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The History of Wrought Iron

Traditional wrought iron is the perfect material for beautiful gates and railings. This versatile materials has been used for everything from horseshoes to weapons since 1500 BC. 

Wrought iron combines strength, durability and versatility and is an extremely easy metal to work with. The word ‘wrought’ even comes from the same root as ‘work’.

We’ve taken a deeper look at the origins of wrought iron and how it became such a popular and decorative material around the world. 

The origins of wrought iron 

Although ironworking goes back to primitive times, the first wrought iron emerged in the 12th century. Until that time, man used highly malleable iron for simple tools and weapons.

Then, in what we now call the Iron Age, the first societies used it to craft cooking pots and utensils. 

But it wasn’t long before wrought iron became a staple of construction, adding eye-catching details to doors and railings. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, an ironclad door could also withstand plenty of wear and tear. 

As smelting processes became more sophisticated, so blacksmiths started to experiment with crafting more creative shapes and forms.

And although their work seems rustic compared to modern wrought iron, it was still highly prized for fortifying castles in Medieval times.

the history of wrought iron


Wrought iron in modern times 

The Industrial Revolution in the 18th century totally revolutionised the process of smelting and forging iron with the introduction of the reverberatory furnace and the puddling process.

Then, in 1889, Gustave Eiffel completed his famous tower in Paris and showcased what could be achieved using versatile wrought iron. It exploded in popularity and soon stunning balconies, railings, and gates were to be found adorning many of Europe’s stately homes and palaces. 

However, by the 19th and 20th centuries, alternatives like steel and aluminium were becoming widely used in construction and wrought iron fell out of fashion.

But the enduring beauty of decorative gates, fencing and railings mean that wrought iron is still popular with homeowners who recognise its charm and durability.

eiffel tower wrought iron


Unusual uses for wrought iron

Throughout history, wrought iron has been prized for its versatility. Here are just some of the most unusual uses for this valued metal.


During the 19th century, the might of Britain’s navy was due to its iron battleships.

These were similar to the invincible American Ironclads of the US Civil War, wooden ships covered in armour plating which could withstand even the heaviest canon bombardment. 

Horseshoes and wagon wheels

Horses and horse-drawn carts were the most popular form of transportation until the invention of the bicycle, and then the car. 

Robust and malleable, wrought iron was the ideal material for making horseshoes that protected the hooves and gave the horses additional traction when pulling heavy loads.

Carts and wagons were used to transport heavy loads, and the virtually indestructible wrought iron wagon wheel soon proved indispensable. 

Railway couplings

Iron has also played its part in the evolution of the railways. And though it’s not rigid enough to take the weight of a train, it made the ideal material for railway couplings. 

These devices connect an engine and carriages together, and were originally simple lengths of chain or a link and pin.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that automatic couplings made from iron were widely used on network in the US and Europe.


Ornamental homeware

From decorative etageres for displaying your finest china or most beautiful plants to ornate curtain rods, wrought iron has long had a place in interior design.

Wrought iron curtain rods with decorative finials can make even a plain pair of curtains look luxurious, while wrought iron candleholders retain their appeal with elegant and sophisticated designs. 

Wrought iron can be used for an endless number of decorative shapes and was once commonly used to display freshly baked bread or bottles of expensive wine. 

Fine UK Craftsmanship from Blake & Bull 

Nowadays, we celebrate the unique qualities of wrought iron in railings, gates and fences that combine beauty, strength and security. It remains a highly adaptable and appealing material that adds value to your home. 

Although the use of wrought iron has changed over time, its qualities remain the same. At Blake & Bull, we use traditional techniques to create exquisite gates and railings, each piece designed and handcrafted by our artisans.

Our highly skilled team can create and install bespoke gates and railings that will truly enhance the look of your property. To find out more, contact the Blake & Bull team today.