A large number of villages in East Anglia have a decorative village sign - more in
both Suffolk and Norfolk than in any other county in Britain. Their subjects vary
greatly, but comparatively few depict a whole scene from the village they represent,
like the ones illustrated above.
The first signs to be commissioned anywhere in Britain were erected in four estate
villages at Sandringham by king Edward VII. The work was carried out by the Princess
Alexandra School of Carving. More signs were ordered for other estate villages by
George V. His son, Prince Albert, the Duke of York, made a speech at a banquet in
1920 in favour of them. His speech prompted The Daily Mail to organize a competition
for the best design for a village sign. The winner out of 525 entries was St. Peter’s
in Thanet. One from East Anglia was among the twenty-six runners-up, and that was
Swaffham in Norfolk.
The idea of a village having a fancy sign caught on and many more were erected over
the ensuing decades. Many villages commissioned one in 1977 to commemorate the Queen’s
Silver Jubilee. The first signs were made of wood, but more recent ones have used
other materials, most commonly metal, but also others such as stone and fibreglass
Each one is unique and captures something of local significance, sometimes important
buildings or landmarks (a great number in East Anglia depict a church), sometimes
a famous person and sometimes an occupation such as farming.
Books on village signs in East Anglia include:
Suffolk Village Signs Books 1-5 by Shirley Addy and Maureen Long (A.L. Publications)
Timpson on the Verge by John Timpson (The Larks Press) (Norfolk signs)
The Story of village and Town signs in Norfolk edited by John Porter (A.L. Publications)
Village and Town Signs in Norfolk by Frances Procter and Philippa Miller (Published
by the authors)
Two East Anglian village sign-makers are Steve Eggleton and Harry Stebbing. Steve,
a versatile artist, sculptor and woodcarver is currently working on an ambitious
project to establish a trail of Christian-themed sculpture that will stretch from
Lowestoft and across East Anglia to Wales. He’s been living and working in East
Anglia since the 1970s. Harry specialises in oak, but has also made signs in metal
and in cast aluminium. For further information about them and their work see their
This sign at Redgrave in Suffolk depicts several buildings in the village. It is
a replica of an earlier sign that was erected in 1983. The windmill no longer exists
as it was destroyed by fire in 1924.
This sign at Starston in Norfolk includes motifs of the church, a windmill, a large
house and a bridge, all present in this very small village.
This sign belongs to Acle in Norfolk. Depicting a village street scene, it commemorates
Acle’s success in being winner of the Eastern Daily Press Norfolk Village of the
Year for the year 2000.
This wooden sign at Mundham in Norfolk depicts the village as a huddle of buildings
on top of a hill.
The wrought iron sign at Bramford in Suffolk (right) features the water mill that
was destroyed by fire in 1917 as well as the church and other buildings by the river
here. The sign was erected in 1977, was designed by B. Flint, and made by D. Oxborrow.
For further information on village signs go to the website of the Village Sign Society
The village sign at Dedham in Essex shows many of the buildings in the village.
Right: The village sign at East Runton in Norfolk, which is decorated on both sides.
The other side, which shows boats, can be seen on this site under Water in the
Transport section. (See link at the top of this page.)