cast iron

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Also known as grey iron, it is cast in moulds (usually fine compacted sand), and has enjoyed much use in architecture since C17 for street furniture, railings, screens, gates, and decoration, all of which are reproduced from moulds taken from an original model (often of wood). Strong in compression (but weak in tension) it could be used for columns, but for beams it was problematic as it is easily fractured. In the second half of C18 it began to be used to support galleries in churches, and was used to great effect by Nash at Carlton House Terrace, the Mall, London (1827–33), for the row of Greek Doric columns on the Mall front (which would have been far more expensive to make individually of stone). It began to be used structurally from the time of the building of the Iron Bridge in Salop. (1777–9) (see iron). Whole façades were made of cast iron (and kits of parts) to designs by Badger, Baird, and Bogardus in C19. Vast quantities of cast-iron lamps, street furniture, railings, urinals, architectural decorations, grilles, gates, etc., were produced by firms such as the Carron and Saracen foundries in Scotland and the Coalbrookdale Ironworks, Salop., and exported all over the British Empire. Cast-iron components contributed an enormous amount to the interest of townscape, which has been impoverished by the loss of so much (especially in Great Britain during the 1939–45 war, which was more to do with social engineering and propaganda than with the war effort).

Aitchison (1960);Fairbairn (1869, 1870);G&G (1974);Loudon (1834);W. Papworth (ed.) (1852);E. G. Robertson & J. Robertson (1994);Sturgis et al. (1901–2)

Subjects: Architecture.

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