue area at the top has a silver cross with flowery ends between two open books with gold bindings and clasps. Crest: A wreath of gold and red (taken from the arms) with a crest of two oak sprigs and a pigeon on a ball of water. Motto: Health and learning (Latin.)

[The representation of water with wavy blue and white is so common that it has its own heraldicword – ‘a Fountain.’]

You can see the meaning of the arms when you understand the story that the spa waters were supposedly discovered after observing pigeons at a local spring. The blue background at the top represents the spa waters; the cross is the cross of Edward the Confessor who once owned much of the land that is now Cheltenham; and the books incorporate the learning as a result of the establishment of the Ladies College and the College for boys. The oak symbolizes Cheltenham’s position, both historical and today, as one of Britain’s foremost garden towns.

You see these arms around the town, not just representing the town but displaying the authority of Cheltenham Borough Council.

You will notice that colours are not defined beyond a single word. The yellow described as ‘Or’ originally represented gold so it may have a metallic sheen or it may be anything from a pale yellow to brown. You can even engrave the arms in stone without any use of colour!

Hereford Arms

There is a strange division in the Church where the Dean and Chapter hold a cathedral while the Bishop as pastor of his diocese or ‘see’ visits the cathedral only on the invitation of the Chapter. At Hereford Cathedral the arms of the Cathedral and those of the Bishop are given equal prominence.

I can’t trace the arms of the Cathedral (Or five chevronels azure) but the Bishop of Hereford has unusual arms derived from Bishop Thomas Cantilupe in the Thirteenth Century. They are Gules, three leopard’s faces jessant-de-lys reversed Or. [The leopards have fleur-de-lys emerging from their faces and are upside-down.]

As you wander round Hereford you will also spot the arms of the city and its surrounding county.

The City of Hereford has Arms: Gules three Lions passant guardant in pale Argent on a Bordure Azure ten Saltires of the second. Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours a Lion passant guardant Argent holding in the dexter paw a Sword erect proper hilt and pomel Or.

The arms were recorded (without the ‘bordure,’) at the Visitations of 1569 and 1634, and were augmented with crest and supporters in 1645. Hereford bore on an early seal the Royal Arms of Richard I, who gave the City its first Royal Charter in 1189. These were three gold lions on a red background, later to become the Royal Arms of England. [See below.] Hereford seems to have coloured the lions silver to create a distinctive (but unauthorized) coat of arms. The rest of the design, the border with ten saltires, dates from 1645 when the City supported the King during the civil war and kept the Cromwellian troops at bay for approximately five weeks. King Charles I was delighted and visited the City in order to thank them personally. He dined at the Bishop’s Palace and at the end of this dinner he is alleged to have made the Grant of the Coat of Arms, which the City of Hereford now possesses. The lions surrounded by saltires, or St Andrew’s Crosses, represent the Royalist forces hemmed in by the insurgent Scots.

The County of Herefordshire has Arms: Gules on a Fesse wavy between in chief a Lion passant guardant Argent and in base a Herefordshire Bull’s Head caboshed proper a Bar wavy Azure.

The arms were officially granted in 1946 to the Herefordshire County Council and re-adopted in 1998 by the new County of Herefordshire District Council.

The red background is taken form the arms of the City of Hereford and also represents the red earth of Herefordshire. The silver lion is from the arms of the City of Hereford, and in base is a Herefordshire Bull’s head. The silver and blue wave represents the River Wye.

Oxford – City, County and University

The arms of the City of Oxford recorded in 1634 from a Fourteenth Century seal are based on the heraldic device of ‘canting,’ showing an ox crossing a ford! Arms: Argent an Ox Gules armed and unguled Or passing over a Ford of Water in base barry wavy Azure and Argent.

The county arms of Oxfordshire, granted in 1976, represent the Thames and its tributaries with elements of nature (the oak tree) and agriculture. In heraldry a ‘garb’ is a sheaf of wheat. They were still seen in 1976 before automated harvesting machines took over. Arms: Azure two Bendlets wavy Argent between in chief a Garb Or and in base an Oak Tree fructed Or.


