These were the railings of my childhood. Growing up in postwar London, all we had were stumps where iron railings had been removed to aid the war effort.
Thousands of tons of decorative iron work, as well as aluminium and copper pots and pans, had been taken to be recycled. It seems, however, that much of the iron could not be re-used. Its benefit was mainly psychological as blitzed civilians were persuaded that they were contributing to Britain’s ability to make guns and tanks and defeat the Germans. Instead the iron was dumped, either at sea or possibly (according to a letter from journalist Christopher Long to the Evening Standard in 1984) loaded onto barges and dropped into the Thames Estuary.
Long wrote “I believe that many hundreds of tons of scrap iron and ornamental railings were sent to the bottom in the Thames Estuary because Britain was unable to process this ironwork into weapons of war.”
He said this information came from dockers in Canning Town in 1978 who had worked during the war on lighters that were towed down the Thames estuary to dump vast quantities of scrap metal and decorative ironwork. They claimed that so much was dumped at certain spots in the estuary that ships passing the area needed pilots to guide them because their compasses were so strongly affected by the quantity of iron on the sea-bed.*
Dinas, however, flaunted its magnificent railings by painting them with a gorgeous silver paint that just demanded to be admired. To me, as a visiting child, they shimmered with holiday happiness. Not all the railings have survived the intervening years so well – but I still love them.
* For more information see The London Parks and Gardens Trust website.