55. The station signs at East Putney

No, me neitherHere’s another of the Underground’s most striking features about which I know strikingly little.

Two of these large, stencilled signs frame the compact, pedestrianised forecourt of East Putney, and I believe their design is unique. I can’t think of anywhere else on the network that boasts these kinds of unorthodox yet stylish proclamations, which makes my lack of knowledge about their conception and history all the more embarrassing.

Still haven't a clueThe fact they are so atypical, and so completely beyond even the broadest of indulgences entertained by Transport for London’s in-house transport style tsars, just makes them all the more fascinating – besides inviting a clutch of teasing questions.

Were they put up perhaps as a consequence of a local YTS exercise? Or a maverick councillor, tired of design edicts from a metropolitan authority? Are they meant to be something else that went a little awry and had to be turned hastily into what we see today? Or are they porticos of the past, hailing from the station’s previous lifetimes, before British Rail sold the line to London Underground in 1994 for the choice sum of one pound sterling?

I’m sure the truth is rather more mundane, though any initiative that leads to the creation of something so artfully conspicuous can’t be entirely without flair.

Two of a kindI really like them.

But then you can show me any elevated, embossed post-war font, preferably outside a bit of public infrastructure, and I’m as happy as a sandboy.

7 comments
  1. Nick said:

    East Putney was branded as a Southern Railway / British Rail / Network South East station until the 1990s, so do they pre-date any London Underground styling?

    • I suspect you’re right. They certainly seem to have the weathered-look of signage that has been around for at least 20 years.

  2. I can answer this !! In the days when British Olivetti occupied the office block opposite, David Maroni, the Director for External Relations, decided that it would be a good PR opportunity to revitalise the station entrance, in partnership with the then station owner, British Rail. He named it “Piazza di Putney” and fibreglass columns were erected (gone now, I believe). These signs were part of that scheme. It was well-document on the British Olivetti Alumni site, but that’s mostly down at present thanks to it being hosted by M$ 360…. The only reference I could find at present is a small Google Books extract, at http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=zdxUAAAAMAAJ&q=putney#search_anchor. It was 1982, so it’s certainly over 20 years !!

    • Hurrah! The mystery is solved. Thanks Mike. (The Piazza di Putney?! *shudders*)

  3. Fabio said:

    Interesting….though the design is quite strange, and not really Italian style, as Olivetti’s man might have thought of, perhaps (I’m Italian/British). The curious thing though is the fact that it looks very “oriental”. If you go on google and look at the entrance from Upper Richmond Road (I live close by) then you see that in the middle there is a sort of pagoda (now a flowers shop) and at the side of this pagoda two little buildings with pointed roofs. So…East Putney…East…Eastern style…perhaps…

  4. tom ellis-jones said:

    I was one of the senior supervisors in th building of the previous tall pillers at this stations entrance with 21 out of work people from the manpower services commision witch took all these nonskilled labour out of the dol and I taught them to work and build in concrete and wood .the result was very rewarding to say the least they worked hard and they listened to me and built a project worthy of a more skilled labour force ..also 6 lads went on to work for the british railways . I could go on but don’t judge by the cover yours tom (senior supervisor) retired…

  5. mpellatt said:

    Thanks for that memory, Tom. I now remember the fact that unemployed people were being used on the project via the MSC being part of Oivetti’s PR at the time.

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