Iron architecture in Britain and America (1706-1880): with special reference to the development of the portable building
Higgs, M. S.
"Ignorance, it has been said, is a prerequisite of the historian. This is particularly true of anyone who attempts to survey, however super- ficially, the achievements of the nineteenth century. The material at his hand is so overwhelming in bulk and so bewildering in texture and colour, that all he can do is pick over the tumbled debris of this vast quarry, and select at random a few stones which, when held up to the light, may reveal something of the nature of the complex mass from which they came. "(H. Casson, An Introduction to Victorian Architecture, 1948).A precise definition of iron architecture is almost impossible. As it was used in the 19th century it referred to the use of iron in a building as its major structural and constructional material and to the use of the material where it had a.radical influence on the appearance of the building. I have followed this general meaning and therefore have excluded from the study iron balconies, railings, gates, and other examples of ornamental ironwork that were added to buildings. In addition engineering structures, such as bridges, piers, and lighthouses, have not been included unless they had a direct effect on the use of iron in architecture.As little recent research had been done on the 'portable building' a large part of my study was concentrated on this subject. It soon became obvious that the work of Andrew Handyside of Derby was of particular interest in this field and I was persuaded to publish a paper on their work separately.I have not, therefore, included this material in the main body of the thesis and have only referred to it where the text demanded.The major departure from a generally chronological account was the decision to single out, for reasons of clarity, the account of the contribution of iron to the development of a new style of architecture.Because many of the buildings examined in the thesis may be unfamiliar, I thought it sensible to include a rather large number of plates. This has had the beneficial effect of being able to reduce the length of descriptions of these buildings and to simplify the technical explanations that were necessary. In addition much of the illustrated material is only available in 19th century books, pamphlets and journals, many of which are scarce and therefore difficult to consult.