Chesterfield woman finds original signs for The League of Gentlemen cult TV series in her loft
A Chesterfield woman’s discovery of iconic signs created for cult TV comedy The League of Gentlemen in her loft has sparked huge interest from fans and collectors.
Wendy Hall found the artwork 20 years after it was painted by her former partner who was a TV, film and theatre set designer.
The signs, which include the famous Welcome to Royston Vasey. You’ll Never Leave!, Local Shop and Babs Cabs, were the work of David Hill, who was living in Hadfield when The League of Gentlemen was filmed between 1999 and 2002.
Wendy said: “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.
“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.
“Initially he’d receive a pencil sketch from the BBC. 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!”
Wendy lost David in 2010 after he had a heart attack at the age of 71, ten days before their son was due to get married.
She said: “I 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 ten 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.”
Wendy, 64, thought the best thing to do was to put the signs up for auction. She said: “I already have lots of signs made by David to honour his memory. I hope The League of Gentlemen 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.”
David’s signs will be included in an auction of The League of Gentlemen memorabilia, estimated to raise up to £2,000. The handpainted signs, sketches requested by the BBC’s art department, a signed cast photo and photos of David at work promise to attract fierce bidding at Hansons Auctions in Etwall on June 23, 2021.
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 an integral part of The League of Gentlemen TV show. 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 and ran for three series, followed by a film in 2005. The comedy is set in Royston Vasey, a fictional town in northern England and traces the lives of bizarre characters, mainly played by three of the show’s writers Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. The writers, which included Jeremy Dyson, formed The League of Gentlemen comedy troupe in 1995. Royston Vasey is the real name of comedian Chubby Brown.
To find out more about the auction of The League of Gentlemen signs and memorabilia, which is lot 209,
Support your Derbyshire Times by becoming a digital subscriber. You will see 70 per cent fewer ads on stories, meaning faster load times and an overall enhanced user experience. Visit www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/subscriptions.