Victorian-era Graffiti and Symbols You Didn’t Know About

Violet Hamers

Hello, my sweetie! 

From the Middle Ages to the present, the British capital has always been the metropolis of visual communication and one of the birthplaces of modern advertising.

By the Victorian era, labels of the type “Florist”, “Tavern”, “Smithery” had disappeared. They had been replaced by inventive names, puns that impressed upon the mind and fancy paintings.

In fact, some brands that are now established as representatives of specific stores have their roots in Victorian London.

Keep reading, sweetie! 🙂

The Red Stripe Roller

The red stripe roller that exists outside many barberries was established by the London barbers.

Before the 11th century, when medicine in England was still in its infancy, many barbers used to perform the duties of a dentist and surgeon, since regular scientists were kind of deficient. In order for people to distinguish those who provided these extra services, the barbers placed a red wrapped pillar outside their store.

The pole symbolized the wooden stake that the barber gave the clients to hold during the operations so that their hand remained steady and the blood flow consecutive. The red cloth symbolized the blood. 

Over the years, the barber’s responsibilities have been limited to haircuts and shaving. However, the pole with the wrapped red stripe had been established and remained out of several barbershops, still.

Other Uses of Symbols

Similarly, the representation of Adam and Eve in the gardens of Eden became synonymous with the grocery store, the unicorn horn was adopted by pharmacists and a bag full of nails by ironworks. 

Each merchant adjusted the facade of his shop according to his style, but always with the use of visual aids. Thus, until the invention of photography and printing, the London markets had been transformed into a large and colorful canvas, made up of fancy inscriptions competing against each other on impressing passers-by.

For example, a representation of the Pompeii disaster seemed to be the ideal “barker” of a business that undertook cockroach insecticides and disinfection.

Illustrations of housewives over steamy pots adorned grocery signs. The importance of allegory and subconscious messages in advertising was theorized many centuries later. English retailers had done it long before marketing became a science.

The First Graffiti

During the same period, the first graffiti appeared.

Street art was born as a form of protest. One of the first recorded graffiti in London was a poem written in Latin. In the following decades, people of lower social classes and “children of the street” used to “mark” the walls of their area with their names.

Young people began to write slogans of social, religious and political content. By way of example, some of the graffiti one could encounter on the streets of the British 18th-century would write: “Christ is God”, “Damn the Duke of Richmond!” or “Murder Jews”! 

Graffiti Art

The prison walls were also full of graffiti. Curses, names of loved ones, and verses of the Bible were at the top of the prisoners’ preferences for decorating their cells.

The beggars on the streets also left their mark. They used to carve the pavement or write on the walls behind them. “Can you help me?”

Artists selling their work on the street followed a similar pattern. “Everything is my own creation”, they carved the floor next to their works. 

So London was never a dull city. The buildings, the streets, the shops always had a story to tell, as the residents made sure to imprint it on them…

Well, my sweetie, this is the end of this article!

I hope you enjoyed it—I certainly did while writing it!

Thank you for accompanying me on my writing journey!

It would be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me! Or whatever you like…Surprise me! 

Written by Violet Hamers

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