....believe it or not you could once get milk from Bulls, from Bulls Dairies in Cambridge's Hills Road anyway. I used to see this sign as I made my unhurried way to school, though I think the dairy itself had already disappeared even back then. I'm told that at one time cows used to be walked from Coe Fen, where they grazed, through the residential streets and up to the dairy for milking. When the dairy ceased trading the building was still owned by the Bull family, who were rightly proud of their history, and continued to look after their enchanting sign and have it regularly repainted.
I can remember this old sign being repainted too. I'm not sure when that was, but it certainly wasn't 24th March 1857!
Recently this fine old signage has been given a lick of paint before it faded into oblivion. And a good deal of fuss it caused too. You see, the restorer took the opportunity to slightly re-size the sign to allow for building alterations which had partly obscured it. And that has opened a huge debate about whether it's right and proper to spruce up our heritage and even improve upon it. The city council have plans to restore many of the painted wall signs and have published a feasibility study and costings.
They even have plans to re-instate signs like the one above - not just the Ernest A. Guest bit but also the large area of wall above it which allegedly once bore an advertisement. Apparently it's on some old photographs so it should be possible to reconstruct it.
If these signs are not saved now they'll surely soon disappear. I went out with my camera to capture some "old friends", signs which I was sure were still clear to see, only to find that they've already been painted over.
I was glad however to see the charmingly-worded Kingston Arms sign is still there, though I don't know how old it actually is. Thomas Kingston, from whom both the pub and the street take their name, was known as Miser Kingston and died in 1902 at the age of 96. He had a long grey beard, dressed shabbily and usually wore slippers rather than shoes. Occasionally he was seen in boots, but never two of the same pair! He made his money from clever investments and land deals, and despite his nickname he bequeathed huge sums to the church.
I rather hope that someone will see fit to include some of the old wall-painted street signs, like these on opposite sides of Lensfield Road, in the restoration project.
I wonder if the old "Hot Numbers" record store sign will survive. The name certainly has, for there's a coffee bar called "Hot Numbers" in the old Dales Brewery building in Gwydir Street, which itself has a very fine sign in the form of an old and rather ornate clock.
And now it's time to "sign off"...