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