The classic country fingerpost traditionally made from cast iron or wood and painted white with black lettering often found on roads, but can also be seen marking the start of footpaths and along canal towpaths.
An integral part of the rural landscape since 1697, when legislation was first passed requiring markers to be erected on country crossroads pointing to nearby villages and towns.
Considerable variations of fingerpost have evolved around the UK in terms of materials, design, ornamentation and even colour (red in the case of the aptly named 'Red Post' signs found in parts of Dorset and Somerset).
During the Second World War, the government dictated that all rural signposts be removed in accordance with anti-invasion precautions and placed into storage. The posts sometimes remained in situ with just the fingers removed (or buried in the verge below), although most were put back by the late 1940's.
In 1964 the Traffic Sign Regulations introduced revisions adopted by many local authorities leading to a proliferation of modern metal panel signage, but did not however mandate the replacement of traditional wooden fingerposts.
In response to concerns about the loss of historic fingerposts from the rural landscape, a combined review by the Department for Transport and English Heritage in 2005 concluded:
"All surviving traditional fingerpost direction signs should be retained in-situ and maintained on a regular basis. They should be repainted every five years in traditional black and white livery.
Responsibility for maintenance of fingerposts has rested over time with different authorities, Highways, Transport or County Councils. Owing to budgetary cuts, financial pressures on councils have forced them to rely more on community or private groups to take care of these iconic national assets, such as parish councils and community partnerships (AONB's etc).
The fingerposts of Sutton Mandeville and Lower Chicksgrove are now looked after by the Parish Council and volunteers.
Restoration of Panters Fingerpost
An example of a project undertaken on behalf of the parish is the fingerpost at the junction of Panters Road /Sutton Hill, which was selected for restoration in 2021 due to its poor condition, arising from severe weathering and timber rot.
After removal and transportation to the workshop of D&R Scott in Teffont Magna for restoration, repair costs were estimated at £325.
The parish council obtained a grant from the Wiltshire Area Board towards 50% of the costs (£162.50) the remaining funds being covered from parish council reserves, through the parish precept.
Works were undertaken during March /April and the sign was re-erected at no additional cost utilising the labour of parish councillors and the Parish Chair.
And here is the finished fingerpost reinstalled in April 2022, with two new fingers, an aluminium primer and no less than six coats of paint!
It’s slightly wobbly in its hole, and needs a wedge at some point...
See also: Parish Articles | Footpaths & Rights of Way