19

I had a trip from Heathrow Airport to Swindon and later turned back to the airport via the M4. During the trip I haven't noticed any signs that show populations of towns.

enter image description here

When I searched for London on the internet, the results were mostly for a city in Canada.

enter image description here

Did I miss the road signs or aren't there any signs?

  • 94
    Is this common at all outside of the USA? – Martin Argerami Apr 17 '18 at 13:11
  • 82
    I have never seen such signs anywhere, and I have traveled a fair bit of Europe. – el.pescado Apr 17 '18 at 13:13
  • 31
    No you didn't miss the signs, they don't exist. – uɐɪ Apr 17 '18 at 13:25
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JonathanReez Apr 20 '18 at 20:55
82

I have lived in five countries including the UK and never seen such a sign in real life. I only know them from American movies, where I've always semi-felt they were some sort of Wild West joke or something, like when they reduce the number by one after a lynching. I can't conceive of why the population would be posted outside a town, rather than its GDP, area in hectares, name of its mayor, or some other random datum.

  • 12
    Sometimes a municipal boundary sign (e.g. "city limit," "town line," "urban boundary," "corporation limit," etc.) does name the mayor, or commonly the elevation. The population, historically, gave you a rough idea of what services you could find there (or whether it was worth a salesman's stop), although in the Interstate era there will be a separate, more useful sign specifically indicating whether fuel, food, lodging, etc. are available. Populations are not usually given at county or state lines. – choster Apr 17 '18 at 14:33
  • 26
    They're not just in movies! These signs are incredibly common in the US. – ell Apr 17 '18 at 16:14
  • 11
    @EldritchWarlord "Welcome to the town this person disliked so much they went to space to get away from it!" – Azor Ahai Apr 17 '18 at 19:26
  • 9
    There are laws in the US which are dependent on whether you are in a city or what the population of the city/county is, so the posting of the population serves a legal function. A common one is hunting regulations, outside cities or in sparsely populated counties, hunting times/Sunday hunting may be extended. Riding horses/driving off road vehicles on the street is another example. – user71659 Apr 17 '18 at 21:20
  • 12
    This is probably one of the worst highly voted answers I've ever seen. Not only does it not answer the question, it expresses an opinion about why the idea is stupid, when it is an actual documented fact! Even evidenced by a picture in the question! – Phill Apr 18 '18 at 1:04
39
  1. Most villages/towns/cities have signs saying "Welcome to {name of village/town/city}", but they (almost exclusively) don't have populations on them in the UK.

  2. When you drive along motorways, like the M4, you don't go into any villages/towns/ cities, so you don't see the "Welcome to {name of village/town/city}" signs. You do see "Welcome to {name of county}" though.

  3. London, UK, possibly doesn't have these signs anyway - London's too big. I expected to find signs to the boroughs and/or the towns and villages that have been absorbed into Greater London, but I didn't find anything for "Welcome to Westminster sign" on google images, or for Hackney or Brixton either. Possibly only smaller towns and villages bother with the signs. I did find this for Tolworth, an area of the Kingston-upon-Thames borough.

  • 6
    Also never seen population on such a sign, neither in the UK nor France where signs are more standardised. I think you can make a stronger statement. – Mark Perryman Apr 17 '18 at 12:35
  • 3
    Maybe worth noting that you do get "Welcome to <county>" signs on motorways. – Mark Perryman Apr 17 '18 at 12:36
  • 1
    Has always amused me that on the M40 you get "Welcome to Buckinghamshire", then "Welcome to Oxfordshire" and then "Welcome to Buckinghamshire" again. Can be easy to think "What?!? Have I gone around in a circle!?". – WhatEvil Apr 17 '18 at 13:20
  • 5
    Can confirm that London boroughs often (but not always) have a welcome sign, typically featuring the borough's logo or coat of arms. The City of London (not to be confused with the rest of London) has these guys. – Steve Melnikoff Apr 17 '18 at 13:33
  • 1
    @Ambo100 That reminds me of the signs outside Bothell, WA that used to read "Welcome to ---hell, for a day, or for a lifetime" – Azor Ahai Apr 17 '18 at 21:03
31

At least one existed: one was erected in Trowbridge in 1999, and then replaced later. But they are exceedingly rare, and I'm not entirely sure that these count as 'road signs'.