The University of Oxford also has its Arms: Azure, an open book proper, edged and garnished Or, leathered gules, pendent from the dexter side thereof seven seals gold, the pages inscribed ‘Dominus illuminatio mea’, the whole between three open crowns also gold.

As for Cheltenham, books are associated with learning. The inscription of the book has varied from time to time; it currently reads ‘Dominus illuminatio mea’ or ‘The Lord is my light.’

You will notice the modern trend to simplify heraldry into simplified logos.

Here we have city and university together.

The University consists of about forty colleges and halls, each with its own arms. I bought myself a postcard to help me with identification but it doesn’t show them all.

I did manage to spot Magdalen College Oxford in this strangely reversed version done in a cut glass pattern on a transparent door.

You can probably do the blazon for yourself. It’s Lozengy ermine and sable, on a chief of the second three lilies argent slipped and seeded or. [Don’t worry about ‘slipped and seeded.’ Heraldry likes to put in tiny details like seeds, tongues and claws.]

I wasn’t sure about the next two. (Ignore the two on the left and right.)

Both are University College, Oxford. Wikipedia conveniently gives the blazon: Azure, a cross patonce between four [sometimes five] martlets or.

If you were wondering about the cross, which looks ‘flory’ like the Cheltenham arms above, then Wikipedia also notes – a cross fleury (or flory) is a cross adorned at the ends with flowers. It generally contains fleur-de-lis, trefoils, etc. Synonyms or minor variants include fleuretty, fleuronny, floriated and flourished. In early armory it is not consistently distinguished from the cross patonce.

Martlets are common in heraldry. They are birds, something like swallows, but without feet.


All Souls College (officially The Warden and the College of the Souls of All Faithful People Deceased in the University of Oxford) is unusual in that all of its members automatically become Fellows. It has no undergraduate members, but each year recent graduates of the university and graduates of other universities now registered as postgraduate students at Oxford are eligible to apply for Examination Fellowships through a competitive examination (once described as “the hardest exam in the world”) and, for the several shortlisted after the examinations, an interview.

Its arms entered at the Visitation of 1574 are: Or, a chevron between three cinquefoils gules.

Royal Arms

As we have seen above, the Royal Arms of England started with Richard I as: Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or armed and langued azure. (Red, three gold lions, walking with one paw raised, sideways but with their heads turned to look at the viewer, lined vertically above each other, with blue claws and tongues.)

Since then there have been several changes, adding the arms of France (later removed) and Scotland (the single lion with a very complicated border – a double tressure flory-counter-flory) and Ireland. The arms of the United Kingdom can now be blazoned simply as Quarterly 1 and 4 England 2 Scotland 3 Ireland.

This one dates from Elizabeth I or possibly earlier and is Quarterly France modern and England. (France ancient had lots of fleur-de-lys, not just three.)

Next from the Seventeenth Century, two quarters are Quarterly France modern and England. The others are Scotland and Ireland.

You probably can’t see the details in the next pictures but they are for George V so they have lost the French parts. They must be Quarterly 1 and 4 England 2 Scotland 3 Ireland.

The motif of the England national football team has three lions passant guardant, as in the English arms but the lions are blue. In 1949 when the FA was given an official coat of arms by the College of Arms that includes ten Tudor roses, one for each of the regional branches of the FA.


Bournemouth has an interesting coat of arms using just two colours. The blazon, granted in 1891, is quite complicated (but the important word is ‘counterchanged’) Arms: Quarterly Or and Azure a Cross flory between a Lion rampant holding between the paws a Rose in the first and fourth quar­ters six Martlets two two and two in the second and four Salmons naiant and in pale in the third all counterchanged. Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours upon a Mount Vert a Pine Tree proper in front four Roses fessewise Or. Motto: ‘PULCHRITUDO ET SALUBRITAS’ – Beauty and health.

[OK, I will try to re-order the words and translate and expand the blazon to make sense: Divided into quarters of gold and blue. A cross with flowery ends covers the shield. On the first and fourth quarters a lion holding a rose. On the second quarter six footless birds arranged as two by three. On the third quarter four salmon vertically aligned and swimming horizontally. Everything is just gold and blue with counter-changing.]

