The 123 year old canvas

Andy Mairs

3 min read

The Union Carriage Works was built in 1897 on Guildhall Street, Preston by carriage maker James Walmsley as a carriage and auto-car factory. 28 years later it was sold to the United Yeast Company and operated as a brewing baking and confectioner until the 1960s. Since then, the 123-year-old city centre building has been out of use.

J Walmsley factory historical illustration
Exterior shot before renovations

Working together with ETC Urban Developments, Chase Architecture redeveloped the building from a shell of a warehouse into 18 brand new loft apartments.

It’s taken a lot of vision and belief to have converted a forgotten 123-year-old warehouse, that had been left abandoned for decades, into a stylish residential scheme that is now a flagship development for Preston. For people who want to live in the heart of the city, there really is nothing else like this available to buy their own home which has character and history. Neil Thornton – Director of Etc Urban Developments

Interior shot
Interior shot

Late 2019, with the interior work well underway, attention turned to the front of the building. At around 40m in length, the task of hand-panting the signage the full-length of the façade fell to The Chase’s master craftsman Andy Mairs. Andy has worked at The Chase as a creative artworker, sculptor, carpenter and everything else crafty for over 30 years. He talked us through his process of painting the enormous type 5 meters up onto the side of a wall.

We measured the area of the building we have to work with. Because of the size, we weren’t really dealing in point size of type, it was in metres! So, we created the layout on the computer before running out the type at actual size – massive run outs, a meter high of each character. We originally looked at a script font but felt that the condensed Franklin Gothic suited the building and location better. Once we had the design we traced around the type with a Pounce wheel, which created little holes all around the lettering.

Exterior shot of sign painting
Exterior detail of sign painting
Exterior detail of sign painting
Exterior shot of sign painting

Then we went to the actual building and we did a plumb line on it to get the axis for our type. We could work out where the centre was and where we were going to work from as in between the two R’s in the word ‘carriage’, there would be a lamppost, so we knew that was the centre and we could work out from there. Once we knew where to start, we attached the print-outs to the wall in position. I then tapped through the Pounce powder which is this really fine chalk which is used in calligraphy that will only come off once you properly wash it off. Once you take away the design, you’re left with an outline of the lettering. After that, it’s just a case of filling it in.

Working on a large scale, outdoor project like this has its challenges, especially in the winter months when Preston’s weather wasn’t helping out.

The only thing we had really problems with on the project was the wind. The wind was really strong when we were trying to pin up these layouts, I was trying to do it three or four letters at a time, the wind was catching it and nothing was sticking to the wall!

Exterior shot of final painted facade
UCW Alt angle

Thankfully, after only a couple of delays, the weather cleared up and Andy was able to complete the wall.

It was such a great project to do. It was a bit scary because it was like five meters in the air. I’ve dealt with type for 30 years, but I’ve never done anything at this scale before. I knew I’d be able to do it; it was just a matter of getting the technique right and getting into the swing of it.

Further Reading

ETC Urban

Find out more about the Union Carriageworks redevelopment via the ETC Urban site.

Sign Painters Film & Book

A wonderful look into the craft of sign painting, following some of the masters of the trade. Learn all there is to know about what goes into sign painting with the book that is a must-have for any fans of typography.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Magazine and News