Monday, September 6, 2021

...cemetery pipe fences...

Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery, part of the Historic Cemeteries of Alexandria, VA

When I’m walking through a cemetery, I’m attracted to picturesque scenes, those landscapes that resemble a gorgeous painting or some captivating image. While the artwork of gravestones tends to be my main focus along with the natural landscape, I am captivated by ironwork and cemetery fencing and frequently find myself attempting to read the maker’s mark and the inscriptions.

As long as I can recall, I have adored wrought iron and cast iron fencing. Rather hammered or poured into a mold, the designs catch my eye and draw me in. As a kid, I used to love going into the city and seeing the picket and scalloped picket points of the fencing. Forty years later, I haven’t changed much.

 Today when I walk through cemeteries, I admire what’s left of the ironwork. As changing attitudes about what was or was not aesthetically pleasing, many of the old cemetery fences were removed when they were no longer maintained.

Altoona Tribune (May 11, 1922 p. 12)
While we typically think of wrought iron and cast iron when we think of cemetery fencing, I rather enjoy finding intricately designed pipe fences, or gas pipe fences or pipe rail fences. These pipe fences can still be found throughout our local Virginia cemeteries and some of theme can be quite attractive while many are plain pipes with the purpose of signifying the space. 

I always think of pipe fencing as just the right height to trip you if you’re not paying attention. They are nice reminders to stay off the grass and the flowers.

drawing from Chicora Foundation website.

Depending on the style of the pipe fence, there may be double piping such as the example in the historic drawing from the Chicora Foundation or single piping as shown in the example of the family plot in Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia.

I have included some photos of other intricately designed cast iron posts that are part of pipe fences.

Oakwood Cemetery, Richmond, VA
Mount Zion Cemetery Washington D.C.
 

Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery, part of the Historic Cemeteries of Alexandria, VA
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not quite a decade ago, I became the owner of a piece of 1870s cast iron pipe fencing with an angel when a very rusted and broken pipe fence needed to be removed from a family plot for safety reasons. The family had the option of repairing the fencing, which would have been expensive and nearly impossible since so little of the original fence remained or they could remove the fence and sell the old rusty bits for scraps or through a local antique dealer who could reach out to suckers like me who love rusty pieces of history. With the amount of rust I have inside my house and out in the garden as "yard art," I keep up with my tetanus shots.  

Ethically sourced pipe-rail angel. The other side is completely rusted out.

Just as a reminder, if you purchase anything that is coming from a cemetery, look for reputable antique dealers and talk to the original sellers if possible. Cemetery-related paraphernalia is frequently stolen and sold. A few months ago, I had someone reach out on social media about a gorgeous fence gate with connections to Richmond but the story did not add up and when I pushed in my questioning, they blocked my account from reaching out any further or reporting them. 

Artifacts from historical grave sites, and any grave-related items cannot be sold on eBay. Any government or military medallions or plaques should not be sold or purchased, and such activity should be reported. 


1 comment:

  1. What a meaningful, immensely lovely Victorian cemetery treasure to give a loving, appreciative home to.

    I share your passion for pipe fencing, wrought iron, gates, and the like in cemeteries and elsewhere. They're something I gravitate to immediately in burial grounds and find intensely beautiful.

    Autumn Zenith �� Witchcrafted Life

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