Waterford County Museum, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Charity Reg: 17397
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Dungarvan's Ironwork Heritage Part 1 - Boot Scrapers

Many of us are off work due to the Covid-19 virus and are now walking much more.  For those living near or in the town centre this is an opportunity to observe and look at the detail of the streetscape while strolling around.  A feature of many Irish cities, towns, and villages is the wealth of ironwork to be seen.  Lamp posts, boot scrapers, railings, balconies, post boxes, gates, bandstands, street name plaques, bollards, manhole covers and window guards.
Most of what we see today is cast iron made from moulds in the 19th century. 

There is some hand forged ironwork to be seen but this is rare. There were ironworks in many large towns and cities in Ireland: The Perrott and Hive works in Cork, Benjamin Graham and J Moir in Waterford, Mallet, Turner, in Dublin, and Musgrave and Co., Belfast.  Many small local foundries were affected by the growth of larger firms such as Walter Macfarlane and Co. of Glasgow who produced work on a huge scale, exporting all over the world.  Much of the ironwork in Dungarvan was made by this firm.  How do we know this? They printed large hardback fully illustrated catalogues of the products which were distributed to hardware shops.  The customer looked through these and picked out the particular item they required which had a catalogue number.  The order was taken and then shipped from England, delivered probably by train to Dungarvan railway station and from there moved by local carters to the hardware shop.  These catalogues are works of art in themselves with every single component illustrated by engravings.

Walter Macfarlane and Co. of Glasgow catalogue

William Fraher, curator of Waterford County Museum will point out what can be seen in Dungarvan and Abbeyside over the next few weeks.  So next time you are out for a stroll look out for these gems hidden in plain sight. Look up, look down, and look around!  

             Boot Scrapers

This week we are going to look at boot scrapers.  There are references to boot scrapers from the 18th century but these were probably portable ones.  In the 19th century footpaths were more common in urban areas, so people began to walk more.  However, the streets were still dirty with horse dung and other dirt, so it was essential to be able to remove this before you entered your front door.  Boot scrapers were built into the front wall of the house by the entrance door or fixed in place on the front step by the door or sometimes incorporated into the ornamental railings. There were different designs, some plain, others in a classical or gothic style as we can see in front of the Old Bank Restaurant in Bridge Street. Examples of scrapers built into the house wall can be seen in Church Street, for instance on the side of Merry’s Pub.   This boot scraper in Church Street was made by Izons & Co, West Bromwich Works and these are pages from their catalogue c.1840. This boot scraper cost 1/6.

Boot scraper in Church St., Dungarvan

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