One of Hampstead’s most distinctive cultural and architectural features is the use of black-and-white tiles for street signs. These signs are classy and timeless, and add a real village feel to Hampstead.
My colleague Hamish Hunter recently noticed that the street name sign on Rosslyn Mews was replaced last week, without consultation with councillors. But instead of the beautiful historic black-and-white tiles, it’s been replaced with a printed plastic sign.
Hampstead's tiled street signs are part of our community's special character. We need to conserve them, not replace them with plastic! pic.twitter.com/zMYWyrryzJ
— Hamish Hunter (@HamishSHunter) August 12, 2017
I find this to be completely unacceptable. There was nothing wrong with the sign – yes, for decades, it has had a Q instead of an O, and an 8 instead of a 3, but that is not new. It actually adds to Hampstead’s quirks and charms and does not detract from it. As such, removing these tiles – especially without any consultation – is an act of cultural vandalism.
After talking to Hamish, I’ve suggested that Camden use its purchasing power – and the fact that it has to replace street signs periodically anyway – to buy a large stock of tiles. This stockpile can then be used to replace any letters that become damaged, as well as progressively deploying them in place of the charmless white Camden street signs.
To do that, we would first need to know the cost. I’ve asked Camden to get quotes on how much it would cost to commission these tiles. Once we have a quote, we can work out how to pay for it, but there are plenty of options available, including use of the Community Infrastructure Levy.
The main cost of doing this would be the initiation cost – once the run has been designed and the kilns started firing, the per-unit cost of any single tile would be small. As such, it makes sense for other wards that have these signs – and they were originally seen across the entire north-west of the borough – to pitch in and benefit, too.
Ensuring Hampstead’s historic street signs are preserved will enhance Hampstead and Camden’s character and culture no end. Instead of removing tiled street signs, Camden should be restoring them.
For more about my campaign to oppose over-development, click here.