Until a few years ago, cast-iron statues were looked upon as the poor relation of bronze sculpture, but in fact the two cost just about the same to produce. Although bronze is the more expensive material, cast iron is harder and has a higher melting temperature, so it is far more difficult and expensive to detail with a chisel and finish off. Cast-iron statues art- prone to rust, however, and the material is brittle, so damage is mor STATUARY e common. Statues of similar size and intricacy might still cost 50 per cent more in bronze than in cast iron.


Most 19th-century cast-iron garden furni­ture came from French or British foundries.

French cast iron was generally more figurative than British, which is epitomised by the output of the Coalbrookdale foundry at Ironbridge, Shropshire, established in 1708 By the late 19th century, Coalbrookdale - producing a wide range of furniture as well as urns, architectural fittings and fountains, many of which are now being copied.


Modern cast-iron copies of urns and sent are sometimes immersed in sea water to accelerate rusting and give an impression of age. If the copy was cast from an original seat or urn, the foundry and registration stamps will be reproduced in the copy and are therefore no guarantee of age.

As a rule, reproductions are badly finished along the casting seam marks, and do not faithfully reproduce the original domed brass nuts. It can also be difficult to date old pieces when they have been sandblasted to remove the layers of paint that have built up over time.

Wrought iron differs from cast iron in that it is entirely shaped by hand and is not cast in moulds. Seats in particular were produced in a number of variations, including circular tree seats and games seats. The latter incorporated a pair of wheels at one end and a hinged foot- rest so that ladies watching outdoor games would not get their skirts and feet wet.

A Regency tree seat can usually he bought for £2000-£3000, a games seat for rather less. Many wrought-iron seats have been attacked by rust over the years, and have replacement feet and sometimes legs, lowering their value. The plainer designs, made of flat wrought- iron strips, were produced until the 1950s.


The tradition for lead casting was revived in the 1890s with most pieces harking back to earlier 17th and i8th-century styles. Many of the same designs are still produced by lead foundries today, and these can look con­siderably older than they really are, especially when certain chemicals are added to them during production.

Inevitably, such pieces have little scarcity or age value, and should be bought only for their appeal; a typical pair of lead urns in a late i7th-century style, 20-24 in (51-61 cm) high, will fetch £300-£500.

Lead figures from the 18th century appear at auction from time to time, as do more recent copies. The base of such statues is one way of distinguishing original i8th-century models from late 19th and early 20th-century copies: the majority of i8th-century lead figures are fixed to a stone base, while later examples almost always have an integral lead base.

Part two of two

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