The Suffolk sign writer King Edward sign for the Woodbridge pub

4:00 PM May 11, 2022

The pub sign, like the premises it represents, is a staple of British life with its depictions of kings and queens and other famous people or animals.

But few people probably appreciate the work that went into creating the symbols that adorn inns in villages and towns across the country.

However, writer David Barber knows the craft well as he has been producing signs for Adnams Brewery for over 40 years and was recently commissioned to create a hand painted portrait of King Edward III for the King’s Head pub in Market Hill , Woodbridge.

Sign writer Dave Barber prepares his paintings
– Credit: Brittany Woodman/ Archant

His passion for writing signs comes from his father who started working for Adnams and he continued the family business, based in Pinbush Lane, Lowestoft.

Mr. Barber said it could take up to ten days to create the commissions and that he often had to research the topics he created to ensure that all information was historically accurate.

For example, if the painting was of a historical figure, the level of detail should be correct, which could include physical details, such as missing weapons and medals received.

Dave Barber creates the portrait of King Edward III for the King's Head in Woodbridge

Dave Barber creates the portrait of King Edward III for the King’s Head in Woodbridge
– Credit: Brittany Woodman/ Archant

The process of creating a sign usually involves layering a varnish and then applying coats of paint to each side.

The Adnams like to stick with tradition and have their signs painted by hand, Mr Barber said, although many pub businesses are happy with laminated printed signs.

He could tell the difference between a hand-painted sign and a printed sign because the two formats weather very differently.

“Each sign is tailor-made for this pub and there is always a story behind each one. They’re all very personalized and they have to be historically correct,” Barber said.

Perhaps the most unusual sign he ever had to create was a pig on a skateboard for a client creating a pub in a shed called Legless Arms.

“Making signs comes naturally to me because I grew up with it since my school days, but I think people who come across pub signs are fascinated by them,” Mr Barber added.