The History of Front Gardens
To the Victorians, an attractive and impressive house was a statement of affluence and status. They loved to show off their good taste and their prosperity.
This was no less important in the thousands of terraced houses across London:
They paid a great deal of attention to the front of the house, employing ornate gates, railings and decoratively tiled garden paths in order to create sophisticated boundaries from both neighbours and street.
Victorian wealth and opulence
Following the introduction of a new industrial process in the late 1800s, cast ironwork largely replaced the more cumbersome wrought iron mouldings, bringing more flexibility and lower costs. As a result, the popularity of decorative cast iron gates and railings boomed during the Victorian era.
Victorian designs reflect the wealth and opulence of the times. Patterns and design varied from the 'classic' to the complex, but all point to a period of time when quality and individuality were highly desirable.
Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Edwardians continued the traditional look of front gardens in town terraced houses, although the ironwork became less ostentatious and the tiled paths less exotic.
The Spitfire myth
During WWII, Lord Beaverbrook, Winston Churchill's Minister of Supply, identified a need for raw materials for the manufacture of munitions and in 1941 an order compulsorily requisitioning all post-1850 iron gates and railings came into effect.
Contemporary reports tell of teams of workmen removing everything in their path, leaving only stubs behind. Many of these stubs can still be seen.
The common lore that all this booty was used 'to build Spitfires' seems unlikely, not least because there was little iron used in the manufacture of war-time aeroplanes. Indeed, it seems likely that the majority of the iron taken in this way was not used in the war effort at all and was dumped – some reports even maintain that a great deal of it was thrown into the Thames estuary.
In any event, the public were never told that their 'sacrifice' had been in vain and there is some evidence of a cover up in the records of the time.
In recent years, there has been a renaissance in decorative ironwork as home-owners seek to restore the ravaged borders of their properties.
Thankfully, this is (usually) done in a sympathetic way and modern manufacturers are beginning to offer as wide a choice of railings, posts, gates and finials as their Victorian predecessors....
... which we can supply! Please contact us for a free, no obligation quotation.