Iron was frequently used for functional objects such as garden benches, gates and urns, or for utility objects like boot scrapers and hand pumps. Iron cannot be given an artificial patinated surface to protect it outdoors, and thus it was almost always painted with lead-rich oil-based paints, for both corrosion protection and decoration. Paint finishes could be monochrome, polychrome or a combination of techniques to resemble stone, bronze or other natural surfaces.
Cast iron is prone to a number of types of deterioration particular to itself. Because of its brittleness, it can easily break if it is dropped. With fireplaces, the rapid change in temperature caused when a fire is lit in a grate can cause the cast iron to fracture. Repeated heating over a long period also ‘burns’ the cast iron - the iron becomes oxidised, leaving a brittle, porous surface, which can flake off.
Our experience has shown that most damage to cast iron, like wrought iron, is caused by lack of maintenance of the protective coating of paint, allowing the metal to rust. If not corrected, the condition of the object will deteriorate rapidly.