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Historic Scotland finds that Scotland, not the US, pioneered the architectural iron industry

11 June 2013

A conference on the story behind Scotland’s architectural iron industry is to highlight research which suggests that it was Scotland and not America - as previously believed – which was the originator of an important form of construction.

The Architectural Iron Industry in Scotland – A Historical Perspective will take place at Callendar House in Falkirk this Thursday (13 June) and is the first conference of its kind on the subject. For 80 years Scotland was the world’s leading manufacturer of pre-fabricated iron structures and research by Historic Scotland suggests that it was Scotland, not the US, which pioneered its use in building facade construction.

James Bogardus, the famed American architect, is credited with being the originator of cast-iron architecture, and he affixed plaques to his buildings which read: "James Bogardus Originator & Patentee of Iron Buildings Pat' May 7, 1850." However research has found that Bogardus - who was married to a Scot, Margaret McClay -  visited Perth Waterworks during a trip to Scotland and that that trip provided the inspiration for his designs, since the iconic cast-iron building pre-dates any of his work in the US by 15 years.

Falkirk was chosen as the location for the conference because of its links to the iconic Carron Foundry, which opened in 1759. The event comes ahead of both Metal 2013 - a triennial international conference on metal conservation to be held in Edinburgh in September – and the submission in 2014 of the nomination of the Forth Bridge for World Heritage Site status.

In addition to a talk on Perth Waterworks, the programme for the all-day event includes talks from specialists on Glasgow’s famous Saracen Foundry, the development of intricate cast-iron drinking fountains and the use of Scottish ironwork in Argentina.

Dr David Mitchell, Director of Conservation at Historic Scotland said: “Scotland is world-famous for its architectural ironwork but the history of the industry is not particularly well appreciated here, so this is a great opportunity to promote the incredible contribution this country made in this field. Scotland was the world’s leading manufacturer of pre-fabricated iron structures for a considerable time, and objects and structures are still being traced in India, South Africa, South America and Australia. We continue to discover pioneering Scots in this field and the design and construction of Perth Waterworks ahead of Bogardus in the United States is testament to that. Our conference is sold out and I am delighted to see such growing interest in the subject’’.

The Architectural Iron Industry in Scotland – A Historical Perspective takes place this Thursday (13 June) from 9am-5pm at Callendar House in Falkirk.

Dr David Mitchell, Director of Conservation at Historic Scotland is available for interview upon request.

Notes for editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  • 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, inspiring our people and our visitors to celebrate Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, landscapes and biodiversity as Scotland prepares to welcome the world in 2014 and beyond. Find out more about Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty at

Historic Scotland around the web:

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For further information

Alice Wyllie
Media & PR Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768 096