The Future of Signs

councils are becoming increasingly aware of the need to protect their individual streetscapes and are insisting on replicas of existing plates, tourism requires tasteful direction signs and explanatory plaques (the National Trust is a major customer), while new developments wish to borrow some street-cred from familiar cast-metal signs.

Not many years ago, the RLF's casting foundry was thought to be an anachronism, with no place in modern commerce. Mr. Froud ignored the logic of the situation and kept it going. In time, the Royal Label Factory and its forty employees may be grateful for that decision.

I already am, because here I've found a company which isn't obsessed with meeting targets, with targeting sectors, with sectoring resources, with resourcing meetings. It just makes things. It provides honest work on a human scale for forty men and women, and allows them to make their quiet mark on the nation's landscape. And it's refreshing to find a management which isn't obsessed with a higher share price, who doesn't think of their company as an asset to throw on to the City gaming board.

Why here, precisely? A sharp economic historian might guess that this metal-working industry is a legacy of the ancient iron-workings of Hook Norton, five miles away, (the ironstone deposits which put the red in Redlands, back at Bloxham and Broughton).

In fact, The Royal Label Factory was founded in Stratford-on-Avon, and only moved here some fifteen years ago when cramped for space in the old town. The reason? Mr. Froud found some cheap land to build his works on, and Chipping Norton was quite a nice place.

Sadly, it seems that the Royal Label Factory is no longer trading. Depending on which source you believe, they went out of business in 1999 or 2001.

I have no information about why they ceased trading. If anyone can fill in any details (or even, contradict my information), please let me know. I get a steady trickle of emails, from people wanting signs made, who can only find my pages on the RLF.

Oddly, the way out of town is very badly sign-posted. If I hadn't known that the A361 is also the [Burford Road], then this journey might have lost whatever structural integrity it ever had.

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