As early as 1833, J.C. Loudon in his Encyclopedia was singing the praises of the wrought or cast iron bedstead, partly because they were less likely to 'harbour vermin', and partly because of their cheapness. The iron beds were made in a variety of designs stump beds (with short ends not intended to have curtains), tent beds, half tester and four-poster beds.
The early iron beds were usually fairly plain, except perhaps for the brass knobs at the top of each post. With the advances in manufacturing techniques during ,the 19th century, the beds became more elaborate. Some were made of solid brass, others of iron coated with brass. The cast-iron beds were usually painted black or sometimes white, but assumed more and more decorative features. Brass circles, fitted with glass or mirrors, brass sleeves, brass or painted china spindles (known to the trade as 'porcelains'), mother-of-pearl inlay, brass rods and finials were all used to ornament the bed. Some iron beds had decorative wrought, cast or pierced designs in the end panels. Plain, cheap iron beds of course continued to be made either for servants or for children. more...The top and foot of each bed were fitted together with bars (known as 'irons'), having shaped ends that slotted into matching female sections in the cast crosspiece. The great advantage of the brass and iron beds, apart from their cheapness, was that they could be easily dismantled and great quantities were exported to the colonial markets. The illustrated catalogues of the period show that the brass and iron bed was virtually a standard household possession until the late 1920s, and the designs show relatively little change over those made half a century before.
The four-poster or tester bed had curtains draped on all sides of the bed. The half tester or Italian bedstead had high posts at the head but only short posts at the foot, where most of the decorative brass work was lavished. The wire mattress bases on most bedsteads were separate and supported on an iron or wooden frame attached to the bed with bolts. Small upright brackets on the side irons prevented the base from slipping. Early bases were mainly flat, crossed pieces of thin metal. The head posts were sometimes further strengthened with serpentine-shaped brackets fitting into the post and side iron, sometimes known as 'pillow brackets'. They certainly prevent the pillow from falling off the bed.
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An exceptional bronze mounted forged iron four poster bed, Italian, early 17th century. 246 cm high, 216 cm wide, 166 cm deep Reference: Decorative Ironwork, Umberto Zimelli & Giovanni Vergerio, Paul Hamlyn, England, 1969, pp 58-9
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