Iconic signs made for cult TV comedy The League of Gentlemen - which had to be painted ‘as badly as possible’ - could sell for thousands of pounds at auction.
The signs, which include the famous ‘Welcome to Royston Vasey. You’ll Never leave!’, ‘Local Shop’ and ‘Babs Cabs’, are the work of former TV, film and theatre set designer the late David Hill. At the time the show was being made he lived in Hadfield, Derbyshire - the village where The League of Gentlemen was filmed between 1999 and 2002.
They’re part of a host of memorabilia related to the show and David’s career including two early sketches of signs requested by the BBC’s art department, a signed cast photo, photos of David at work and some of his signs.
David Hill hard at work on the Babs Cabs sign plus other items in the lot.
He made all the signage used in the dark comedy series, and some that weren’t. Altogether, David, who worked as a set designer, sign writer and TV production supervisor in Australia and for Granada TV during an impressive career, made around 100 signs for The League of Gentlemen.
The ones coming up for auction - discovered in a loft after nearly 20 years - are prototypes made for the show. They did not appear on screen. They are due to be sold in Hansons Auctioneers’ Music, Film and TV Memorabilia Auction on June 23 with an estimate of £1,500-£2,000.
Wendy Hall, 64, David’s former partner, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, said: “David’s earliest remit was to paint the signs as badly as he could, just like a Royston Vasey signwriter might well have done! It almost made his eyes bleed to see some of his handiwork. Thankfully, the show’s producers let go of that idea after a few months and allowed him to distress them instead. Ideas were fluid in the early days.
Original sign sketch briefs and pictures galore are in the lot.
“It all came about because someone from the BBC just knocked on our door one day. They were in Hadfield scouting the area as a location for the show. They saw David’s signwriting board outside our house and asked if he could help make some signs for the show. That’s how it all started.
“Initially he’d receive a pencil sketch from the BBC, and two are including in the sale. When he was asked to make a new sign, David would make a rough sketch on a piece of board to check whether the colours and font would work on screen.
“Accuracy wasn't important for these, it was more about colours, font and impact. If in doubt, David would show them to the BBC art department for approval or adjustment.
“The pink for the Babs Cabs sign came about because we’d just redecorated our bedroom in a paint called Raspberry Ripple. It was an horrendous sickly pink. When the BBC sign remit came through and they were unsure about the colour, David said, ‘I have just the thing!’
“I lost David very suddenly in 2010. He had a heart attack at the age of 71 - 10 days before our son was due to get married. I still miss him terribly. I knew he’d put some things connected to The League of Gentlemen in the loft but I couldn’t bring myself to look at anything for about 10 years.
“I moved house in 2015 and everything from our old loft went into my new loft. I decided to go up and have a look at what was there in February. I ripped open a black bag and the Babs Cabs sign came out.
“I had the ‘Welcome to Royston Vasey’ sign in a bedroom but I’d forgotten about the rest. After all, they’d been in two different lofts for around 20 years. I had no idea what to do with them so I put a post on Glossop’s Facebook page to ask for suggestions. It went crazy. I was getting messages at midnight from people as far away as Germany who were desperate to buy them.
“I was taken aback and thought the best thing to do was to put them up for auction.I already have lots of signs made by David to honour his memory. I hope The League of Gentleman signs will go to someone who loves the show and will treasure and display them.
“The signs being sold are the crucial forerunners to the actual signs made for the TV show. These prototypes did not appear on TV but without them the comedy’s iconic signs would not have existed. They are part and parcel of the sign-making history of The League of Gentlemen.”
Wendy Hall stands by one of the signs.
Hansons valuer Claire Howell said: “As soon as we shared this find on social media, the interest was phenomenal. It drummed up major excitement among fans of the show and we immediately started getting emails from people keen to buy. This is a phenomenal one-off opportunity for any League of Gentlemen fan to own something very special.
“The signs were such an integral part of The League of Gentlemen. They helped to capture the strange and quirky nature of what became a hugely successful cult comedy. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them exceed their estimate.”
The League of Gentlemen premiered on BBC2 in 1999. It’s set in Royston Vasey, a fictional town in northern England. It follows the lives of bizarre characters, most of whom are played by three of the show's four writers – Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, and Reece Shearsmith – who, along with Jeremy Dyson, formed The League of Gentlemen comedy troupe in 1995. The series originally aired for three series from 1999 until 2002 followed by a film in 2005.
It is widely believed some of the characters are based on Pemberton's home town of Chorley, with Royston Vasey based on Adlington, a village within Chorley Borough. Royston Vasey is the real name of British stand-up comedian Roy Chubby Brown.
The League of Gentlemen signs and memorabilia are due to be sold at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, on June 23, lot 209, estimate £1,500-£2,000. To find out more, email Josh McCarthy: [email protected]. Catalogue: www.hansonslive.co.uk.