The arms are based on the Royal Arms of King Edward the Confessor, in whose Royal estate the area now known as Bournemouth was situated. The four salmon represent the River Stour, which marks the boundary between Christchurch and Bournemouth. The roses in the paws of the lions are the English roses and are also a part of the arms of the county of Hampshire.

The Russel-Cotes Museum at Bournemouth was given by Mervyn Russel-Cotes, who was the Mayor of Bournemouth to his wife – so it has this arrangement with the arms of Bournemouth and, presumably, those of Russel-Cotes. I’m not sure how it manages three helmets and crests!

Diversion – Istria

The Istrian peninsular has a long and complicated history. It now spans the countries of Croatia, Slovenia and Italy but it was founded in 1062 as an independent state, then acquired by the patriarchs of Aquileja, and in the late Thirteenth Century it became part of the State of Venice. It still uses the arms used by the Doges of Venice.

I can’t find a blazon but I would describe it as: Azure a goat Or armed and unglued Gules.

We went to the town of Koper now in Slovenia. Its old city, which used to be an island, keeps the Italian name of Capodistria (formerly Capo D’Istria) and uses its old arms.

It’s not unknown to show a face on a star. This one looks like a Molet of eight points over an Estoile of eight points although I suspect it is blazoned in Croatian as a star. The arms were not granted until 1997 but have been used at least since the Nineteenth Century. In the past it has been shown as a Medusa head, which may either be the original arms (from which the sun was derived), or a misinterpretation of the sun.

They were so fond of this star that they used it on the pavement to mark a walk round the historic city.

More Arms in England

You can find coats of arms on signs in many places. Apart from those for towns, counties and universities they may represent independent schools or even be used as pub signs.


Sadly English pubs are disappearing rapidly or becoming restaurants. Those that are left change their names and very few still have pictorial pub signs – and some of the signs are not very good. The sign for the Kings Arms above does not represent any king. You will be able to do the blazon yourself by now as: Quarterly ermine and gules. An Internet search reveals these arms as appearing in the heraldry of the Bedford Chapel, Chenies Buckinghamshire for a man called Stanhope.

The town of Tewkesbury seems to avoid using its full arms perhaps to concentrate on its displayed banners. I did find this ‘Castle proper,’ which is a small part of the full shield.

I will end with more examples. You may be able to identify some of them.


Heraldic Terms

Here is a brief heraldic dictionary to help you. I have only included words I have used (including some from the Tewkesbury Banners blog post) and I have simplified some definitions.

Achievement – a full set of arms. The shield or ‘escutcheon’ often called the ‘arms’ has a helmet (or crown etc.) topped by a ‘torse’ (a circle of twisted material in two colours) and a ‘crest’ with ‘supporters’ at each side and ‘mantling’ behind. All of this is on a ‘compartment’ and a ‘motto.’ Most of my pictures just show the shield.

Argent – strictly ‘silver’ but in practice usually ‘white.’

Armed – with horns.

Azure – blue. It can be any shade of blue.

Bar – a thinner form of Fess, hence ‘barry’ meaning in horizontal strips.

Bend – a diagonal stripe. (Bend Sinister goes the other way.)

Bendlet – a thinner bend.

Bezant – a Roundel Or, representing a coin.

Blazon – the official heraldic description in a mixture of English and old French often with unexpected word order and no punctuation.

Bordure – a border all the way round the shield.

Caboshed – cut so that only the face shows.

Chief – a block along the top of the shield, hence ‘in chief’ meaning ‘at the top.’

Chevron – an inverted ‘V’ shape.

Chevronel – a narrow chevron.

Counter-changed – a term that normally means that the two sides of a shield are almost identical mirror images but with the colours reversed. (You can also have quarters counter-changed.)

Crest – part of the complex Achievement of arms, usually on a torse covering a helmet.

Cross flory or patonce – a cross with shaped ends. (There are many different forms of cross.)

Dexter – right, from the perspective of the wearer, so left on the page! [Stage Right – Audience Left!]

Engrailed or Invected are like Wavy but with points on one side. (There are many forms of modified edges.)

Eradicated – of a tree, torn up by its roots. (Similarly animal heads may be ‘erased.’)

