The art of painting signboards is almost lost, and when they have to be renewed sorry attempts are made to imitate the old designs. Some celebrated artists have not thought it below their dignity to paint signboards. Some have done this to show their gratitude to their kindly host and hostess for favours received when they sojourned at inns during their sketching expeditions. The “George” at Wargrave has a sign painted by the distinguished painters Mr. George Leslie, R.A., and Mr. Broughton, R.A., who, when staying at the inn, kindly painted the sign, which is hung carefully within doors that it may not be exposed to the mists and rains of the Thames valley. St. George is sallying forth to slay the dragon on the one side, and on the reverse he is refreshing himself with a tankard of ale after his labours. Not a few artists in the early stages of their career have paid their bills at inns by painting for the landlord. Morland was always in difficulties and adorned many a signboard, and the art of David Cox, Herring, and Sir William Beechey has been displayed in this homely fashion. David Cox’s painting of the Royal Oak at Bettws-y-Coed was the subject of prolonged litigation, the sign being valued at L1000, the case being carried to the House of Lords, and there decided in favour of the freeholder.
Sometimes strange notices appear in inns. The following rather remarkable one was seen by our artist at the “County Arms,” Stone, near Aylesbury:—
“A man is specially engaged to do all the cursing and swearing that is required in this establishment. A dog is also kept to do all the barking. Our prize-fighter and chucker-out has won seventy-five prize-fights and has never been beaten, and is a splendid shot with the revolver. An undertaker calls here for orders every morning.”
Motor-cars have somewhat revived the life of the old inns on the great coaching roads, but it is only the larger and more important ones that have been aroused into a semblance of their old life. The cars disdain the smaller establishments, and run such long distances that only a few houses along the road derive much benefit from them. For many their days are numbered, and it may be useful to describe them before, like four-wheelers and hansom-cabs, they have quite vanished away.
[Illustration: Spandril. The Marquis of Granby Inn, Colchester]
OLD MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS
No class of buildings has suffered more than the old town halls of our country boroughs. Many of these towns have become decayed and all their ancient glories have departed. They were once flourishing places in the palmy days of the cloth trade, and could boast of fairs and markets and a considerable number of inhabitants and wealthy merchants; but the tide of trade has flowed elsewhere. The invention of steam and complex machinery necessitating proximity