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Trade Signs

Trade signs, a popular form of 19th century marketing, were widespread when Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837.  All trade signs are three dimensional, allowing for display parallel or perpendicular to a wall, or to be hung free in space. For example, a golden key was the usual sign for an Ironmonger.  They were generally made of wood which was then gilded.  Another famous example was a Norwich tobacconist who had a golden pipe as his sign. It was made of gilded iron but disappeared around the time of the First World War when his 300 year old firm closed.

Wool people generally had a lamb or a fleece and there was a lamb sign near Ferryquay Gate in Derry and the well-known umbrella people, Johnston’s, had a man holding an umbrella as their sign.

Teapots were more unusual and where they did exist were usually made of gilded wood.  There is such a wooden teapot in Norwich, now on display in the town’s Strangers’ Hall museum.  It is around the same age as Derry’s but much smaller. The Derry teapot being made of gilded copper is unique.

Boston’s “Giant Tea Kettle”

Derry’s teapot rivals one across the Atlantic which was erected in 1873 in commemoration of the “Boston Tea Party” during the American War of Independence.

Although Bostonians claim their “Tea Kettle” is the largest in the world it is actually similar in size to Derry’s which was erected seven years earlier. In 1875 a huge competition was held to guess the capacity of Boston’s kettle. An amazing 13,000 guesses were submitted and it took the judges an hour to carefully fill the ‘pot’ to find the correct answer. It turned out to be 227 gallons, 2 quarts, 1 pint and 3 gills. Eight people were all within three gills of the correct answer and they each won about £5 worth of tea.

If you’re lucky enough to visit Boston you can see the Derry equivalent continually spouting steam above Starbuck’s coffee shop in Cambridge Street. If you’re even luckier you can view the original “Golden Teapot” in Derry, spouting ‘steam’ above Faller’s shop on Strand Road!