Suffolk sign writer Dave Barber's work is a familiar sight at pubs

Dave Barber with his depiction of King Edward III for the King's Head in Woodbridge. 

Dave Barber with his depiction of King Edward III for the King's Head in Woodbridge. - Credit: Brittany Woodman/ Archant

The pub sign- just like the premises it represents- is a familiar staple of British life with its depictions of kings and queens and other famous people or animals. 

But few people probably appreciate the work that goes into creating the symbols, which adorn hostelries in villages and towns across the land. 

However, sign writer David Barber is familiar with the trade as he has been producing signs for Adnams Brewery for more than 40 years and was recently commissioned to create a hand painted portrait of King Edward III for the King’s Head pub in Market Hill, Woodbridge.

Sign writer Dave Barber prepares his paints

Sign writer Dave Barber prepares his paints - Credit: Brittany Woodman/ Archant

His passion for sign writing stems from his father who started working for Adnams and he has continued the family business, based in Pinbush Lane, Lowestoft. 

Mr Barber said commissions could take up to ten days to create and he would often have to research the subjects he was creating to ensure all the information was historically accurate. 

For example, if the painting was of a historical figure, the level of detail would have to be correct, which could include physical details, such as whether arms were missing and any medals received.

Dave Barber creates the King Edward III portrait for the King's Head in Woodbridge

Dave Barber creates the King Edward III portrait for the King's Head in Woodbridge - Credit: Brittany Woodman/ Archant

The process of creating a sign usually involves layering on a varnish, then applying coatings of paint to either side. 

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Adnams like to keep with tradition and have their signs hand painted, Mr Barber said, although many pub companies are happy with laminated printed signs. 

He could tell the difference between a hand painted and a printed sign because the two formats weather very differently. 

“Each sign is custom made for that pub and there is always a back story to each one. They are all very bespoke and they have to be historically correct,” Mr Barber said. 

Perhaps the most unusual sign he has ever had to create was a pig on a skateboard for a customer who was creating a pub in a shed called the Legless Arms. 

“Making signs is natural to me because I have grown up with it ever since my school days, but I think people who come across the pub signs are fascinated by them,” Mr Barber added.