Spalding ‘great’ gets blue plaque honour

Spalding Civic society's plaque for Frank Pick Names: John Hayes, special guests Howard Johnston and Sir Peter Hendy, Elizabeth Sneath and Robert West
Spalding Civic society's plaque for Frank Pick Names: John Hayes, special guests Howard Johnston and Sir Peter Hendy, Elizabeth Sneath and Robert West

Frank Pick, the modest Spalding man credited with creating modern London, has been honoured with a blue plaque over 120 years after he left the town to seek his fortune.

The cast plaque commemorating Frank’s birth on November 23 1878 is set into the wall of the Halifax Building Society in Double Street, a stone’s throw from Bridge House on the west bank of the River Welland, now demolished.

It was unveiled in front of Spalding and District Civic Society members and guests by Sir Peter Hendy, Commissioner for Transport in London, who had travelled up specially from the Capital by train at the invitation of event sponsor Howard Johnston, who was returning to his home town after almost 40 years.

Frank’s legacy is the endearing image of the London Underground, including the famous map that he commissioned, the red and white signs, distinctive typeface, and dozens of classic 1930s art-deco buildings.

It was a special day for Wendy Gavaghan (72), from Whaplode Drove, who revealed herself to the gathering of senior guests and community leaders as Frank’s great niece.

She was able to tell amusing stories of Frank’s brother Sisson, who she vividly recalls as a local sheep farmer.

Her regret was that her mother, who knew all the family, died only a couple of months ago, when well in her 90s.

Civic Society chairman Robert West paid tribute to stalwart members Judy Chapman and John Charlesworth and staff at the Halifax for their hard work in turning Howard Johnston’s initial idea into reality.

He also said that more blue plaques were on the way to honour other famous Spalding residents, including William Bramwell Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.

Mr Johnston, founder and chairman of Cambridgeshirebased events and publishing company Mainspring, said the plaque was a personal thank-you gift to the town for helping to fashion his successful career. After attending Spalding Grammar School in the 1960s, his first real media job was on the editorial staff of the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian from 1970-74.

Following a speech by Sir Peter Hendy, who said Frank Pick did more to create modern London than even Sir Christopher Wren, South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes also paid tribute to Frank Pick, who he said was able to carry forward his ideas with vision and style.

Coincidentally, Mr Hayes already has a blue plaque on his house in Moulton, to Olympic gold medal boxer and England cricket team captain Johnny Douglas.