Cast-iron railings in the Birkenhead provide a barrier between the pavement or platt and the basement areas of properties and enclose communal gardens. However, they are also a significant part of the architect of the period home. When railings are missing, the desirability and value of the property is likely to be lower.
Railings should be examined annually for signs of corrosion and fractures and repainting should be carried out every five years, or at the first signs of rust, whichever is the sooner.
(The photo shows examples of failure at the base of railings due to weathering and a missing finial) Maintenance carried out over the years was often limited to a new coat of paint over the old one and this obliterated much of the decorative relief.
It is appropriate to strip off old paint then prime with rust inhibitor prior to repainting black.
Damage to railings can be due to:
The simplest railings consist of cast-iron uprights, or balusters, slotted through a wrought-iron coping and set with lead into a stone plinth. More elaborate railings may have double coping rails, ornamental finials (as shown in the second photo) and husks, with dwarf balusters (‘dog bars’), between balusters (as shown shown in the first photo (No 18, Argyle Street, Birkenhead))
Baluster heads have distinctive finial patterns. There are some common themes used for Georgian building railings , such as the fleur de lys (left) and the anthemion (right).
For Hamilton Square, the baluster finials are very distinctive, and replacements must be copied from the originals. Example shown in second image (No 9, Hamilton Square, Birkenhead)
Occasionally lamp standards were either an integral part of the railings or stood proud of them on the stone plinth.
Rusting will usually begin in crevices and in joints where it is difficult to paint. Although cast iron is the ferrous metal least susceptible to rusting, corrosion is exacerbated by poor maintenance and unsuitable design.
The Planning Department recommends that railings be painted black. Listed Building Consent is required for changing to any other colour.
The abundance of cast-iron railings in Birkenhead is a result of the expansion of the city at a time when cast iron was relatively cheap. Even during the Second World War, when many ornamental railings around communal gardens were removed for munitions use, the basement areas still had to be protected, and consequently much of the original ironwork has survived.