Sign: "Trowbridge -- Welcome to the County Town of Wiltshire -- 45m above sea level -- Population 27,500 (and more information)

Sign: "Trowbridge -- Welcome to the County Town of Wiltshire -- 45m above sea level -- Population 35,000 (and more information)

Source: Geograph

  • 4
    This is something a little different, however. These kinds of signs are promotional, and may be erected by the town itself or by a civic organization; the one depicted in the OP is a standardized road sign whose installation and upkeep may be mandated by statute. – choster Apr 17 '18 at 20:14
  • 2
    Good work. I assumed there was a chance of there being one somewhere in the UK. – AndyT Apr 18 '18 at 8:05
  • Yep, very well done for finding this. Interesting to note that Trowbridge clearly had a major population surge between the time when those two signs were installed. :-D – Simba Apr 18 '18 at 8:18
  • 2
    @Simba coming from just down the road, why that would possibly be the case is a total mystery to me. – Tom W Apr 18 '18 at 8:28
  • 4
    @Simba It was probably the creation of a new sign making company, and the acquisition of several sign-making-engineers, along with their massive extended families and all their friends. – Grim Apr 18 '18 at 12:38
11

According to a brief google search (and from personally visiting several countries on different continents), the population number on the welcome sign seems to be a North American custom. I've never seen this anywhere else.

So, to answer your question, there most likely are no such signs, you didn't miss them.

  • 1
    According to the OP, "All cities and towns in Turkey have such signs, that's why I expected to see them in the UK too." – choster Apr 17 '18 at 20:15
6

You didn't miss them - they don't exist here, or indeed almost anywhere outside of the USA as far as I've seen.

Also, our councils can hardly manage to fill potholes, posting optional factoids on signs is just extravagance.

  • According to the OP, "All cities and towns in Turkey have such signs, that's why I expected to see them in the UK too." – choster Apr 17 '18 at 20:15
  • 3
    I've only visited ~30 of the ~50 countries of Europe, hence "as far as I've seen" rather than "by exhaustive international survey". – John U Apr 18 '18 at 10:39
2

As others have said, town signs in the UK don't have the population on. What they do quite often have, however, is "twinned with", showing the other towns and cities they are partnered with for cultural exchange reasons - as shown on the bottom of the Trowbridge sign in @Dragon's post

  • 10
    "Welcome to Norfolk, twinned with itself" – John U Apr 18 '18 at 10:39
1

In the UK, we have no local registration of one's residence. You can move somewhere and the only thing the council knows about a change in residence, is one name on the council tax bill, a new kid in a school, new benefit claim, etc. There is no need to register other family members or lodgers.

The only reasonably reliable count of population is every 10 years when the census is taken. The rest of the time, it would be a costly hassle for councils to maintain such a sign.

-7

I would say, as the UK is a highly compact country with everything close together. It would be impossible for those signs to exist because the constant changes within population when moving between two towns can take under an hour.

Also, this is kinda an American custom. Which English people would never want to adopt (we feel useless enough, you don't have to remind us how many people we have to compete with) .

  • 29
    You're aware that people are born, die and move house in the US, too? – David Richerby Apr 17 '18 at 14:50
  • 9
    We feel useless? Speak for yourself. For such a small island/population we have such a huge global presence, and should be proud of what we have accomplished (but perhaps not always the paths we took to accomplish it..). – Trotski94 Apr 17 '18 at 15:36
  • 7
    The populations listed in these signs are in no way required to be updated frequently. In the US most are updated at most every 10 years (after the Census). – EldritchWarlord Apr 17 '18 at 18:21
  • 11
    @DavidRicherby though not usually in that order ;-) – MadHatter Apr 18 '18 at 4:57
  • 3
    @JamesTrotter: And you have an impressive number of great rock bands. – Eric Duminil Apr 18 '18 at 7:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.