Cast and wrought iron were popular building materials during the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s. Mass production meant that much Scottish architecture of this period used iron both decoratively and structurally. Scotland was also a major exporter of cast iron products in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Decorative and architectural ironwork was made using three ferrous metals: cast iron, wrought iron and mild steel, all of which came from ironstone. The characteristics of iron vary and while Scottish ores were well suited to casting, they were less suitable for converting into good wrought iron.
Regular inspection of ironwork will help you to spot any signs of damage or decay so that you can deal with them promptly. Iron is a durable material, but various factors can contribute to, and speed up, decay. Lack of regular maintenance and repairs is often the worst culprit.
Corrosion of iron occurs when oxygen and water are present. Over time, the iron returns to the natural oxide forms of the original iron ore it came from. Applying surface coatings to keep the iron dry reduces the risk of corrosion. You should remove any corrosion from ironwork as soon as you spot it.
Where repairs to iron are essential, intervention should be minimal and quality repair techniques should be used. Poorly designed repairs and replacements can cause severe damage and spoil the look and character of historic ironwork.
Replacement of iron elements may sometimes be necessary to ensure structural integrity. You must aim to keep as much of the original fabric as you can, however, and all replacements should be on a like-for-like basis.
Regular painting will keep ironwork looking good and help to protect it from corrosion. You may be able to make spot paint repairs if you’ve had to treat only small areas of corrosion.