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Not Brentford New

Beecham Building, Great West Road, 1973

Peter Young took this photo of the 11-storey tower of the Beecham building on a crisp winter's day, 22nd January 1973; however the focus is on the rusted, diamond-shaped road sign.

The History of Brentford website includes more details about the tower and factory, later known as Smithkline Beecham House and also known as Wallis House, so let's look at that sign...


The New Scientist of 2nd April 1959 includes an article entitled Research on the strength of highway bridges by Dr. Norman Davey. It has a photo of a more chipper example of the sign including the full text and has an explanation of the origins of such signs:

The Motor Car Acts of 1896 and 1903 introduced signage to warn of the weakness of bridges constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries. These were built when traffic was light and there were fears they were not strong enough to withstand heavier vehicles such as buses and goods transport.

The article notes that 'Experience has shown, however, that the vast majority of these so-called "weak" bridges have proved capable of carrying without visible ill-effects much heavier vehicular traffic ... than was ever contemplated.' The article rumbles on in detail about construction techniques and later Acts - a Google on 'notice this bridge is insufficient' will turn up this article for you to read at leisure.

The sign reads
NOTICE
This
BRIDGE
is insufficient to carry a
HEAVY MOTORCAR
The Registered Axle Weight of any axle of which exceeds
THREE TONS
or the Registered Axle Weights of the
several axles of which exceed in the aggregate
FIVE TONS
or a Heavy Motor Car drawing a
TRAILER
if the registered Axle Weights of the several axles
of the HEAVY MOTORCAR and the
Axle Weights of the several Axles of the
TRAILER
Exceed in the aggregate
FIVE TONS

The use of capitals and lowercase is eccentric and perhaps not easy to read at speed , but it would not be easy to miss the sign.

Tower block with road sign in foreground

Full list of Peter's photos

Published September 2016