Smeed's Smart Signs


Signwritten and gilded shopfront in Herne Bay, Kent, England. An account of Smeed's sign business can be found in the book Kent Town Crafts (1982) by Richard Filmer, and further details are given in this online article.

"One well known firm of signwriters along the North Kent coast is Messrs ‘Smeeds Smart Signs’. The firm was founded by William Ormond Victor Smeed (the Ormond, came from a Derby winner) who started working life as a tiler’s apprentice but changed to signcraft in about 1920 in a shed in Culvert Passage at the back of the Herne Bay clock tower. Mr Ernest Davey joined Mr Smeed as an apprentice in 1926 and, with his partner Mr Stan King, is still signwriting in 1982.

As with many other signwriters of the 1980s, much of their work is vehicle painting. During the Second World War Mr Davey carried on the craft of signwriting for the army, producing direction signs and so on. He recalls that, with the shortage of material, signs often had to be written on discarded corrugated iron, which had first to be beaten flat with a hammer.

In different countries signs had to be produced in different languages. Mr Davey produced French signs in Algeria, Greek signs in Greece, and in Italy had to paint some signs which he described as 'like shorthand with a lot of tails to it — I didn’t know what language it was!'."