20 Jul Ornamental Fences Over the Years
In its History of Gates and Railings, The Victorian Emporium credits the Victorians with the introduction of ornamental fences. “In Victorian times the creation of attractive and impressive houses was the order of the day and this included garden paths which were often decoratively tiled, gates and railings, a statement of affluence and well being,” they explain. The wrought iron and cast iron gates and railings the Victorians had a fondness for could also be used to mark the boundaries of houses from the public highway and to provide a level of security.
Heavy iron fences, which are subject to rust and can be extremely expensive, have been replaced with steel and aluminum fences. You can find these easy-to-care-for ornamental fences in a variety of styles and finishes at Zepco, your South Florida leader in residential and commercial fencing.
In the past, decorative ironwork would be used to highlight the architectural style of a home or business. “During the Victorian era, there was a huge demand for decorative cast iron gates and railings – Victorian designs represent a ‘gracious era’ when manufacturers took time to produce quality and long-lasting decorative items,” Britain’s Victorian Emporium says. “By the late 19th century there were catalogues of mass produced cast iron railings and gates for the wealthier Victorian householder to choose from.”
The Victorian era is generally considered to be the period in the United Kingdom’s history when Queen Victoria’s reigned (1837-1901).
According to Traditional Building Portfolio’s feature Fencing Through the Years, “When cast iron started to come into its own as a building material in the 1840s, the design of fencing shifted from the creativity of wrought-iron artisan and the inherent characteristics of the metal itself to the mass production of identical pieces based upon design sources beyond the fence.”
Cast iron wasn’t new to the Victorians. It had been around for hundreds of centuries – but only in limited quantities. “It was not available in sufficient or economical quantities to be practical as a building material until the invention of the hot blast furnace in England 1824, and the switch from charcoal to coke and coal as a forge fuel,” Gordon Bock, the author of Fencing Through the Years says.
And it wasn’t just being used across the pond! “By the 1840s, cast iron was rapidly growing in importance in America. In contrast to wrought iron, cast iron could not be hammered, twisted or otherwise fashioned by an artisan; plus, though it was good in compression, to have any strength individual pieces had to be beefy and therefore quite heavy. However, what made cast iron a revolutionary building material was the way it enabled products to be cast, and therefore mass produced rapidly and economically in identical forms and unlimited numbers,” Bock reports.
Sometimes cast iron was used in the same styles that had become popular during the heyday of wrought iron. But cast iron could take the decorative aspect of fencing to new levels. “Designers soon realized that cast iron’s added value was in carrying surface detail, which unleashed a heretofore unheard of vogue for architectural fencing. For example, a Greek Revival building could now sport a fence or window grilles based on the Greek key motif and adorned perhaps with durable cast-iron anthemia or acroterion. For that matter, the cast-iron fence of a Gothic Revival house or churchyard might be filled with quatrefoils, pointed arches and other Gothic motifs and symbols. Even an Egyptian Revival building, such as the 1845 Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, could be set off with an appropriate cast-iron fence supported by posts cast as — what else? — stylized mummies.”
You won’t find mummies of any kind at Zepco, but you will find an array of stylish ornamental fences as well as a wide selection of PVC fences, commercial fences and residential wood fences.