Signs made for TV show League of Gentlemen by High Peak artist set to go under hammer

Signs made by a High Peak artist for the cult TV comedy The League of Gentlemen could sell for thousands of pounds when they go to auction next week.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 3:53 pm

The signs, which include the famous ‘Welcome to Royston Vasey. You’ll never leave’, ‘Local shop’ and ‘Babs Cabs’ slogans were created by the late David Hill, a TV, film and theatre set designer.

David was living in Hadfield at the time the show was being filmed in the area between 1999 and 2002, and was asked by the BBC to make the signs, which had to be painted ‘as badly as possible.

They were discovered in a loft after nearly 20 years, and form part of a package of memorabilia dedicated to the show set to go under the hammer next week.

David Hill hard at work on one of the signs
David Hill hard at work on one of the signs

Wendy Hall, 64, David’s former partner, from Chesterfield, 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.

“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 included 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.

A package of memorabilia involving the show will go under auction next week

“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!’”

Sadly David died suddenly in 2010 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 71 – 10 days before the couple’s son was due to get married.

Wendy added: “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.

Filming for the show in Hadfield

“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.”

The League of Gentlemen is set in a fictional town called Royston Vasey and 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 handpainted signs, sketches requested by the BBC’s art department, a signed cast photo and photos of David at work are due to be sold at Hansons Auctioneers’ Music, Film and TV Memorabilia Auction on June 23, and estimated to raise up to £2,000.