Bill Barrowcliffe

Published on 27.11.2020 by Rachel

A few months ago I received a wonderful photo of a customer with our brushmakers taken back in the late 70s / early 80s. On the far right is Mrs. Bald, and next to her, Anne (who is still making brushes for Handover today!)

It was such a lovely photo I ended up talking with Bill about his life as a sign painter and I thought I would share a little bit of that with you all here on the blog as well as some photos of his work.

Bill with Anne and Mrs Bald in the old Handover premises

Bill has just recently celebrated his 75th birthday, and although he is now retired, he is still painting signs as a hobby.
His life in sign painting began in 1960, shortly after leaving school at 14. His form tutor was the son of a coach painter and signwriter and so he painted a little something to show them, and on the back of that began working at J D Tighe in Scunthorpe.

All work by Bill Barrowcliffe

It was here that Bill worked with both a traditional and a more modern signpainter so that he was able to learn a range of styles and techniques. He describes his learning process as going home at night and practicing on scrap wood, taking it in the next day, and being told it wasn't good enough over and over until he got it right.

The key to his learning was repetition, he worked a lot on RAF aerodromes, numbering the barracks and it was jobs like this where he got really quick and confident with his strokes.

All work by Bill Barrowcliffe

Like most signpainters I have had the pleasure to talking to, Bill is so happy he got into the craft, he recalled a day in his early 20's when he had got ‘cheesed off’ with it all, he told his mother he was going to pack it in and is so thankful his boss came to his house and changed his mind.

Some of his favourite jobs while working for Tighe were painting gas rigs 125 miles out in the North sea with 17ft high letters (despite not being able to swim!)
He also recalled working at RAF Cranwell on the clock tower, the hands of the clock were over 6ft high alone and in total, they used over 400 books of gold leaf on the project!

All work by Bill Barrowcliffe

Bill's boss at the time also taught the journeyman's evening class at Scunthorpe Technical College and he ended up helping on that.

After some time, one of the sign painters he had been working under started their own sign company in Scunthorpe called Scunthorpe Sign Services and he was taken on there as a signwriter.

All work by Bill Barrowcliffe

Eventually, Bill moved into teaching himself and taught evening classes for 12 years. As well as sign painting and teaching, Bill also judges at the Doncaster Classic Car and Bike Show, which had over a thousand cars last year, and does the occasional seminars to talk about his life in signwriting.

All work by Bill Barrowcliffe

Huge thank you to Bill for taking the time to talk to me, my favourite part of working at Handover will always be meeting and talking to people who are so passionate about their craft.


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