Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hotels and ratings signs

click photo to enlarge
There was a time in my life when I walked, cycled and used public transport exclusively. One of my aims was to to avoid car ownership and the environmental destructiveness that is inherent in that form of transport. However, for various reasons, including the birth of a second son and the deliberate vandalising of British Rail by the Thatcher governments, I bought a car and it is now my main means of transport. However, I still cycle and I remain a member of the Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC) for the insurance it offers, the interesting magazine it publishes and to help the foremost body in Britain that supports the cyclist and the cause of cycling. I was briefly a member of the Automobile Association (AA) when membership came as part of the package with a car that I bought. However, I let that lapse because the organisation that claims to be the main voice for motorists in Britain kept making statements in support of motoring for which it had no mandate from its members and which were diametrically opposed to my beliefs.

Both of these organisations produced ratings signs to be fixed to the exterior of hotels, B&Bs etc. In the case of the CTC the winged wheel logo, often made of cast iron or enamel, began to be used from 1887 and denoted an establishment that offered good accommodation and service to cyclists. These early plaques can still be seen on some buildings as can its modern equivalent, a small sticker designed to be fixed to a window. Compared with the CTC the AA was a relative latecomer in the rating and recommending of hotels etc, having begun to award its plaques with 1 to 5 stars only from 1912. The AA continues to be a major player in the inspection and judging of the standards of accommodation, continuing to award stars and offer establishments ways of advertising its rating. However, as with the CTC, quite a few hotels still display an old AA sign that must have been awarded decades ago. I imagine there is some kind of stipulation that these must reflect a current rating - or perhaps not.

I was wondering about this latter point recently as I photographed just such a sign - an illuminated variant -  on the main facade of the Feathers Hotel in Ledbury, Herefordshire. It must date from before 1966 because in that year the AA changed to a sans serif font for its initials and signage. The deep yellow and black of the sign, along with Union flags, window boxes and hanging baskets, gave colour to the black and white of the ancient, timber-framed building, and offered a collection of details that seemed to have the makings of a photograph, so I pointed my camera at it and pressed the shutter.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 37.1mm (100mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/1000
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On