Somerset County Council are doing something remarkable: a major project to restore the county’s collection of picturesque signposts to their original glory, preserving them for generations to come. Somerset resident and fingerpost spotter JR offers a guided tour of some of the signs Somerset’s pioneering project has restored, and others still awaiting attention.
Somerset is a large, rural county in the south-west of England. You might know it as the place you pass through on the M5 or (even worse) the A303 to get to the seaside. It’s flat, rural, and quite isolated. For most people, the car is the main mode of transport as trains and buses are infrequent, and only serve the largest towns and villages. Some major towns such as Glastonbury (pop. 8,900), Chard (13,100), and Shepton Mallet (10,800) rely on the roads to be connected to the outside world.
The signage system used today derives from 1964's Worboys report, which aimed to update and modernise the old and patchy system that had developed piecemeal in the years since the turn of the century. Before then, rural counties such as Lincolnshire and Somerset erected fingerposts at almost every major junction between roads in order to tell motorists which roads led where and how far the distances were to major landmarks such as towns or villages.
As a proud Somerset native I didn't realise that the Somerset fingerposts were basically an oddity in the modern world!
There are fingerposts around the countryside here in Suffolk too, but they don't quite feel the same.
A super, heart-warming article. I am a Yeovil lad whose paternal grandparents came from Drayton/Langport. In 1935 My father bought his first car, a 1935 Austin 10 and we went all around Somerset. Many of the pictures show 'old friends'. I remember in the late 60's when I was driving my first car, a 1954 Morris Traveller that many such signs still carried an arm pointing to a Railway Station....particularly at Hatch Beauchamp. I live abroad now but when I return and drive in Somerset, it gladdens my soul to see these signposts. Thank you
About time too. And yes, Tony's in Somerton is very good!
Great to read of this project in Somerset. The Milestone Society www.milestonesociety.co.uk has records of these lovely fingerposts as well as our main passion of Milestones. We look forward to this project getting underway to preserve and restore these lovely heritage artifacts.
Rob Westlake - Chairman. Milestone Society.
This is good and interesting, but old news. The SCC project and the associated handbook were first published in 2017.
Much good work has however been being done locally; if you were to visit the parish of PILTON near Shepton Mallet, you would find all the fingerposts are regularly cleaned and painted when required (prior to COVID-19). Indeed Pilton Parish Council recently organised and paid for a sign that had been snapped off by a lorry, to be re-made entirely from scratch (NOT a cheap process!) and re-installed. The broken sign had been taken to the Somerset County Council highways depot for storage, and in spite of numerous requests for re-instatement over several years, it was eventually found to be 'missing'. Hence the Parish Council had to act on its own initiative...
I recently moved back to Somerset and now live by the corner where the first finger post is! I love seeing them when out walking.
Here is a nice one from close to where I am from and where its not very flat at all....
Presumably SCC will only be working and logging those in their current area. Just down the road from me is a lovely example in our village triangle. Unfortunately, we’re now under the auspices of North Somerset Council – a unitary authority created from the demise of the Avon county – who are too busy putting up street signs with the wrong name…
Kingston Seymour Triangle
I've had a great attachment to these fingerposts for many years. I would just like to add a couple of comments on this piece. Don't forget that there are many more former SCC fingerposts in the areas now under North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset Councils, both looking great and in need of some TLC. Secondly, Somerset is NOT flat!!