Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Money lent, Clapham

This ghost sign for a pawnbroker may be barely visible nowadays but decades ago people getting off at Clapham High Street station could hardly have missed it as they made their way down Voltaire Road towards the High Street.

Money Lent

This sign was painted twice, using a slightly different typeface. It is possible these were actually painted over an earlier sign as traces of other letters can be seen here and there.

If the written part of this ghost sign is very basic, the traces of paint to the right are far more interesting. These appear to represent three hanging spheres, the symbol of pawnbrokers. The bars holding the spheres, with their volute ends, are even relatively elaborate. Was this painted sign enough or did the pawnbroker also had a proper three-dimensional version hanging from the façade?

This particular symbol has been used since the Middle Ages but its origins are a matter of debate. In A History of Pawnbroking, Past and Present (1847), William A. H. Hows looked at some likely and unlikely origins of this symbol (pages 44-48). The link with Lombard traders and merchants, whose activities also included banking, is the one generally accepted.

Location: Clapham High Street / Pictures taken on: 09/04/2008

No comments: