Object Details

Village sign

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General Information
Classification
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Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright for Photograph:

Creative Commons

Location

Street:High street
Town:Mayfield
Parish:Mayfield
Council:Wealden District Council
County:East Sussex
Postcode:TN20
Location on Google Map
Object setting:Road or Wayside
Access is:Public
Location note:North side of High Street, opposite Middle House Hotel
In the AZ book:East Sussex
Page:38
Grid reference:E8
The A-Z books used are A-Z East Sussex and A-Z West Sussex (Editions 1A 2005). Geographers' A-Z Map Company Ltd. Sevenoaks.
OS Reference:TQ587270
Previous location:Ouside of Mayfield Primary School - moved post-war

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Makers

Name : Geoffrey Webb
     Role:Designer

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General Information

Commissioned by: Daily Mail
Unveiling date:27/07/1922
Work is:Extant
Description:West face: a maiden holding a ribboned nameplate with two female children holding garlands of flowers, including the rare spiked rampion that is peculiar to the parish and found only in East Sussex. . East face: Same image as above but with addition of a male child sat in front of the maiden. Around the pole just underneath the sign, St. Dunstan is depicted holding the devil by the nose with a pair of pincers. The ends of the cornice bear the shields of the Archbishops of Canterbury, the diocese of Chichester, St. Dunstan and Archbishop Islip, who built the Old Palace.
Iconographical description:In 10th century St. Dunstan was the first in a long line of medieval Archbishops of Canterbury who had an official residence at Mayfield. Dunstan was a skilled metal worker and it was whilst he was workingf at a forge that the Devil appeared before him in the guise of a young woman. However, he noticed the hooves beneath her skirts and grabbed the apparition by the nose with the first thing that came to hand - a pair of pincers.
Inscription:West face, on ribboned nameplate:

MAIDS FIELD

Small blue metal plaque on the post facing south:

FOLLOWING A SPEECH
BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS
THE DUKE OF YORK
AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY
IN 1920 ON THE REVIVAL OF
VILLAGE SIGNS,
THE DAILY MAIL ORGANISED
A VILLAGE SIGNS COMPETITION
AND EXHIBITION, OFFERING
A TOTAL OF £2200 IN PRIZES.
TEN AWARDS WERE MADE AND
THE DESIGN FROM WHICH
THIS SIGN WAS CONSTRUCTED
SECURED SECOND PRIZE £500

A long, plastic plaque with painted letters above this details some of the village history.

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Classification

Categories:Sculptural, Roadside / Wayside, Functional, Free Standing
Object type1:Street furniture
     Object subtype1:Post
Object type2:Marker
     Object subtype1:Post
Subject type1:Figurative
Subject type2:Mythological
     Subject subtype1:Group

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Object Parts

Part 1:Post
     Material:Wood
     Height (cm):270
     Width (cm):20
     Depth (cm):20
Part 2:Sign & weather vane
     Material:Metal
     Height (cm):250
     Width (cm):70
     Depth (cm):20
Part 3:Base
     Material:Concrete
     Height (cm):10
     Width (cm):100
     Depth (cm):100

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Object Condition

Condition 1 of type:Surface
     Condition 1: Corrosion, deterioration
     More details:General weather wearing to painted surfaces
Condition 2 of type:Structural
     Condition 1: Broken or missing parts
     More details:East side: a short section of one of the pincer handles is missing. The sign collapsed a few years ago and caused this by hitting a nearby bus shelter. Wooden post is split on all sides due to weather.
Date of on-site inspection:09/07/2007

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History

History:The oldest surviving, most famous, tallest and most decorative village sign in Sussex. Geoffrey Webb of East Grinstead won a £500 2nd. Prize in the Daily Mail's National Village Sign Competition. The sign was made and erected at the expense of the newspaper. It was unveiled on 27 July 1922 by the Chairman of the Parish Council (and High Sheriff of Sussex), Stanley Dennis.
('The Village Signs of Sussex')

St. Dunstan built Mayfield's first wooden church in 960 AD. He became Archbishop of Canterbury from 960-988, and he founded the Old Palace, close to the church. The legend goes that after Dunstan grabbed the disguised Devil by the nose with pincers, the Devil promised never to enter a house with a horseshoe over its door (Dunstan being a metalworker). The original name of the village was 'Maid's Field', Maegthe (Saxon) and Maghefeld (in 1295).
('Curiosities of East Sussex')

The sign was cleaned in 1925 and renovated in 1930.

