MYSTERY surrounds the disappearance of two signs which have been part of the street scene in Bromsgrove since Queen Victoria's reign.

One theory is that they may have been stolen by unscrupulous collectors.

Both signs were set high up on the side of buildings in the town centre within a short distance of each other. Whoever removed them would have had to use a ladder or a large pair of steps.

One, bearing the words Little Lane, was situated at the Worcester Road end of the ancient alley leading to the Market Hall. The alley is known to many older Bromsgrovians by a rather more colloquial name.

The other, more ornate sign, was in George Street some 12 feet from the ground, screwed to the side of Sue Sutton's soft furnishings store.

Sue said she had spotted it recently at the side of the street and had assumed it had fallen off. Later she noted it was missing.

Local historian and author Dr Alan Richards said: "It is possible they may have been stolen because of their age."

He added that thieves are getting rich from stealing and selling roadside place names, especially in Ireland, which appear in bars worldwide. Manhole covers from London streets are stolen to sell for scrap. A spokeswoman for Bromsgrove District Council said the mystery of where the signs, which went missing at the same time, went remains unsolved.

However, new ones have been ordered and should be delivered any day,she added.