What is a fingerpost?

Mark Woolmer

Put simply, a fingerpost is a road or wayfinding sign that offers directions to multiple nearby destinations, whether they be a nearby village or a neighbouring country (yes, really!).

If you’re a fan of rural walks in the English countryside, you’ve almost certainly come across a fingerpost. Once a relic of the pre-GPS age, fingerposts have now taken on a sentimental heritage in the UK’s natural landscape.

However, fingerposts actually have a rich history across both the UK and Europe, with many fingerposts now even becoming tourist attraction sites at home and abroad.

In this blog, we’re going to look at the origin of the fingerpost, their purposes and uses, and why they’re still as popular as ever. But first let us answer the question: what actually is a fingerpost?

Features of Fingerposts

Fingerposts often feature an arrow and text indicating the direction, distance, and destination of roads or paths; they’re typically made from wood or metal, and may be placed at intersections or other important points in the landscape. Fingerposts are used throughout Europe and are most common in rural areas, but can also be found in some cities.

And why is a fingerpost called a fingerpost?

The name “fingerpost” is derived from the distinctive design of these directional signs. The post itself usually consists of an upright wooden pole which extends several feet above ground level, with one or more carved arms pointing in different directions. This gives the impression that the post is acting as an extended finger and showing the way to various destinations.

When did the first fingerpost originate ?

The first fingerpost is believed to have originated in the late 16th century in England. The earliest known example of an exant fingerpost dates back to the 15th century, and is located near Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. The fingerpost is dated 1669 and points to Oxford, Warwick, Gloucester and Worcester (although the latter two were shortened to ‘Gloster’ and ‘Woster’).

What are fingerposts made of?

Fingerposts are usually made from either wood, metal or recycled plastic. Wooden fingerposts often feature a post with carved wooden arms pointing in different directions, while metal fingerposts typically consist of a pole with arrows indicating the direction and destination of roads.

Some more modern fingerposts may also include indicators for bus stops, bike paths, footpaths or other destinations. In addition to the standard fingerposts, there are also smaller versions, known as signposts or waymarkers, which are designed for walkers and cyclists. These typically feature a single arrow and text indicating the direction and distance of a path.

What is the purpose of fingerposts?

The primary purpose of fingerposts is to provide directions to travellers, although fingerposts also add a sentimental, old-fashioned charm to any town, path, or village. They also serve to be useful for modern purposes, such as offering help to walkers, cyclists and motorists alike, providing guidance in unfamiliar terrain without the need for a map or GPS device.

Fingerposts are especially helpful for walkers and hikers who want to explore rural areas without getting lost, or explore areas with little to no mobile phone coverage. In addition to providing directions, fingerposts can also be used as navigational aids, helping visitors and tourists find points of interest, parks, and other destinations. Finally, fingerposts can also be used to guide visitors in large outdoor areas such as theme parks and large outdoor playgrounds.

Are fingerposts still used today?

Yes, fingerposts are still used today in both urban and rural areas and for signage on estates, parks and sites. Although they may not be as common as they once were for road navigation, fingerposts remain an important way of providing directions for walkers and cyclists in remote locations as well as private attractions.

Despite the popularisation and advancement of new navigational technologies such as GPS and online mapping services, fingerposts are still very popular today. Whilst technology provides a precise way of navigating unknown roads and paths, fingerposts are great if:

  • You’re looking to maintain the natural element of a particular site
  • You’re looking to maintain brand integrity
  • You don’t want to encourage site users to use wifi
  • You run a large site or attraction and want to quickly point users in the right direction so visitors don’t have to use technology.

The inherent historic and cultural value of the fingerpost shouldn’t be understated; fingerposts were and remain a symbol of British national heritage to this day, even as the number of fingerposts in the UK declines.

If you’re looking for a fingerpost for your heritage attraction, public park or premises, you can view our fingerpost products here. Seen something you like? Get in touch with us today on 01634 711 771.

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Mark Woolmer

Mark Woolmer

With a strong background in art and design, Mark is passionate about the capacity for excellent design as a communication tool, leading the Fitzpatrick Woolmer company and focusing on strategy, business development and continual improvement.

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