The Baker Foundry, Newport, South Wales

Compared with other foundries featured on the Lost Art site, the Baker Foundry is considerably less celebrated. Situated in Newport, Monmouthshire, it was a long distance from the Scottish heartlands of most of the major names in decorative cast ironwork. However, Welsh foundries were responsible for producing both elaborate and decorative ironwork as well as the more everyday items that provided the bulk of the employment for iron workers. Like many of the major competitors, the company also maintained offices in London, from where the catalogues etc were issued.

Founded in 1880 as W. A. Bakers Foundry, the company operated out of its Westgate Works, although the company was also linked to an ironmongery shop in the city that sold many of its products, apparently stocking everything from bedsteads to ammunition.

The company also supplied structural and decorative ironwork to local civic developments, with over 100 tons of their products being used in the building of the Newport 'Town Bridge', including parapets as well as cast light fittings.

A quick look at the Baker catalogue will show that it produced many items in common with other foundries of the time.

Bayliss, Jones & Bayliss, Wolverhampton

In contrast to the majority of the companies featured in the Lost Art Archive, the Wolverhampton based company of Bayliss, Jones and Bayliss were focussed more on the design and production of gates and railings rather than that of decorative castings. As a consequence, much of their work was focussed on the production of ‘wrought’ (or ‘worked’) iron rather than the casting of shapes form molten metal in moulds.

The company was established in 1826, growing to become a large employer and significant presence within the industrial landscape of its home city, although it also maintained offices and representation in London, as did the majority of the significant foundries.

The gates and fences produced by BJB ranged from the ornate to the functional and although styles evolved, the core of their production range and methods remained relatively constant for a period of 75 years covering both the Victorian and Edwardian periods, finally suffering a decline during the period of austerity beginning with the Second World War. By this time, BJB had been absorbed into the giant G.K.N. company where it remained as a semi-independent operation until the 1970’s when the parent company finally collapsed. By this time BJB had shifted focus onto more industrially focussed products such as railway fixings and transmission wires for electrical distribution.

Given the classic nature of the Bayliss products, Lost Art Limited reproduce a number of designs that are either replicas or close approximations of their styles. Included in this is the ‘game proof fencing’ which can be produced in a number of styles and sizes.

The estate style fencing illustrated in the BJB catalogue is available from Lost Art Limited. A classic design and a common feature of British countryside estates, this type of fencing was installed by the mile throughout the country. Lost Art Limited offer a variety of variations on the classic design and also include gates, either to standard or bespoke sizes and designs. Similarly, the hoop top design of fencing, much used in public parks, is also produced by Lost Art Limited for either supply or for supply and installation, as is the case with all of our products.

Boulton and Paul, Norwich

A Norwich based company, dating back to 1797 when records show that they had an ironmonger’s shop on Cockey Lane in the city, which was retained until 1869, despite having moved production to the Rose Lane Foundry several years earlier.

Like the Wolverhampton firm of Bayliss, Jones and Bayliss, the main focus of the Boulton and Paul output was the production of gates, fencing and metal structures such as farm buildings and shepherd’s huts, constructed in corrugated iron – an example of which can be viewed at the Chiltern Open Air Museum, although this is a mission hall building rather than a farm structure.

In terms of decorative works, the firm are best appreciated for the involvement of the influential designer Thomas Jeckyll, whose style was both novel and influential then and increasingly collectible now. Whilst he designed gates for the company, he was also responsible for interior fittings such as fireplaces. His combination of influences and interest in natural forms places him alongside such celebrated figures as William Morris and Christopher Dresser.

A reproduction of a Jeckyl design was chosen for inclusion as a ceiling rose for the bandstand designed and produced by Lost Art Limited for Beaumont Park in Huddersfield - our carving for the casting process is illustrated alongside.

The Lost Art Limited archive includes an original copy of a Boulton and Paul catalogue. Although the company did produce some benches, as their focus was more on wrought rather than cast iron, compared with their mainly Scottish contemporaries, their range of seating included a greater number of wrought iron based benches rather than those featuring decorative cast iron ends.

Lost Art Limited do produce a number of benches that are similar in style to both the wrought and cast iron benches offered by Bolton and Paul.

