This inscription identifies the firm of J. Bibby & Sons, corn merchants and millers, as the commissioners of this imposing five-storey warehouse and mill built at Fleet Square in 1881. The letters are set within a moulded frame that sits below the Doric pediment of the warehouse’s New Road entrance. The letters are cut in relief and have strong bracketed serifs, large full stops and an unusually intricate ampersand. In particular, the letter b is interesting in that it appears to have been cut upside down; perhaps the unintended action of an apprentice mason.
Built in 1844, the Oddfellows Hall was constructed to serve local branches of the Oddfellows society – a benevolent and mutual aid organisation at a time before the creation of the Welfare State.
Sometime during the later part of the 1800s the word Oddfellows was removed after the building ceased being used by the society. While very faint, the remnant of the word Oddfellows can still be made out if the light is right. The right side of the lettering is easier to see, and in the image below, with the contrast enhanced, you can make out the S, and W, pretty clearly, with the O and L also just visible. The lost letters were set at a somewhat smaller size than the surviving letters to fit the available space.
The surviving letters are a combination of a broad slab serif and an unusual serif letterform with large bulbous endings to the stems of the ‘A’ and ‘D’ and numbers of the date line. The letters are beautifully cut in relief within a large stone plaque set on the gable end of the building. One of my favourite examples of lettering in the city.