1870 - Bandstand

Many of our public parks were the gift of Victorian landowners or industrialists. At a time when few low-income families had their own gardens or the means to enjoy a holiday, the park became an oasis of relaxation and pleasure. Almost all had a bandstand where, on long-ago summer evenings and on Sunday afternoons, the smartly uniformed  musicians would  play before sizeable crowds.  By 1889 there were some 40,000 bands in Britain, many of which were formed by the employees of a particular firm whose name the band would take. The company, in turn, would help with sponsorship. Why was cast iron frequently used in the construction of bandstands?

Concerned at the health risks posed by the airless, tightly packed streets of Britain's industrial towns, wealthy philanthropists of the Victorian era donated large areas of urban land to be made into parks for outdoor recreation. Birkenhead had the first, followed by Manchester (which opened no fewer than three in the 1840s), Bradford and many others. Responsibility for their upkeep fell on willing ratepayers, who saw their park as a measure of civic pride, to be expressed in acres of well-clipped grass and dazzling summer displays of bedding plants. A central feature of many a Victorian public park was its open bandstand, of which large numbers survive. Some were big enough to accommodate dancers as well as musicians. Many were constructed largely of wood and glass, although detailing - and not infrequently the greater part of the structure too - would often be in cast iron, which could be moulded into elaborate and often highly decorative shapes while retaining considerable structural strength. The varieties are legion: Bournemouth had one in Chinese pagoda style at the pier head while among the mill chimneys of Huddersfield, right in the heart of traditional brass-band country, a handsome bandstand with a distinctly Japanese character still graces Greenhead Park. More modest structures could be ordered straight from the pages of the iron makers' catalogues, to be delivered as a kit of parts. This, inevitably, resulted in a degree of sameness, since there is only a limited number of permutations in the way common parts such as columns and ornamental railings can be assembled. The bandstand in the illustration, however, has much more notable antecedents. It is one of a pair designed by Captain Francis Fowkes, architect of London's Royal Albert Hall, for the grounds of the Royal Horticultural Society in Kensington. This one was later moved to a new location on Clapham Common and is still periodically used for concerts. The colours cleverly pick out details of the ironwork.

1836 - Camera Obscura

1871 Public house