‘The Prince of Wales (soon to become Edward VII) and his wife, Princess Alexandra, initiated village signs on the Sandringham Estate. These early signs were carved in the Princess Alexandra Carving School at Sandringham and some of them remain, although they have been refurbished or replaced over the years. The first replacements were in 1912 to commemorate the coronation of George V and some still bear that date.
George V continued his father's interest in village signs which passed in turn to his son, Prince Albert, Duke of York, later to become George VI. It was in May 1920 that the latter made a speech at a Royal Academy banquet. He said:-
''The development of motor travelling has brought back to our highways some of the importance which they enjoyed in the old coaching days. I feel sure that many of my comrade motorists would welcome the revival of the village sign or emblem lettered and conspicuously displayed - a welcome guide to the visitor in a strange land. The name of many a village would offer scope for the wit and humour of the artist. In the neighbourhood of Sandringham village signs have been introduced with considerable success.''
The Daily Mail heard of this speech and decided to run a competition for the design of village signs. They stated that signs should be suitable to be erected on a village green rather than mounted on the finger signposts as many had been hitherto, and they should not cost more than £200 to make. It was also a condition that the local town or District Council would make available a suitable site for the sign to be located.
They received 525 entries and mounted an exhibition at Australia House in the Strand on the 15th October 1920. Judging was by a small committee presided over by the Duke of York. There was a total of ten prizes. First of £1,000, second £500, third £200, fourth £100 and six runners up of £50 each, making the total prize money £2,100, a considerable sum in 1920.
The winning designs were for 1st - St. Peter's, Thanet, 2nd - Mayfield, once described by an early English writer as the sweetest village in England, and 3rd - Battle, depicting the Battle of Hastings which was historically accurate in relation to the soldiers uniforms and weapons. Of the six runner up prizes, which were cleverly called ''Special prizes'' three were presented for Bromley (the first of all the winners to actually be erected), Biddenden and Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Information about the other four winning signs is not currently available.
The Daily Mail paid for the erection of signs made to the winning designs and still today, in 2003, there are signs at the six locations listed. The one at Bromley seems to be the same design as the original. The one at Widecombe is in a photograph taken in 1924 by the parents of member Reg Nightingale when on a charabanc tour of the area. This sign was damaged beyond repair in 1939 when removed at outbreak of WW2 but it was replaced in 1948 by a stone carving, using the same theme of Uncle Tom Cobley & All on the old grey mare; information about the others is not known.’
(A Bit of History, by John Weston - http://www.villagetour.co.uk/comp.htm )

Although the competition was won by Geoffrey Webb in 1920 and the Daily Mail had informed the town that they would pay for the construction and erection of the village sign, the sign wasn't actually placed until 1922 due to various arguments over the chosen site(s) and to the parish council apparently having 'forgotten' about it, being primarily concerned with the construction of a war memorial at that time. It was later moved as it was not adequately visible to traffic entering the village. The sign suggests that the original name of the village was 'Maids Field' but there is no authentic record of this. It was probably assumed this was the case from the St. Dunstan legend.

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References

Source 1 :
     Title:'The Village Signs of Sussex'
     Type:Book
     Author:Chapman, Brigid.
     Page:101 / 102
     Publisher:S.B. Publications. Lewes.

Source 2 :
     Title:'Curiosities of East Sussex: A County Guide to the Unusual'
     Type:Book
     Author:Arscott, David.
     Page:44
     Publisher:S.B. Publications. Market Drayton.

Source 3 :
     Title:'Mayfield: Ancient Wealden Village'
     Type:Book
     Author:Mayfield Local History Society
     Page:8
     Publisher:Mayfield Local History Society.


Further information:
#http://www.villagetour.co.uk/comp.htm#

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Photographs





Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons

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