Ermine – a kind of fur represented as white (argent) with regularly spaced black (sable) tails.

Fess – a block across the middle.

First – ‘Of the first’ means the first colour to be mentioned in the blazon.

Fountain – a Roundel Barry Wavy Azure and Or, usually representing water.

Fretty – with a basket-like criss-cross pattern.

Fructed – with fruit.

Garb – a sheaf of corn.

Gules – red.

Indented – a zig-zag version of ‘wavy.’

Jessant-de-lys with a fleur-de-lys coming from its mouth.

Lozenge – a diamond shape. Lozengy means a diagonal checked pattern.

Martlet – a bird without feet.

Molet or Mullet – a star with straight edges, usually of five points. (An estoile has wavy edges.)

Naiant – swimming. It just means that the fish is horizontal.

Nebuly – a more ornate form of Wavy. It’s even wavier.

Or – gold or yellow.

Pale – A stripe down the middle, hence ‘in pale’ means vertically aligned in the middle. ‘Per pale’ means divided by a vertical line.

Passant guardant – one of many way a lion can stand. (Salient is another.)

Quarterly – it can mean divided into quarters but you can have a ‘quarterly of six’ or other numbers.

Reversed – upside down.

Roundel – a small circle.

Sable – black.

Saltire – a diagonal cross.

Sinister – left. See ‘Dexter.’

Supporters – animals shown at the sides of a shield.

Torteau – roundel Gules (tart.)

Unguled – with hooved feet.

Vair – a blue and white pattern supposedly representing the skins of squirrels.

Wavy – as it says, wavy, not a straight line.


As well as Wikipedia I have taken some of my information from Heraldry of the World at


Leave a comment

[51] Funny But It’s True

[51] Funny But It’s True – A Pictorial Blog of Pedestrian Signs

When I thought of signs I certainly included road signs and street signs in my ideas. But the signs for motorists weren’t quite so easy. I saw lots of them while driving or as a passenger but I wasn’t going to take pictures from moving cars. I do a lot of walking and here are lots of signs for pedestrians. I have included signs aimed at cyclists because often we share the same facilities.

I start with the Thames Path as I’ve done a few sections of it this year. I could have taken many, many more such pictures:

Here are some more footpath signs. Some of them tell you where you are going but some don’t. You will notice lots of other long distance paths sometimes two or three together on the same footpath.

Although we think of footpaths as rural some signs with paths for pedestrians are now found in towns.

The next ones don’t so much go anywhere. They are short usually circular walks taking you on little nature trails.

As a diversion here are some aimed at cyclists.

A few signs aimed mostly at tourists and then some for walkers (and cyclists) that don’t actually point out where to go.


I was going to do a post just about maps but I decided that maps were for pedestrians. They are not useful for passing motorists. Here are some maps from some of the places I have visited over the year at home and abroad.

I spent a lot of time considering the title for this blog. I have gone for one of my early heart-throbs. Helen Shapiro, born in the same year as me, released a song in 1961 when she was fifteen. ‘Walkin’ Back to Happiness’ made number one on the charts for three weeks. It’s vaguely about walking.


Funny but it’s true what loneliness can do

Since I’ve been away I have loved you more each day

Walking back to happiness, woopah, oh, yeah, yeah

Said goodbye to loneliness, woopah, oh, yeah, yeah

I never knew I’d miss you now I know what I must do

Walking back to happiness I shared with you


[Yes, in those days they really had little bits like ‘Woopah oh yeah yeah.’ ]






Leave a comment

[58] Danger of Death

[58] Danger of Death – A Pictorial Blog of Cheltenham Signs

You know something about Cheltenham from its blog. When I walked round the town recently for pictures I didn’t just look at buildings and street views. I looked at the signs.

This blog is just some of the signs you can see in Cheltenham. I could have taken hundreds more. They are in order so you can track my progress by comparing this with the Cheltenham blog.

(I came up with the idea months ago when I took lots of pictures of Slimbridge signs. I kept them in reserve but decided to try a similar theme on a sunnier day.)

Here are the pictures. If you look closely you can almost see me reflected in a few signs on glass.

I have some more pictures of Cheltenham signs in the other blogs about Signs.



