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Roy Gardner’s Sales Tickets

February 26, 2013
by the gentle author

One shilling by Roy Gardner

Paul Gardner, the current incumbent and fourth generation in Spitalfields oldest family business, Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen in Commercial St, was just thirteen when his father Roy died in 1968. So Paul’s mother ran the shop for four years until 1972 when Paul left school and he took over next day – running the business until now without a day off.

In the shop, Paul found these intricate designs of numbers and lettering that his father made for sales tickets and grocers’ signs which, in their accomplishment, express something of his father’s well-balanced and painstaking nature.

At one time, Roy bought small blackboard signs, that were used by greengrocers to price their stock in chalk, from Mr Patson in Artillery Lane. Mr Patson sliced the tickets out of hardboard, cut up motorcycle spokes to make the pins and then riveted the pins to the boards before painting them with blackboard paint.

In the same practical spirit of do-it-yourself, Roy bought a machine for silk-screen printing his own sales tickets from designs that he worked up in the shop in his spare time, while waiting for customers. Numbers were drawn freehand onto pencil grids and words were carefully stencilled onto card. From these original designs, Roy made screens and printed onto blank “Ivorine” plastic tickets from Norman Pendred Ltd who also supplied more elaborate styles of sales tickets if customers required.

Blessed with a strong sense of design, Roy was self-critical – cutting the over-statement of his one shilling and its flourish down to size to create the perfectly balanced numeral. The exuberant curves of his five and nine are particular favourites of mine. Elsewhere, Roy was inspired to more ambitious effects, such as the curved text for “Golden Glory Toffee Apples,” and to humour, savouring the innuendo of “Don’t squeeze me until I’m yours.”  Today, Paul keeps these designs along with the incomplete invoice book for 1968 which is dated to when Roy died.

No doubt knocking up these sales tickets was all in day’s work to Roy Gardner – just one of the myriad skills required by a Market Sundriesman – yet a close examination of his elegant graphic designs reveals he was also a discriminating and creative typographer.

Designs for silk-screen by Roy Gardner

The finished silk-screened signs by Roy Gardner

Pages from the Ivorine products catalogue who could supply Roy’s customers with more complex designs of sales tickets than he was able to produce.

Roy Gardner stands outside Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen in the nineteen forties – note the sales tickets on display inside the shop.

Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen, 149 Commercial St, London E1 6BJ (6:30am – 2:30pm, Monday to Friday)

You may like to read these other stories about Gardners Market Sundriesmen

Paul Gardner, Paper Bag Seller

Paul Gardner’s Collection

At Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

Joan Rose at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

James Brown at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

Vigil at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

11 Responses leave one →
  1. February 26, 2013

    The drawings of the lettering reminded me of the preserved Monotype archive for Gill Sans, and then I realised that the font actually is Gill’s!

  2. February 26, 2013

    Great to see the old apple varieties , like Ellison’s Orange and Dunn’s Seedlings on sale. And when did we stop saying ‘stick beans’? My favourite though, is the one that says simply ‘foreign’, though I suspect it isn’t one of Roy Gardner’s own

  3. Greg Tingey permalink
    February 26, 2013

    Would that modern “labelling” was so clear & informative!

  4. Susan Goldman permalink
    February 26, 2013

    From the days when you knew what you were buying! Great memories.

  5. February 26, 2013

    Real stuff!

  6. Philip Marriage permalink
    February 26, 2013

    Wonderful that these remarkable examples of real typography have survived into this digital age.

  7. Chris F permalink
    February 26, 2013

    From an era when prices stayed the same for a longer period than they do now! You could memorise the price of stuff and budget accordingly… Now the price changes every time you shop!

  8. Ros permalink
    February 26, 2013

    Loved this post which clearly shows Roy Gardner’s care and precision about typography both in numbering and lettering, as well as showing other characterful examples of labels and packaging from years gone by. Thanks. By the way, although the shop doorway looks neat and tidy, there doesn’t seem an awful lot more room to manoeuvre than there is now!

  9. Cherub permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Looking through the signs I saw the one for “Jamaican Bananas”. I have been saying to my husband for ages now we never seem to see bananas from Jamaica or the Windward Islands any more – they all seem to be Costa Rican or Brazilian which are never quite as good. Where did the others go?

  10. sprite permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Spitafields typographer –
    the exhuberant curves
    of fives and nines


  11. Jill permalink
    October 29, 2016

    The old ways, always speak loudest of a times gone by! Everyone loved the characterful markets of the 50s, 60s, they were (and are, in a different way) such a major part of life gone by and the meaning, intent and human precision of days gone by are so real in this article. Thankyou.

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