A screengrab from one of the videos on the county council YouTube channel.

Westmeath Heritage film explains how to maintain wrought iron gates

The wrought iron gate was so much a part of the Irish landscape that most of us hardly registered their presence.

However, in recent months, the Westmeath Heritage Office has been focusing on Westmeath’s array of wrought iron gates – and just this week, it has released a third film in which practical steps for maintaining painted wrought iron gates are shared.

“Shem Caulfield, who is the Westmeath Wrought Iron Gates Project facilitator, and who is passionate about wrought iron gates, features in the film, together with Aidan Leavy, who recently bought a property that has some lovely wrought iron gates,” says Melanie McWade, the Westmeath heritage officer.

Filmmaker Mark Bennett of local film business Crosscut.ie shot the charming video in which Shem demonstrates various techniques for stripping back the old layers of paint on gates in preparation for repainting, before going on to discuss what paint to use and how to apply it.

He also explains that in fact his own preference is to leave such gates unpainted, as he prefers them in their raw state.

All the filming was done at the property bought by Aidan Leavy and his wife last year as it has a number of wrought iron gates, one of which bears the maker’s mark ‘Nangle’, indicating that the gate was likely made by John Nangle, who was listed as a blacksmith in Castlepollard in 1846.

The three videos, which were made with support from the Creative Ireland Programme, can all be viewed on the Westmeath County Council YouTube page and also on the Westmeath Heritage page on Facebook.

The Westmeath Wrought Iron Gates Project has discovered that while some of the gates used in Westmeath – such as those used as entrances at estates – would have been quite ornate, others were of a more simple design. They would usually have been manufactured by nearby blacksmiths.

“There would have been a huge number of blacksmiths around,” says Melanie.

“We did our industrial heritage survey a number of years ago and we counted 102 blacksmiths,” she says.

Unfortunately, the use of wrought iron gates largely came to an end in 1974: “It was mostly to do with materials and just advances in technology and the move to a different styles of gate,” says Melanie.