Shem Caufield gave a very interesting and illuminating talk to the Duchas Heritage Society on “Vernacular Forged Wrought iron field Gates of County Kilkenny.” Shem enhanced his presentation with a very professional and entertaining slide show which depicted a variety of gates manufactured by blacksmiths in the local area.
These gates presented a variety of intuitive and ingenuous designs thought up by the Blacksmiths as they endeavoured to blend them with their immediate surroundings. Many examples from the surrounding areas of Barronsland, Kilfane, Raheendenore, Cappagh, Blessingtown and further afield were shown. Shem gave an expert description of each gate pointing out the design and craftsmanship applied in each case. He emphasised that a new awareness to these gates was needed as their numbers were disappearing rapidly. Their manufacture had ceased some 40 years ago and is unlikely to resume. He especially appealed to farmers who still had such gates to consider some form of conservation before they disappeared from the landscape. The society’s meeting room was filled to capacity for the event. Chairperson Michael Holden, on behalf of the society thanked Mr Caulfield for his professional and enlightening presentation the proceeding finished with the usual cup of tea and some neighbourly conversation.
In a survey conducted by Shem the following points were identified. The vernacular forged wrought iron gate is an important heritage element in the rural landscape. