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Roy Gardner’s Sales Tickets

February 20, 2024
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 since 1870 and now at Ruckholt Rd) 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, 78 Ruckholt Road, Leyton, E10 5NP

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

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Wendy permalink
    February 20, 2024

    These are very lovely. I found some at a vintage sale, they now live in my kitchen. I wonder if they are the work of Roy.

  2. February 20, 2024

    Wonderful – Ellison Orange! I have never seen any mention of these apples previously.
    I think we forget that designs were hand drawn rather than computer generated. I enjoyed the precision and skill of technical drawing to the freehand imagination of art.
    Thanks GA and Paul.
    P.s. I had one of the last Ellison Orange with my lunch yesterday and made a crumble on Sunday. They’ve kept well but the he blackbirds are getting more and more each week.

  3. Kate Amis permalink
    February 20, 2024

    What a joy. I love the label for ‘ foreign’ and the ‘useful rack for labels’ thank you for sharing the skill and history of Roy Gardner

  4. Cherub permalink
    February 20, 2024

    I remember shops having these price tickets when I was a child in the 60s, when we still had butchers, bakers, fishmongers and proper greengrocers close by. I also remember our local fishmonger having one of those huge ornate silver cash registers and thinking I’d love to work there one day so I could use it. I loved the loud kerching noise it made when the drawer opened!

  5. February 20, 2024

    Very nice — old analogue graphic design, that’s how I learned it too! Typography is a particularly exciting field. That’s also where my skills lie. Wonderful theme!

    Love & Peace

  6. Sonia Murray permalink
    February 20, 2024

    Roy took such pride in his work. People did in those days. Thanks for the walk down memory lane – a 6d toffee apple, back in the 1940’s at Aldershot, during the war!

  7. February 20, 2024

    “Don’t squeeze me until I’m yours.” How wonderful to see those whimsical words rendered in such studious hand-done lettering. I love peering at the granular detail of these draftings, seeing the hand of the letterer in the pencil smudges, the white tape used to “crop” the letters, etc. I also thought of the necessary tools of the long-ago commercial art trade that would clutter the table, and I still own a number of templates, ovals, French curves, ruling pens, specialized erasers, metal t-square and angle, etc.

    When I was just starting my design business in Manhattan (1970s) I had a tiny studio near Grand Central Terminal. Next door was an old gent, Mr. Briggs, and he was a letterer from the OLD school. He hunched over an ancient drafting table, working in pen and brush; dedicating himself to an original typeface he called Briggs Bold. It was his legacy project.
    The small workroom was yellowed with cigarette smoke, and Mr. Briggs’ white shirts had long turned to grey; his sleeves rolled up, working endlessly to perfect his contribution to the realm of Typography. He was at the conclusion of his career, and I was starting.

  8. Marcia Howard permalink
    February 20, 2024

    Another fabulous post, and having been born in the late 1940s with the country still under rationing for several years, people’s talents and resourcefulness came to the fore. I also had to smile at the ‘orange’ comment having seen it at our local greengrocer’s many moons ago. Every shopping trip was an education in itself. Love the price labels too which I also remember the styles, and how much nicer pounds, shillings, and pence translated into price notices, rather than 15p or whatever!

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