The Carron Company, Falkirk

Founded as a partnership between three men, the Carron Company was established in 1759 near Falkirk, Scotland, on the banks of the River Carron. The founders deciding to use the method developed at the famous and pioneering Coalbrookdale works which was based on using coke as fuel rather than charcoal. This process was helped by the local availability of coal and this use of newer processes is thought to have pushed less technologically advanced local ironworks out of business.

In addition to possessing (and producing) a number of examples of Carron Company benches, including designs no.11, 14, the latter being referredto as The Carron Mystery Bench, No. 4, which we refer to as the Thorneythwaite,and Lost Art Limited do have copies of Carron Company catalogues and promotional material as well as copies of original registration documents. However, as mentioned earlier, their production of decorative ironwork was limited and of generally less importance to Lost Art Limited activities.

Coalbrookdale, Shropshire

Perhaps the most famous and certainly one of the most influential of all the foundries producing decorative cast iron goods, Coalbrookdale has a long and distinctive history, including considerable innovation within the manufacturing processes, as well as true excellence in design.

The Coalbrookdale Foundry was initially established by Abraham Darby of Shropshire in 1709 and run by successive members of the Darby family through most of the 18th Century. The area had previously hosted an earlier foundry but the furnace had exploded and then allowed to become derilict.

Darby rebuilt the Coalbrookdale Furnace, using coke as the fuel and this enabled him to produce simple cast iron goods such as pots and pans more cheaply than his competitors, allowing him to prosper.

The Sun Foundry, Glasgow

The Sun Foundry name refers to the works base of George Smith & Co, a Glasgow based firm started in 1858 and who were at one time comparable in size to the more famous Saracen Works of Walter MacFarlane. Indeed, there are those who believe that the work of the Sun Foundry surpasses in decorative quality that of both the Saracen and Lion works, this being particularly true in the area of fountains, a product for which Smith's company were renowned.

The Lion Foundry, Kirkintilloch

Founded in 1880 by three former employees of the MacFarlane, Saracen Foundry, the Lion Foundry developed into a direct competitor to their previous employer through until the 1950s. In addition to the founders, the company also took the services of William Cassels, a designer and draughtsman from the Saracen Works. This may account for the similarity of designs of the two companies until Lion started to develop a more distinctive Art Nouveau style of designs when Cassells was replaced by James Leitch, who in turn was followed by his son of the same name.

The MacDowall Stevenson Company, Glasgow

The origins of the McDowall Steven company can be traced back through one of the founders, James Edlington, to the earliest days of the great Glasgow foundries. As with many other of the iron companies, the firm McDowall Steven & Co was the eventual outcome of a number of mergers and takeovers, the final company emerging in 1862, with the foundry named as the Milton Ironworks.

Walter MacFarlane and Company, Glasgow

The Glasgow based, Saracen Foundry of Walter MacFarlane and Company was one of the most successful and influential of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries and has left a legacy of decorative ironwork, which is at least the match of any of its city rivals.

Founded by Walter MacFarlane, the company evolved from an earlier partnership from around 1850, which took over a disused brass foundry in Saracen Lane – the location giving the name to the foundries that followed. Walter himself had been a trainee jeweller, followed by a blacksmithing apprenticeship, which in turn led to his becoming moulding shop manager at a local foundry before setting up in business himself.

The early business focussed on the production of sanitary goods, with the success of the firm built on the more ordinary latrines and urinals than the decorative work for which they are now famed.

In 1872 the foundry relocated to what became known as Possilpark and, as the fortunes of the foundry boomed, so did the population of the area, rising from 10 to 10,000 in just 20 years. Along with the rise in the fortunes of the foundry and the population of the area, such large industry also created problems of pollution and Walter was known in some quarters and not too affectionately as “the Laird of Fossiltoun.”

Other notable UK and overseas companies

A quick round-up of the history of architectural and decorative cast iron will reveal that a few major foundries dominate accounts of the period. Many of these are covered as part of this website. However, it should be remembered that there were many hundreds of foundries around the UK, many of whom were producing rather mundane, everyday goods but occasionally would make a small foray into the productions of more decorative items.