THE IRON HISTORY

Wrought ironwork is forged by a blacksmith using an anvil. The earliest known ironwork are beads from Jirzah in Egypt dating from 3500 BC and made from meteoric iron with the earliest use of smelted iron dates back to Mesopotamia. However, the first use of iron dates back to the Hittites from 2000BC.
Knowledge about the use of iron spread from the Middle East to Greece and the Aegean region by 1000BC and had reached western and central Europe by 600BC. However, its use was primarily utilitarian for weapons and tools before the Middle Ages. Due to rusting, very little remains of early ironwork.
From the medieval period, use of ironwork for decorative purposes became more common. Iron was used to protect doors and windows of valuable places from attack from raiders and was also used for decoration as can be seen at Canterbury Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral and Notre Dame de Paris. Armour also was decorated, often simply but occasionally elaborately. From the 16th century onwards, ironwork became highly
ornate especially in the Baroque and Rococo periods. In Spain, elaborate screens of iron or rejería were built in all of the Spanish cathedrals rising up to nine metres high.

In France, highly decorative iron balconies, stair railings and gateways were highly fashionable from 1650. Jean Tijou brought the style to England and examples of his work can be seen at Hampton Court and St Pauls Cathedral. Wrought ironwork was widely used in the UK during the 18th in gates and railings in London and towns such as Oxford and Cambridge. In the US, ironwork features more prominently in New Orleans than elsewhere due to its French influence.

As iron became more common, it became widely used for cooking utensils, stoves, grates, locks, hardware and other household uses. From the beginning of the 19th century, wrought iron was being replaced by cast iron due to the latter's lower cost. However, the English Arts and Craft movement produced some excellent work in the middle of the 19th century. In modern times, much modern wrought work is done using the pneumatic hammer and the acetylene torch. A number of modern sculptors have worked in iron including Pablo Picasso, Julio González and David Smith.