Almost 55 years ago Wymondham’s original town sign was presented to the town by Wymondham Women's Institute to mark its golden jubilee. It was carved by Harry Carter who made around 200 Norfolk town signs. It was unveiled on Wednesday July 30, 1969, by Ella Bowden, the oldest member of the local WI and its treasurer for more than 30 years. Mrs Bowden had the idea of presenting the sign during her time on the council and had suggested it to mark the Institute's 50 years in Wymondham.
The sign stood for 40 years in the grounds of Beckett’s Chapel. But the weather took its toll and in 2008 it was replaced by a metal version. The old wooden sign languished in council outbuildings until it was discovered when the council was moving offices. It was offered to Wymondham Heritage Museum who took on the task of restoring it to its original splendour.
Wymondham Women’s Institute closed some years ago. However, the Wymondham Bridewell Women’s Institute gathered at the museum to celebrate the restored sign.
President Claire Drake said: “We are delighted to be here to see the renovated sign and are grateful to the museum for organising it. We are happy to be part of a community project.”
Founding member of the Wymondham Bridewell WI, Pauline Nicholls, says they were formed in 1966 and meet in the evenings.
She says: “Wymondham WI met in the afternoons but they closed due to lack of members. They gave us £10 to start our evening group.”
Much of the refurbishment of the sign was carried out by museum volunteer David Brackenbury.
Says David: “The main problem was that it had been painted so many times with heavy lead paint. All the layers were different colours. One of the monks had been grey, black and dark green. And a monk was in a bad state. I used lots of wood filler and hardener.”
With the help of a photograph of the 1969 presentation of the sign to the town, David was able to match, as close as possible, the original colours. Metal stakes were embedded in two feet of concrete to support the sign where it stands in its new home in the peaceful location of the Museum’s courtyard garden, formerly the exercise yards for prisoners incarcerated in The Bridewell, the museum’s home.
The museum and tearoom are open daily until October 28th. More information at thewhm.org.uk