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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

story:The Heroic Age

scene:Art in iron

Art in iron
Images with this text:
An example of the application of ironwork to stairs.
Art in iron
During the nineteenth century, cast iron was a popular choice for architectural fittings and for street furniture. The Coalbrookdale Company in Ironbridge, Shropshire, which had pioneered the smelting of iron using coke, was one of several British manufacturers specialising in the casting of a wide range of architectural and domestic fittings.
They were also trying out the casting of pieces of sculpture and statues in iron rather than bronze to reduce costs, but this innovation was not widely taken up. The Coalbrookdale Company displayed a wide range of their products at the Great Exhibition in 1851. The Exhibition Jury awarded the company a Council Medal (the highest class) for their cast-iron statues and some other items.
Images with this text:
The Coalbrookdale Gates, Kensington Gardens, 2003.
Explore some art in ironCoalbrookdale Company
The Coalbrookdale Company was keen to promote the use of cast iron for ornamental structures. The 1851 exhibition catalogue described a vase as 'adapted for a garden, fountain, or other ornament; of foreign and English design.'
Images with this text:
Iron vase, cast by the Coalbrookdale Company, 1851.
A Specimen of ornamental structure
The Coalbrookdale Company's principal exhibit at the Great Exhibition was a specimen of ornamental structure. The rustic dome enclosed 'The Eagle Slayer', a statuette by John Bell. An eagle, transfixed by the arrow of the archer, formed the centre ornament of the roof of the dome.Images with this text:
Ornamental dome made by the Coalbrookdale Company, 1851. From the 1851 exhibition catalogue.
Fountain and park gates
A fountain and a set of park gates by the Coalbrookdale Company were exhibited at the Great Exhibition. The fountain featured the grouping 'Cupid and the Swan', again by John Bell. After the Exhibition the gates were re-erected at the entrance to Kensington Gardens in London, where they remain today.
Images with this text:
Cast-iron fountain and park gates by the Coalbrookdale Company, 1851.
The Coalbrookdale Gates, Kensington Gardens, 2003.
A Bronzed iron fountain
A fountain was cast by J. P. V. Andre of Val d'Orne, France. The Great Exhibition Jury awarded a Council Medal for the fountain, saying that it was a 'meritorious work; though it may be doubted whether cast iron is a material suitable for such a purpose, unless protected from the action of water by some hydrofuge'.
Images with this text:
Bronzed iron fountain cast by the Frenchman J. P. V. Andre, 1851.
Britannia Foundry
Andrew Handyside's Britannia Foundry, Derby, also exhibited at the Great Exhibition. The firm had a high reputation for the quality of its castings. It was one of the principal suppliers of pillar letter boxes to the Post Office.
Image with this text:
Iron vase cast by Handyside's Britannia Foundry, Derby, 1851. The Saracen Foundry
Walter Macfarlane & Co's Saracen Foundry at Possilpark, Glasgow, was one of the world's largest suppliers of decorative and architectural cast iron in the late nineteenth century.
Images with this text:
The showroom at Macfarlane's Saracen Foundry, Glasgow. An illustration from their catalogue, c.1882.
An example of the application of ironwork to stairs. From Macfarlane's catalogue, c.1882.

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