Rare AA sign to go under the hammer

Do you ever sell road signs? asked the lady at Chilcotts recent valuation morning.

Do you ever sell road signs?" asked the lady at Chilcotts' recent valuation morning.

That was the start of an interesting journey of discovery for Duncan Chilcott, partner of the Devon Auction firm.

"As is quite usual, I went to look into the back of the customer's car to see what it was that she had," said Duncan. "Among a variety of vintage road signs was a large circular AA Village Sign from Dunkeswell near Honiton."

"The AA (Automobile Association) has a long and prestigious history, AA car badges are extremely highly sought after, and so are the AA Village Signs." Duncan explained.

Duncan Chilcott carried out further research to discover that these AA Village Signs have a connection to the country's history as well as local interest.

The AA started producing Village Signs in 1906 as an advertising tool. Eventually over thirty thousand were distributed throughout the country, mostly mounted on roadside walls. The name of the village appeared across the centre, with names of neighbouring towns or villages above and below, and the distance from London in miles written at the base.

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Duncan's investigation revealed that this particular AA Village Sign was produced between 1911 and 1922. In 1911 the Automobile Association merged with the Motor Union, and the design of the logo was changed to reflect the merger. The "AA" initials became interlocking to also form an "M", and the old Motor Union's wings were adopted. The design of the logo on the Dunkeswell sign dates it as being post merger.

When, in 1922, the AA stopped producing the signs thirty thousand had been erected, these remained in situ until the Second World War. Fearing a Nazi invasion at the outbreak of war, the government of the day ordered that all the AA village signs should be taken down - it was concerned that these signs would assist any invading forces.

"I have learnt that by the end of World War II, there were only about six hundred left, and today there are approximately sixty-five still in situ around the country," said Duncan, "Many more have survived in museums and private collections but we do not know whether this sign for Dunkeswell has been included in any inventory."

The AA Village Sign for Dunkeswell will be sold at Chilcotts in Honiton on Saturday 26th September. For details ring 01404 47783 or visit www.chilcottsauctioneers.co.uk

The photo shows Elizabeth Chilcott holding up the AA Village Sign