New project inviting communities to record wrought iron gates in Westmeath
A pilot project is now underway to document the wrought iron gates that survive in Westmeath.
At one time there was a blacksmith's forge at virtually every crossroads in Westmeath; 102 examples were recorded in a desk-based survey of Industrial Heritage of the County. This can be found at (WestmeathIndustrialHeritageSurvey.pdf (westmeathculture.ie)).
Each blacksmith had their own distinctive style and this was particularly evident in their wrought iron gates. There are a huge variety of local styles evident around the country; each a testament to the forge in which it was made. No one knows this better than Shem Caulfield; he has been photographing and documenting wrought iron gates around Ireland for over 15 years.
Heritage Officer Melanie McQuade said: "Although few blacksmith's forges survive today, many of the gates made in these forges are still in use around the county.
"These gates are becoming less common as they fall into disrepair and are replaced and as gateways are widened to allow access for larger farm machinery. This year we are inviting three communities to record the wrought iron gates in their areas.
The groups will be mentored by Shem Caulfield, who is passionate about sharing his knowledge of wrought iron gates. His interest in the subject is infectious. Shem said "apart from being beautiful functional objects in themselves, wrought iron gates and their pier settings each tell a story. They symbolize the efforts of our forefathers, and they remain prime examples of local craftsmanship in metal and stone."
The aim of the project is to celebrate the trade of the blacksmith and to get people out and about photographing and documenting the wrought iron gates and old gate piers in their area. This will create a database from which, in time, it is planned to create an exhibition. "It is also hoped that the project will lead to a greater appreciation of our wrought iron gates and thus help preserve more examples for future generations", said Melanie.
This project is an action of the Westmeath Heritage Plan and is being funded by the Heritage Council with support from Westmeath County Council.
Anyone who would like to learn more about the project or get involved should contact Heritage Officer in Westmeath County Council Melanie McQuade by emailing [email protected] or by calling 044 933 2098/ 087 6074496.