Railings

Ornate cast-iron work is widespread throughout the Rathmines Township area as can be seen from the variety of railings, balconies and foot scrapers on view in the locality. Railings as an architectural feature were very much in vogue at the time of house building in Rathmines. They served the dual purpose of providing a decorative embellishment to the facades of the houses and at the same time creating a boundary between the pavement and the entrance or basement. It was considered fashionable for town houses to have railings, whilst stonewalls were more rustic in their appearance.

Although decorative cast-iron railings and balconies were symbolic of an affluent society in Rathmines and environs, they were common features to both grand and simple houses.

The precedent for cast iron railings had been established as early as 1714 in England when, in spite of architect Wren's disapproval, some were erected around St Paul's Cathedral in London.

The introduction of cast-iron and wrought iron into architectural ironwork was slow at first and only came into full use in England by the 1820's. However in later years, during World War II, there was a lot of pressure to remove railings, when under the initiative of Lord Beaverbrook, journalist and politician, every railing that could be taken away without exposing the public to danger was removed for making ammunition. We were saved from this fate in Dublin as can be seen from the selection of railings that have survived.

The railing designs found in Rathmines consist of a mixture of cast-iron and wrought iron. Cast-iron is used for the ornamental parts and wrought iron for the simpler uprights and horizontal sections. Wrought iron is made by hammering the iron into delicate curves and shapes, whilst cast-iron is made by pouring molten iron into moulds. The railings are set into stone plinth walls.

The most successful use of cast iron ornament is found in railing finials and in the formation of scrolls. The word 'finial', derived from 'final', refers to the ornament terminating the wrought iron balusters. Scrollwork above all else calls for a sense of artistry and an eye for proportion. There are few prescripts that can be laid down for making a scroll or for assessing its proportions, and this delicate work was left ultimately to the skill of the blacksmith. The main types are ribbon-end, fishtail, snub-end, leaf-end and bolt-end.

Dublin City Public Libraries

Gallery

Example of floral moulded railing tops on Killeen Road, Dublin 6

Example of cast-iron, floral moulded railing tops on Killeen Road, Dublin 6.

By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

Example of floral moulded railing tops on Killeen Road, Dublin 6 - By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

Example of Railings on Mountpleasant Square

Example of Railings on Mountpleasant Square:these have gilt and black painted trident cast iron moulded railing tops.

By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

Example of Railings on Mountpleasant Square - By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

Example of the popular shamrock and sword design on Bushy Park Road, Dublin

Example of the popular shamrock and sword design on Bushy Park Road, Dublin

By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

Example of the popular shamrock and sword design on Bushy Park Road, Dublin - By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

Example of Spike-headed, cast iron railings in Rathmines, Dublin

Example of Spike-headed, cast iron railings outside the townhall in Rathmines, Dublin.

By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

Example of Spike-headed, cast iron railings in Rathmines, Dublin - By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

Ribbon ended feature on railings on Bushy Park Road, Dublin 6

Ribbon ended feature on, beaten iron railings on Bushy Park Road, Dublin 6

By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

Ribbon ended feature on railings on Bushy Park Road, Dublin 6 - By kind permission of the Rathmines Historical Society

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