Ornamental ironwork was primarily presented through wrought iron until the latter half of the 18th century and the industrial revolution. In Britain the cast iron material was originally popularized by the Adams Brothers who first recognized the value of cast iron and its usage for mass production in standalone structures.
It increased in popularity in Victorian times and was mainly used for making gates, railings, panels and the decorative elements they incorporated. Historic cast ironwork is special in that it requires appropriate treatment. It is a sensitive aspect of heritage as it is difficult to repair and should be handled by a professional who is guided by principles of reputable heritage conservation organizations.
Conservators should always try to maintain as much of the original material of the element by using traditional and informed techniques. Historic cast ironwork fittings can be permanently damaged by uninformed handling and treatment as it is a brittle material, tends to break under stress and can be easily damaged by modern techniques and tools. The replication of historic cast ironwork requires the traditional skills of a blacksmith as the spoiling of the original metal represents a permanent loss of historic fabric.
Through colonization, cast iron became a common material in the architectural features of religious, commercial and residential buildings across the Caribbean. Many historic buildings in Trinidad and Tobago still possess identifiable cast iron elements that have withstood the test of time. Many of the buildings built in the beginning to the middle of the 18th century which used Cast Iron, tend to have Cast Iron fences or gates to border the property. This can be seen on Queen’s Royal College, Mille Fleurs, George Brown’s House, Sacred Heart RC Church and much more. Beyond being popularly used for railings in Trinidad and Tobago, cast iron is also a very involved component in the interior and exterior features of buildings from decorative elements to supporting structures.
Take a look at how Cast Iron is used in these various sites
The Cast Iron Railings at Woodford Square were installed in 1892 and the Fleur-de-lis is used as a decorative symbol in the railings.
Source: Denzel Reid
Sacred Heart RC Church
A cast iron fence along Richmond Street extends from the tower to the intersection of Richmond and Sackville Streets. Large, ornate cast iron double gates flank the main entrance and awning providing access to the Church.
Source: National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago
Source: Maya Doyle-Fox
The Porch Roof is supported by decorative cast iron columns with elaborate brackets. The handrail of the east porch is constructed of wood with a decorative cast iron balustrade set in the column bays.
The front property fence and gate consists of decorative cast iron panels with ornate spears.
The Arima Dial follows Modern French architecture with a cast iron head, post and base. The Dial is weatherproof with engraved mouldings in each face of the base. This structure possesses a four faced dial as the head, originally ordained with Roman numeral characters for the clock faces.
Source: Kara Roopsingh
Cast Iron cresting at the roof ridge with cast iron finials at the gable ends
Cast Iron weathervane
George Brown House
The building is bordered by a low cast iron fence supported by a concrete wall. The perimeter is interrupted by two cast-iron gates.
The roof is covered with shingles and crowned by cast-iron crestings on all ridgelines.
The porte-cochere is made of cast iron and timber and abuts the central porch.
Ornamental Cast Iron, David Mitchell. Buildingconservation.com. 2009