Wrought iron has been used since the earliest days of civilisation, and to this day remains one of the most popular decorative and structural building materials around.
In the beginning, various methods were used to produce wrought iron. Bloomeries used charcoal-heated smelters in the form of small pots or ladles, into which iron ore was poured and a thin layer of charcoal was placed over the top.
The charcoal was set alight and air was then blown onto it, with the heat produced melting the iron ore underneath. The melting process caused the ore to release oxygen, which mixed with the charcoal to produce carbon dioxide.
Iron has been used as a structural material since the Middle Ages, with wrought iron bars often used to secure masonry arches and domes. The use of iron spread throughout the Middle Ages, used as a material for making weaponry and, further down the line, producing decorative features for churches and monasteries.
When blast furnaces came to prominence in the 15th century, wrought iron became much more readily available. Craftsmanship started to reach previously unparallelled levels of excellence, culminating in a rich period of iron production that started in the late 1600s.
Skilled use of wrought iron was evident in decorative elements of buildings, but it did not start to be used as a major structural material until the late 18th century, when Abraham Darby made the world's first cast-iron bridge.
However, wrought iron really came to prominence in the Railway Age, with its high levels of strength proving to be a valuable property. Combined with its attractive look, wrought iron was ideal for building railway bridges and was also widely used in building new ships.
By the 20th century, new production methods became available and steel started to be used as the building material of choice. Wrought iron has been used less and less over the years, but it is still a hugely popular material for strong and ornate decorative features.
Wrought iron gates, railings and candle sticks are among the many beautiful products that can be produced with the material, and are things that will continue to look good long into the future.