The old road sign on Coast Road, Overstrand that has been given a grade II listing. Pictured with, left, Derek Paul who is a member of the parish council and was born in the village and Eric Vickers, chairman of the parish council. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY
By Lucy Clapham
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
It may look rather past its prime with its flaky paint, rust patches and weathered appearance. But this unkempt-looking post that stands in a tucked away corner of north Norfolk has now been deemed an important landmark – after becoming the county’s latest Grade II-listed item.
The ancient road sign, at the end of Coast Road in Overstrand, dates back to 1904 and was granted protective status for its “architectural and historic interest” – a listing normally associated with ancient houses and churches.
It is now one of just 49 listed road signs in the country and the only one in Norfolk with the illustrious grading.
History buffs at Norfolk County Council (NCC) said they were delighted to add it to the county’s long list of important buildings, but it was by sheer chance that it ended up on the roll call of significant structures.
A holidaymaker with an interest in vintage road signs spotted the black and white cast iron post and informed North Norfolk District Council of its importance, and after applying to English Heritage the Grade II listing was granted to its thin frame.
David Gurney, NCC county archaeologist, said: “These days the very early signs have tended to survive only as museum objects. What’s special about the Overstrand one is that it’s in situ. To actually find it still there after 100 years is very exciting.
“It’s a feature of interest which we hope local people and visitors will be slightly more aware of as they pass it.”
The post has gone mainly unchanged in the decades it has stood guard at the entrance to Coast Road, apart from having a neighbourhood watch sign tacked to its top, which has become part of the listed status.
Lifelong Overstrand resident Derek Paul, 78, remembers the sign from years gone by and said it was used as a weight restriction warning to heavy vehicles travelling down the road, because of the threat of cliff collapses.
The grandfather-of-six added: “It’s great the history has survived. If there’s only a few of them about it’s an asset to the village.”
Traffic signs were introduced in the mid-19th century by the Bicycle Union and it was not until 1904 that local authorities were allowed to erect their own. But with the establishment of the Ministry of Transport in 1919 many of the country’s first signs were lost as new ones were put up in their place.
Mr Gurney said his department was on the lookout for other rare roadside structures after the discovery of the Overstrand sign, and urged motorists to keep their eyes peeled for hidden historical items such as finger posts, milestones and post boxes.
“It does rather beg the question, out there in the depths of Norfolk are there other similar important road signs as yet undiscovered?” he added.
“Norfolk’s a big county, so we do rely on people spotting these things and letting us know when they think they have found something important, that might not have been found or recorded previously.”
If you know of any hidden roadside heritage call the council’s historic environment service on 01362 869280.
You can also send us your pictures of any roadside relics by using our new iwitness24 system, which allows readers to submit material for all our titles. Visit www.iwitness24.co.uk for more details about how to send us your snaps and stories.
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