Leave a comment

[59] Get a Free Sausage

[59] Get a Free Sausage – Another Pictorial Blog about Signs

I had so many signs left and I put the mostly uninspiring ones into [56] Information Signs.

The ones here need to be read more carefully. There are warnings you might not expect to see, information you might not expect and sometimes wording that is deliberately or accidentally amusing.

Mostly this will be signs for you to read in a random order without comment. I have cropped some pictures and for a few I have adjusted the contrast to make them more readable.

There are just a few at he beginning that need some comments.

The sign above identifies a bridge over a railway line. I have no idea how the half crept in.

This relatively modern ‘foundation stone’ seems to reflect the belief once held in the Church that God created the World in 4000 BC.

(It’s funnier when you see it in the back of a car.)

Found somewhere to take the children around Hallowe’en.

It’s a very famous, old Latin word square. You can read it vertically or horizontally.

We thought it meant something like ‘no busking’ but it says ‘No pedestrian entrance – please use the lower entrance.’ It’s Croatian.

Another one from Croatia. I think it means park in the direction shown, at right angles to the street.

For the rest, read on …

Now you know where the title came from!


Leave a comment

[56] SO 651 014

[56] SO 651 014 – A Pictorial Blog about Information Signs

I always knew that I could photograph hundreds of signs easily so I just took pictures. Soon I had enough for several blogs but I had the problem of classifying them and splitting into blog posts.

[52] Pavement Signs and [53] Road Surface signs were easy and I soon came up with [55] House Numbers. I was never sure of the rest and I had to see if I had enough for some of my ideas. Well, [54] Plaques and [57] Picture Signs turned out to be workable topics and I looked at the rest.

For the five remaining blog posts about Signs I have four slightly interesting topics to come and this one represents everything else. Most of the pictures are signs that you might not notice and would probably not want to read in detail. They tell you where you are, what you can do or, more often, what you can’t do.

Here are a series of signs in fairly random order without comment. You can look out for some of them in Croatian or French or Welsh or maybe in two or more languages. I have just a few at the start which are further categorized.

The Ordnance Survey (OS) maps worked on a national system of Grid References and these are still used as one way of recording location, especially when recording natural flora and fauna. I take my title from the sign above showing the location of Lydney Dock. Here are two more Grid References on signs and a Trigonometric Point. Trig points were used on OS maps recording height as well as location.

Food and Drink

Places making and selling food and drink have always advertised their wares.

Now we still have signs about food for pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream.

Here are the rest of my signs without comment. You can read what they say.






Leave a comment

[57] Worth a Thousand Words

[57] Worth a Thousand Words – A Blog about Signs without Words

I am going to start this one with the bit about the title that usually goes at the end of the blog. I have to admit that I thought the origin of the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words” was an old Chinese saying but it’s history is complicated and I take my information, as always from Wikipedia, which say that it is ‘an English idiom.’

The expression “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” appears in a 1911 newspaper article quoting newspaper editor Tess Flanders discussing journalism and publicity. A similar phrase, “One Look Is worth a thousand words”, appears in a 1913 newspaper advertisement for the Piqua Auto Supply House of Piqua, Ohio. An early use of the exact phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” appears in a 1918 newspaper advertisement for the San Antonio Light.

Perhaps the modern use of the phrase stems from an article by Fred R. Barnard in the advertising trade journal Printers’ Ink, promoting the use of images in advertisements that appeared on the sides of streetcars. The December 8, 1921, issue carries an advertisement entitled, “One Look is Worth a Thousand Words.” Another advertisement by Barnard appeared in 1927 with the phrase “One Picture Worth Ten Thousand Words”, where it was labeled as a Chinese proverb. The Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Familiar Phrases quotes Barnard as saying he called it “a Chinese proverb, so that people would take it seriously.” The proverb soon became popularly attributed to Confucius.

The actual Chinese expression “Hearing something a hundred times isn’t better than seeing it once” () is sometimes considered as an equivalent.

Despite this modern origin of the popular phrase, the sentiment has been expressed by earlier writers. For example, the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev wrote in Fathers and Sons in 1861, “The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book.” The quote is sometimes attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, who said “A good sketch is better than a long speech” (Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours.)

