Waterford County Museum, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Charity Reg: 17397
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Country Gates

Throughout our countryside the remains of rusty old gates can be seen but more and more they are being removed and replaced by modern gates.  Many of these gates date to the 19th century and are a tribute to the skills of the blacksmiths who made them.  Those same blacksmiths also made more elaborate gates for the entrances to farmhouses, large and small.

Field gate near Kilgobnet. Drawing by W. Fraher 1980.

Gerald Tyler’s article on these gates is a great introduction to the topic. He notes that:
‘Many of the gates are stamped with the smith’s trade-mark and it is not unusual to find ordinary gates bearing a date nearly 200 years old.  That they have survived many years of opening, climbing over, and being pushed against is a tribute to the maker’s skill and sense of practical design’.
While the gates were first of all functional, they also allowed the blacksmith to introduce decorative elements.  The smiths were inventive and the gates which can be seen in our countryside all vary in their finished design.  Blacksmiths also had their own distinctive mark or sometimes their name or initials are stamped on the gate.

Field gate, Ballyduff. Drawing by W. Fraher 1980.

Field gate, Ballyduff. Drawing by W. Fraher 1980

A standard arrangement of the elements was essential for the gate to function properly. Many gates have one horizontal brace to ensure the gate is square.  In later gates these are replaced by a hoop and as Tyler states: ‘The hooped brace required much sledgehammering in its shaping and a hooped gate might take twice as long to make as one with a straight brace…many gates are made in whole, or in part, from old wheel bands which have been re-worked’.

To ensure that small animals could not squeeze through, the space between the horizontal bars was reduced the nearer they were to the ground.

Iron field gates are unique to Ireland as most field gates in England were constructed of wood.  Therefore, we should treasure those which remain and make a visual record of them.  If you would like to help please take part in our Heritage Week project – ‘Become an Ironwork Detective’ Photograph or draw gates near you and send the images and information to info@waterfordmuseum.ie

Gerald Tyler, The Iron Gate – Relic of a Forgotten Craft, Old Kilkenny Review, 1977. pp.278-283.

The Vernacular Forged Wrought Iron Field Gate, Kilkenny Co Council 2014.

www.irishbacksmiths.com Guide to Best Practices for the Restoration of Irish Historic Ironwork, 2013.

Field gate near Dungarvan. Drawing by W. Fraher 1980

Gate drawings - Details of field gate ornamentation, West Waterford.
Drawings by W. Fraher 1980

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