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Wednesday 21 December 2011

The Canopied Penny Farthing - Distinctive Logo Or A Symbolic Representation?

    The canopied penny farthing bicycle is one of the visual icons of the Prisoner and his village that everyone remembers. A strange, yet somehow natural looking device, though made completely unrideable by the canopy, making the penny farthing bicycle top heavy. So perhaps this strange looking contraption has another, something more in the way of a practical use, being a representation for something for example. Certainly the penny farthing bicycle according to Patrick McGoohan is representative of man's progress, said to have been too fast and should be slowed down and consolidate the things man has both discovered and created. Yet technology slows down for no man, and man will not permit such a slowing. In today’s technological world both man and woman want things today, because no sooner is one thing brought out, then someone brings out something else which is both cheaper and faster, such is the appetite for technology. Today no one is satisfied with the things they have, mobile phones for example. No sooner do you buy one, then its really out of date because there are newer and better models made available. DVD's, no sooner do we get used to one, then others are brought out onto the market, ones which can record. Then televisions which have the DVD inserted straight into the television itself, no need for a DVD player/recorder, another example if you like, even if you don't like! Technology may very well one day, be man's own undoing.
    Then there is the canopy itself, representative of safety which has crept into the everyday lives of each and everyone of us since the compulsory wearing of crash helmets for motor cycle riders and seat belts for car drivers and passengers. Health and safety features more and more in our lives, both at work, in the home and when we are out and about restricting our activities because people are afraid to injure themselves, or for others to see us injure ourselves for fear of compensation! Children are not allowed to play as we once were, nothing dangerous must be attempted. Play areas must be safe and secure so that no child can injure him or herself, the nursery syndrome one might almost say. Well one can say, such is the Nanny state we now live in. All, each and everyone of us wrapped up in cotton wool for our own protection and looked after by the government of the day as it exercises its control over the citizens of its society.
    But them that would be reading far too much into a simple looking device, of combined bicycle and canopy, which after all may only be a wonderful 'Logo!'
    Yes, this strange contraption/design of the canopied penny farthing makes a teriffic logo, once seen never forgotten, even by those who are not fans of the Prisoner recognise it when they see it and automatically think of the Prisoner. There has been nothing like it before or since and has lasted the test of the past decades.
    The penny farthing design, with or without added canopy, can be seen all around the village and on a multitude of village products; tinned produce, packets of darning needles, cooking oil, bottles of milk. On the bonnet of village taxis, in No. 2's office, on the Boardroom door, on soda siphons, badges, record labels, the village flag which are only a few examples. Yes, I think that is the secret of the canopied penny farthing bicycle..... a quite unforgettable logo, for both the village and the Prisoner television series.

Not a Number, but a person!


  1. Does anyone know the name of the artist/ designer of this penny farthing logo/sequence? I have been searching for several hours, without luck.

    1. Hello Arachnalingua,
      I have carried out some research using the books, magazines etc within my archive, but without going into the numerous video productions about 'the Prisoner' series. And I have been unable to find any mention whatosever about who it was who designed both the canopied Penny Farthing, or the animated closing credits to each episode. However I would imagine that the Art Designer on 'the Prisoner' Jack Shampan would have had a hand in designing the canopied Penny Farthing. I do have a number of interviews with Jack Shampan on video, and given time I could go through them for you. If you wish drop me an email at and we can talk about this further.
      Many people write about what the Village logo means, but I can find no-one who actually talks about who designed it.

      Very kind regards


    Strangely a similar logo can be found on a bowling ball at the Bowes Nuseum, Barnard Castle.

    1. Hello Mr. Speller,
      The video is from one of Steven Rick's documentaries Another observtion is that there is a comment from me on 'THE PRISONER, Penny Farthings and Canopys,' I wonder who put that there? I didn't!

      Be seeing you

  3. As a lifelong model kit builder (and Prisoner Fan), I have built or converted several kits relating to the programme. Currently, I'm working on adding a canopy to a very rare kit of a Penny Farthing bicycle but have hit a major problem: an operating Penny Farthing cannot be fitted with a canopy! As on a standard bicycle, the whole front wheel section twists to enable steering, so any canopy support struts would have to twist also. Close inspection of the image suggests the supports run down alongsde the wheel axle struts. I could construct some clumsy framework fitted to the steering spindle alone - which could work in theory - but this would spoil the elegance of the whole thing. All I can do is build the model as a non-steering construction... and hope no-one notices!

    Paul Bradbury