My grandfather used to claim that; ‘in every city in the UK you’re never further than 100 paces from a casting made by Ballantines.’ I always though this was just a throw-away comment so, after 50 years, we finally decided to put it to the test. Walking around a busy Edinburgh during the Christmas shopping period can often be a rather arduous task. This year, however, we did a small tour of the city’s Old and New Towns to see if this claim really was true and we took in some of the sights and, more importantly, some of our most significant architectural castings.
Over the last 190 years the foundry has produced architectural castings in every major city in the UK but Edinburgh is home to some of our most prestigious architectural casting works. On leaving Waverley station you instantly see the cast iron parapets adorning the vehicular entrance. In total Ballantines cast and erected over 100 tonnes of ornamental parapet work for the project. Once at the top of the ramp you are immediately faced with heavy duty cast iron panels surrounding the entrance to the Waverley shopping centre. Again these intricate panels were cast and erected by Ballantines. A look over the top of these and it is impossible to miss the magnificent North Bridge for which Ballantines supplied and erected parapet castings as part of a refurbishment project. 100 metres in; so far so good…
Moving into the Old Town you are immediately confronted with the distinct octagonal tower of the Scotsman Steps built to connect the North Bridge with Waverley – the Old Town with the New. As part of a regeneration project Ballantines provided and erected the cast iron window frontispieces and 2 sets of double gates. Only a few metres down the road there is a more modern project showcasing the architectural diversity of cast iron. A new build project that used over 450 custom designed, cast and ductile iron paving slabs (more of which can be read about by following this link.)
A quick walk up the hill, past no fewer than 14 of our manhole covers and frames, and you reach the heart of the Old Town. Right next to the world famous Greyfriar’s Bobby is the redeveloped Bedlam Theatre where Ballantines cast and erected the Gothic style railings and 2 sets of double gates. In total around 100 metres of railings were supplied for this contract. Heading towards the castle (passing 3 of our ductile iron post-boxes and a range of different railings), you reach Edinburgh’s most famous and most cherished landmark; the Castle. Surrounding the esplanade are spear-head railings provided by Ballantines and further into the historic landmark you can find over 15 cast iron replica cannons all manufactured in our iron foundry.
Heading down from the castle and into the New Town you reach the National Galleries of Scotland. Ballantines provided all of the cast iron railings and lighting columns surrounding the Galleries totalling over a kilometre of ornate ironwork in harmony with the grand buildings they surround. Moving towards Princes Street our cast iron railings and gates provide a barrier to the Gardens with the castle providing an extremely picturesque backdrop.
Moving further into the New Town there is a clear design change where more ornate castings are in keeping with James Craig’s vision of a modern, thriving city centre. On almost every street you can find railings and balconies cast and erected by Ballantines in a number of different styles and designs. In addition to this you pass by a number of heritage lighting columns and lighting standards regularly produced in the foundry. Finally, at the bottom of the New Town, you reach the Royal London Building, which is a testament to the endless design possibilities that cast iron offers – especially for architectural castings. The full building is surrounded by cast iron balustrading, balconies, railings, bollards and brattishing all supplied and erected by Ballantines.
By this stage it becoming clear that there may be some veracity to my grandfather’s claim. Within a 6 mile loop there were literally thousands of castings made and produced in Ballantine’s foundry over the last 190 years. Throughout the Old and the New Town the variation of architectural castings was staggering; railing bars, finials, balconies, brattishing, cannons, post-boxes, columns, lighting columns and floor grilles to name a few. The historic ironwork of Edinburgh is simply stunning. And we are glad to have played our own small part in adding to and conserving the city’s proud cast iron heritage.