[I won’t confuse you by considering ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,’ a genuine Chinese saying attributed to Lao Tzu.]

It does, of course, mean that a complex idea may be conveyed with just a single still image, perhaps more effectively than a long description in words. In a strange way when we use pictures as symbols the opposite is true. A detailed picture is used to replace a statement of a few words.

The green gross is an internationally recognized term for what we used to call a Chemist. Now it’s sometimes called a Pharmacy – somewhere that dispenses controlled drugs. As a symbol it just represents one word.

The next just means ‘Litter Bin.’ (At least it does in the UK. Americans may call it a ‘Trash Can.’ Perhaps in a way the picture says a little more.)

The next two again replace what could have been one-word signs in an amusing way. With typical British euphemism and politeness we don’t say ‘Toilets,’ and we generally prefer ‘Gentlemen’ and ‘Ladies’ to ‘Men’ and ‘Women.’ Sometimes pubs have more amusing ideas such as ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ (or in seaside towns I have seen ‘Buoys’ and ‘Gulls.’) These pictures say the same thing.

Here are two more symbols, both just a little more than a symbol. The horse-shoe outside a house was presumable a token of good luck and the trigonometric point, used long ago to aid map-making, had to be enduring and fixed.

The next two large pictures are like signs to show a bird hide. They were very large and made the purpose of the little wooden building very obvious.

But the hide did actually also have its name on a sign in letters – in English and Welsh. So perhaps the birds were just pictures.

Traffic Signs

I am doing this blog, as I generally do, in a fairly random order, and next we have some traffic lights. Even a simple red or green circular light is a picture sign.

By the gates at level crossings we have flashing lights (and accompanying noises.)

There are various versions of pedestrian lights. Some are small, others are larger on the other side of the street.


(It’s easier to photograph the red signs. I feel I ought to cross when they are green.)

Some include cycle crossings and so include a picture of a cycle.

[I am not sure why something bright red turns out to be more or less white when photographed with a red or orange border. Perhaps it’s a trick of perception or perhaps the camera does strange things with bright lights.]

Here are some more symbols on roads, pedestrian and cycle paths and car parks.

Logos and Advertising

All logos are pictures without words. They are instantly recognizable and may convey more than just the name. Where we don’t know who is selling sometimes a picture shows us what is for sale in an attempt to invoke impulse buying.

I wanted to do a lot of pub signs. When I was young all pubs had pictures as signs. We used to play Pub Cricket on long journeys. Now most of the pubs have gone, most of those that are left have become restaurants and the remaining country pubs have nearly all lost their pictorial signs.


A few more picture signs without comment.

Crosses and Flags are symbolic picture signs.

A Little Story

Almost hidden away in Cheltenham’s High Street is a series of mosaic pictures showing the story of an elephant that supposedly escaped from a circus in the town. The first bits of the words of the story have been removed but here are the pictures.

[I am not sure that these are signs but I wanted to include them somewhere!]

Weather Vanes

I wasn’t quite sure where to put these but they are signs and they are pictures.

Many of my photographs have been heavily cropped for this blog to show just the sign.

I will end with one of my shots of pedestrian traffic lights.

You have to be careful with photographing glass surfaces. You can see me with my camera, camera case and shopping bag!


Leave a comment

[54] Kilroy was Here

[54] Kilroy was Here – a Pictorial Blog about Plaques

Any one my age will recognize this title. When I was young graffiti was non-existent by today’s standards. Now we have freely available spray paint in many colours. Back then we had white chalk for drawing and pen-knives, which could be used for engraving wood and sometimes stone walls. If you did see any graffiti, which was unusual, it was probably just a name, perhaps with a date.

I am indebted to Wikipedia for a fairly extensive description of this phenomenon. I will give a more concise summary.

The graffiti ‘Kilroy was Here’ appeared and spread in World War II, and was instantly recognizable. Often it was accompanied by a doodle of the character Chad. Origins of both are disputed but Kilroy seems to have come from GIs (American soldiers) in the Forties. Chad is of slightly earlier UK origin, possible from the RAF or a British cartoonist.

