When the industrial revolution in this country was at its
height, cast iron was the marvellous new material for structures, The
Crystal Palace, home of the 1851 Great Exhbition in St James's Park,
London demonstrated that classical-style columns could be made, slim
and strong, out of cast iron to support mezzanine floors and roofs.
Plentiful iron ore, water and coal provided the raw materials and
labour was cheap. Relatively modest dwellings were adorned with cast
iron gates and railings to a set of standard designs – but what designs
they were. The story of how the government employed people during the
Second World War to cut out many of these features, supposedly to be
melted down for munitions, but probably dumped into the sea or rivers,
was probably a morale-boosting scheme to convince everyone that in
sacrificing their railings they were helping the war effort (see below).
courtesy Rachel Field
[UPDATE 7.10.2017: Above
– 'We were doing some clearing in our front garden this morning and
found this lettering on the iron railing between ourselves and our
neighbours' garden. We assume it says 'COCKSEDGE IPSWICH' and
that the railing escaped been collected in World War II. Best wishes,
Rachel Field (Redan Street).' Cocksedge
foundry in Rapier Street was a successful engineering firm, like their
larger neighbours, Ransomes & Rapier. However, not many traces of
their name are found in Ipswich. The above solid garden railing is an
excellent addition here; thanks Rachel. Incidentally, all sorts
of conspiracy theories can be found about the cutting-off and removal
of cast iron railings, gates and other objects from suburban gardens
during the last war. One school of thought says the iron
collected was unsuitable and could not be used; this seems unlikely as
recycled iron is a key component in the steel industry. Another more
likely explanation is that far more iron was collected – over one
millions tons by September 1944 – than was needed or could be
processed. Rather than halt the collection, which had turned out to be
a unifying effort for the country and of great propaganda value, the
government allowed it to continue. After the war, even when raw
materials were still in short supply, the widely held view is that the
government did not want to reveal that the sacrifice of so much highly
valued ironwork had been in vain and so it was quietly disposed of, or
even buried in landfill or at sea. One story has so much ironwork
dumped in the Thames estuary from barges that the metal affected
navigational devices on shipping.]
After this, we increasingly became aware that there might be
examples of lettered ironwork. Salisbury Road, home of the 'J.W. How' painted sign, has several
nice examples of railings dating to the building of the houses or
later. More than one gate bears the words:
and, unexpectedly, one has:
'ABBOTT CROWN ST WORKS
in the casting.
Above: Salisbury Road – two 'Cocksedge Ipswich' named gates and some
railings and gates with no obvious cast foundry name.
Cocksedge & Co.
In 1879 J. S. Cocksedge left the firm Woods, Cocksedge and Warner of
Suffolk Iron Works, Stowmarket (established in 1812) to founded
Cocksedge & Co. of Greyfriars Road. J. S. Cocksedge died in 1887.
In 1900 new premises were opened by the compnay in Rapier Street. The
company was the maker of the Gerald Gray Patent Self-Slewing Crane and
this utilised two small steam engines. In 1961 they were listed as
constructional and general engineers and iron founders; specialists in
manufacture of sugar machinery with 600 employees. [Information from Grace’s Guide, see Links]
'… engineering was the largest employer [in Ipswich], both in terms of
the numbers involved and in the size of the final product. Ransomes and
Rapier in particular exported sizeable machines to the developing
world. It is said that in the 19th Century Ipswich exported more goods
than any other port in the country. It is no surprise that the
industrial activities of Ipswich, with its connections by sea and rail
(road transport was still horse drawn) attracted new business from
rural Suffolk. One such engineer was James Samuel Cocksedge, who had
been employed with Woods & Company of Stowmarket, a firm founded in
1812. Cocksedge had already sent his sons elsewhere to gain their
apprenticeships (and knowledge of how other firms operated) when he
decided to take an opportunity to buy a small engineering company in
Grey Friars Road in Ipswich and make it his own.
The Grey Friars Road business included a small foundry, an engineering
shop and a pattern shop (wooden shapes were made, pressed into green
sand, removed and the depression filled with molten metal which took
the same shape as the ‘pattern’. Cocksedge initially employed 12 men
and the business was established. The first of his sons (James Woods
Arthur Cocksedge) returned from London, apprenticeship complete, to
help in the family firm. Expansion was immediate and they purchased
premises across the road from their original works.
When the second son, EH Cocksedge, returned from India with expertise
in structural engineering (steel framed buildings) he persuaded his
brother that this was the direction the company should take. This
decision was the making of the firm; they spotted an opportunity, a gap
in the emerging market and adapted to supply the growing demand.
Structural engineering was the new method of building with larger and
taller buildings pushing the known boundaries of traditional
construction. Cocksedge’s erected the three original steel-framed
grandstands at Newmarket racecourse, a bridge on the first Colchester
by-pass and the steel frames of the factory for Fisons, Packard and
Prentice. They went on to become one of the region’s most significant
structural steel fabricators, supplying everything from single steel
beams to erecting some of the largest buildings in East Anglia.
In 1903 they opened a new production facility in Rapier Street which in
time became their headquarters. Their slight disadvantage with this
move is that they were never as prominent in the street scene as either
Ransomes’ or Ransome and Rapier. The company folded in the recession of
the early 1980s.' [Extract from Ipswich Icons, by John Norman. EADT, 18 Oct, 2015]
Above: quite a surprise to see this foundry recorded on one garden gate
in Salisbury Road, although we do know that Abbott's foundry in the old
Temperance Hall on Crown Street did make railings for gardens (see our 'More schools' page under Argyle Street
School for more information).
‘I wondered if you could throw some light on my terrace railings that I
have recently restored. The intricate design was masked by what seemed
to be a layer of hardened putty, then primer then paint. John Norman of
the Ipswich Society, thought that they may have been cast at the
Temperance Works at the bottom of the High Street. The Records Office,
though cannot find any trace of it. I have enclosed a couple of
before and after pictures. I would dearly like to find out about the
company that made them. The lettering marks look to be 1862 - the house
is 1857. Kind regards, Sylvia Patsilides'
photographs courtesy Sylvia Patsilides
It took us a while to make out anything like a date. In fact, we can
see a figure ‘1’ at the top and a ‘3’ at the bottom of the boss;
reading across the centre, it might
be ‘1875’ (very small ‘5’?). Unless George Abbott had a
previous foundry, it seems unlikely that they were the source of
Sylvia's ironwork, as they only took over the Temperance Hall – quite a
change of function – in 1890 (see our More Schools page under 'Argyle Street
School' for more on Geo. Abbott's foundry). The other
foundry known to make railings
is Cocksedge, (see above) but the dates don’t marry up there either.
Sylvia continues: ‘I haven't see any other railings like that in town -
the nearest is the insets in the Town Hall door… and a property in
Museum Street virtually opposite the Museum Street Café.’
For another example of a casting by Cocksedge, see our Dock ground level page under
For another example of railings by Geo. Abbott, see our More Schools page under 'Argyle Street
See our Castings page.
See also our Street furniture page.
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throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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