The Twin Towns' Shields on the Village (Town) Sign
Their comings and goings
In the post ‘The Village Sign’ Harpenden Village Sign | Civic matters | Harpenden History (harpenden-history.org.uk) (2015) it states that ‘The twin town signs were carved by Gordon Hanson and attached to the south side of the post in April 1984’ and also that ‘The town twinning shields were removed around 2010, being in disrepair, and have not been renovated or replaced’ . These statements need amending. See below.
An Alzey shield must have been made at some stage before 1984 as Gordon Hanson only refurbished, not carve it. Information about this shield has not been located e.g. who carved it; date it was added to the post and whether or not there was an unveiling.
The 1984 Shields
Gordon Hanson’s son Paul has sent us information about his father; the renovation of the Alzey shield; the making of the Cosne Cours sur Loire shield and the adding of both to the Harpenden sign in April 1984, together with a video of the shields being attached to the post (see above). This is also on ‘Old Harpenden in Days Gone By’ Facebook, together with other photographs of the event.
Gordon was an engineer by profession. After a rather chequered schooling during the war, he left in 1947 aged 14 to continue his education. Until he was old enough to study engineering he did a commercial art course which included laying out lettering – to be useful later in life. Reaching 16 he started engineering evening classes followed by studying for an Ordinary National Certificate which he completed before his National Service which he spent in the REME. He then worked for a couple of firms gaining experience and promotion before his final job at Kodak. Gordon met his wife to be at an athletic club’s dinner and they were married at Wealdstone in March 1959 moving into a newly built house in Bricket Wood the following year.
An Interest in Woodwork
For a few years before Gordon retired, he had taken up an interest in wood turning and carving, attending evening classes in Hemel Hempstead and doing quite well selling many of the items he had turned. He also made signs etc for friends using the skill he had learnt at evening classes in his youth.
Harpenden Twin Town Shields
Via Merrill Parker, a neighbour; friend of the family and a Councillor for Harpenden, Gordon was asked to renovate the shield of Harpenden’s German twin town of Alzey and to carve a shield for the French twin town of Cosne Cours sur Loire.
Adding the shields to the Town Sign
The newspaper report of the day reads: ‘Twin signs unveiled. Names already carved on the hearts of town-twinning enthusiasts have been carved in wood and erected on Harpenden Common. And on Saturday, woodcarver Gordon Hanson officially presented his handiwork to Harpenden Town Council’s chairman, Councillor David Murray. Mr Hanson, who lives in Short Lane, Bricket Wood, had recently made the sign bearing the name of Harpenden’s French twin, Cosne-Cours-Sur-Loire, and refurbished the sign for the town’s German twin, Alzey. The Cosne sign commemorated Harpenden’s twinning with the French town in October 1982, and now stands alongside the shield of Alzey, the town with which Harpenden has been twinned for 21years.’
Paul’s Story of the Event
“I’ll never forget the day. I had promised to help my father, Gordon Hanson, put up the signs he’d carved for the Harpenden council, but I’d been out all night at a party and I turned up at home about 7am to find my parents in a mild state of panic. They were on a tight deadline because the press were turning up for a photoshoot along with council members and the mayor. I remember going back to the town hall for tea and cake* and having to chat to the local dignitaries feeling quite rough and desperately trying to stay awake. My father was not impressed with me!”
Ed. * Paul and Gordon’s memories differ. According to Gordon they had sherry but perhaps Paul declined the sherry!
The shields being in disrepair were removed.
The twin towns’ shields were replaced without ceremony. They are made of weather-proof resin.