I wish I could show you a picture of Chad – but for this blog I have foresworn the use of pictures – allowing only those taken by me during this year. He appears as the top half of a bald head (possibly with a single curly hair) peering over a wall. His long nose comes down over the wall and his two hands are at the sides as if he is pulling himself up to look over the wall. In an age of rationing Chad sometimes had the slogan ‘Wot, no sugar?’ (Or other commodity) before he became so associated with Kilroy.

I am not going to talk about graffiti. I am going to talk about signs that appear on walls.


Before I started this I thought that blue plaques were a straightforward countrywide phenomenon but I soon found out that things are not so simple. Once again Wikipedia has been helpful. The earliest blue plaques, erected to commemorate a historical link between a building and a famous person, are in London.

In the Nineteenth Century the system was controlled by the Society of Arts. From 1901 the London County Council took over, becoming the Greater London Council in 1965. Since 1986 it has been English Heritage.

There are many other similar schemes, generally restricted geographically or culturally – and not all are blue!

Cheltenham Blue Plaques

I wanted to include the three famous people I have learned to associate with Cheltenham – Gustav Holst, Edward Wilson and Edward Jenner but in the process of writing this I decided to split them off and you can read about them elsewhere. To be honest they were not an impressive source of blue plaques.

I haven’t looked specifically for any others but I walk in and around Cheltenham often and I have been looking carefully for blue plaques. I have found a few quite similar to the traditional blue plaque but not quite such a vivid dark blue. They are produced by the Cheltenham Civic Society.

I have to admit that I have only ever heard of two of these six. Francis Close is quite famous locally. He was the rector of Cheltenham Parish Church in the early Nineteenth Century and is commemorated in two local educational establishments – Dean Close School and Francis Close Hall (now a campus of the University of Gloucestershire.) Also I am very much of the Rolling Stones generation.

I will generally leave it to you to read the wording on these plaques. You will note that, while each one has the Civic Society identified at the top, they have different sponsoring organisations identified at the bottom.

I won’t even tell you where I found them.

More from Cheltenham

There are many other plaques in Cheltenham. I will go for the other blue looking ones next. You can read them yourselves.

These also all seem to involve two organisations involved and for the Civic Awards we now have the Civic Society taking the other role. (I’m not totally clear what the two roles are!)

While I note that some of these are a nice vivid blue I also note that they seem to fade with age. Maybe these ones are not expected to last so long.

Now we have some that are not round and blue.

This one is strange. It’s on the Honeybourne Path on the ground almost hidden my plants. I spotted it recently after passing it dozens of times. I had never heard of the Rendezvous Society. It’s a small local charity working through Cheltenham and its twinned towns abroad.

Two railway related plaques. The first is on a house that until recently was a pub. The second is at the main entrance to Waitrose, my local supermarket. They are not so much about the buildings as what used to be there before them.

I have to include this one, which I missed when doing Statues. You can see the fountain there (not working.)

Here is one about another fountain tucked away in a corner not far away. (Yes, the sun was out and my shadow is in the way.) This is not the place to show you this fountain.

This one on the Everyman Theatre was so high on the wall that it was quite difficult to spot. The Churchill Gardens are something else you might miss if you didn’t know where to look.

These two may look majestic in black but they are not the most exciting ones I found.

Not Quite Plaques

I don’t know if the next come into the definition of plaques but they are signs on buildings telling us something about the buildings. Think of this blog as a loosely defined as a sub-category of signs. These ones come without comment. 

Cirencester Civic Society

I spent a day in Cirencester with friends and we took a walk around part of its historic centre. We just happened to pick a walk with lots of plaques. Here in random order are some of the Cirencester Civic Society plaques we found.

(The walk came from a leaflet that showed lots more of these in the town.)

More from Cirencester

There were other plaques and stone wall signs. Here are some more in no particular order without comments.

Other Places

Two from Bournemouth.

Three from the Thames Path near Oxford.

One from Oxford and one from Stow-on-the-Wold.

There are other pubs in England making similar claims to the one above.

I will end with an enigmatic sign on a railway bridge near to where I live.

I have no idea what it means!

[I have adjusted the contrast of some old and worn signs to make them more legible.]