Wednesday, December 19, 2012

History Corner: Pearce Signs, New Cross

A comment on an ealier post about the history of Laurie Grove Baths set me off looking into another nearby site: 'Loring Hall, one of Goldsmiths Student Residences' (next to the Hobgoblin) 'was built on the site of Pearce Signs offices and factory' with a 'quite elaborate' display of 'a little illuminated man climbing a ladder to a large advert sign' still remembered by many locals.

According to the firm's history, Pearce Signs started out as a small sign-writing business in late 18th century Southwark, expanding to a factory in New Cross Road during the 19th century. In the 20th century it diversified into neon lighting and then, during the Second World War switched to war production: 'Domed headlights were designed and manufactured to reduce the visibility of car lighting from the sky and incoming enemy aircraft'.

Robert Hatton remembers that as a child he was 'blown through the fence of Pearce Signs' by the V2 rocket on 25 November 1944 which destroyed Woolworths opposite, killing 168 people. A temporary mortuary was established at Pearce's.

With peacetime, sign manufacture expanded once again. According to local historian Malcolm Bacchus, who gave a talk earlier this year on the history of New Cross Road at the New Cross Learning Centre, the signage for the first UK McDonalds - in Woolwich - was made there.

The New Cross factory closed in the mid-1990s. Its address in 1995 was still given as Insignia House, 274 New Cross Road, but I believe it closed the following year - though the company is still going with its HQ now in Gosport (Hampshire).

(pictures of factory taken from company website - I am guessing they were taken in the early/mid 1960s. Anybody got any pictures of the outside, including the famous sign)


ken vincent said...

Started work here in 1969, on the service side, under a Mr Webb and Mr M. Short, as a trainee admin manager. Had 2 spells at the firm. So so interesting, the sign world, and with the neon tube manufacture there, was really interesting. A few names in the hat, Ted Parr, Ron Turner, Ken Thorogood, Janet Dear John Hoyle dear Doris Crawford, to name a few. Any staff interested in contacting,
Ken Vincent

Pineview said...

I started here in 1967 as a management trainee having done some 'work experience' and ended up in production control on the customer service side, with Bert Thomas who'd spent some time in the States and was fond of saying 'another day, another dollar' and Pete Short? Production controller, so I used to go through to the factory all the time. Then in about 1969 they moved the production down to their factory in Broadstairs, and I went with it! Colin Moat

Unknown said...

I started in 1965. My name. John williams. I worked with ken Wright on factory maintenance. I also knew Ted Parr. He used to have tea with us in the intake room
I was there from 1965 to 1970

Bob Taylor said...

My name is Bob Taylor.
I started working at Pearce Signs in 1964 as a sheetmetal worker and coppersmiths, I had just left school and this was my first job.
I remember working in the smoke filled factory it didn't have many extra fans so it was not a very healthy place to work. I remember that the formans name was Alex Rowland, I was a trainee under a mod who was in love with his scooter by the name of Barry Swan the other people's names that I remember are Dennis Norton, Bill New, Arther Jackson.
After working there for about Three years I left and worked in the construction industry till I retired, it is funny how things come back to you after all these years.
It was great coming across your website and reliving memories long forgotten

Jane Booth said...

I worked at Pearce Signs for about 18 months in the early 1980's I was secretary to the Finance Director. I remember that they had the contract for McDonald's Golden Arches for the UK.

Jane Booth said...

I was secretary to the finance director for about 18 months in the early 1980's. I remember they had the contract for McDonald's Golden Arches for the UK.

Unknown said...

Hi, I worked in the maintenance office. I think it was about 1985ish for a few years. I remember the maintenance team very well. Chris, Denis rolf, Peter Hastings, Ted sanderson, Peter shevin, Eric stokes, rudy, Dennis shambrook, Marian on reception, and a load of nice girls. Mima lombardi comes to mind.
All great fun, but boy oh boy we did spend a fair old time down the Rose on the corner! 😄

Anonymous said...

I worked in the office approx 1955 sitting outside the office of Mr Pearce and remember his formidable but kindly secretary. Remember names Anne and John. Was 16/17 then now 83!

Unknown said...

Am I right in thinking they had a distribution
warehouse in Camden Row Blackheath in the 1960s, and that the family's name was Prince? Just a childhood memory, may be wrong!

Unknown said...

Hello there everyone

I'm part of a muralling team that is running a project around the location of the sign with the man climbing a ladder. I think the concrete blocks we are painting may be the foundations for the sign itself. Our project revolves around people's stories of the area. If anyone would like to chat we have a number of workshops at New Cross Learning. If you would like more information on how you can be involved in the project, feel free to email me on;

or look out for posters at NewCross Learning or on social media.

Looking forward to hearing from you



Unknown said...

Hi, I worked in the maintenance as well. I remember the guys and girls very well. I remember Brian Reader and Chris Vine, and the girls in contracts. The Rose was a place of sanctuary,somewhere to chill after work and sometimes during the day. I had my 21st birthday their.
David Gates is my name.

Unknown said...

I worked for Pearce Signs in Cardiff and recognise a few of those names. It was like working for Rolls Royce.