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Hardwick Hall, built in 1597 by Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, is set in a 2,500 acre estate with 18.5 acres of walled gardens. In 1959 the National Trust took possession of the Hall and, since then, visitor numbers have steadily increased to 167,000.
Signage required upgrading and the Trust used a process of Masterplanning and honest site evaluation to do this with a view to pushing the visitor figures to 221,000 for 2012/13. A consistent visual identity was required that enhanced visitor experience, covering the initial welcome leaflet and internal displays, external information and directional signs, and temporary signs; providing a memorable experience for visitors that will help with the forecast growth.
Fitzpatrick Woolmer was successful in a competitive tendering process and was subsequently awarded the contract for the external signage. This was based on value for money, other National Trust site referrals and a reputation for manufacturing high quality and long lasting products.
Fifty signs were printed, manufactured and installed within a target of 6 weeks. These included welcome and navigational signs, interpretive lecterns and directional finger posts, temporary information signs and A boards.
Manufactured from FSC certified semi-seasoned and green oak, with a full colour graphic panel, the signs made an impressive statement. All fittings were stainless steel and plugged so there were no visible fixings and no fear of corrosion.
An in-house CNC router was used to engrave the National Trust logo and bands into the posts. To help maintain continuity and branding each unit was backed with a powder-coated aluminium panel to match the corporate palette.
For an extra flourish the lecterns had a deep routed recess and stainless steel bar fitted into the posts to dispense leaflets for visitors.
Along with permanent signs the Trust also required updateable entrance signs, allowing opening times and prices to be changed. To achieve this additional panels were produced, with threaded inserts placed into the existing displays and security screws to secure the alternate panels to the face.
A hexagonal timber fingerpost were a particular challenge. The post was profiled from a 90mm square section of FSC certified semi-seasoned oak, with full colour digitally printed aluminium directional arms fixed on two levels. A hexagonal weather cap was fitted to the top of the post, and bands routed at the top and bottom of each arm to give a very distinguished look. Again, all fittings were stainless steel and plugged so no visible fixings could be seen and there was no fear of corrosion.
Whilst site preparations and landscaping were still on-going the company's installation team started the final push. Delivery was split over three drops allowing the team to remove existing signs and install the new ones over a period of six days.
Ian Hunt, Outdoors Manager was particularly please that the project was completed on schedule and within a very tight deadline.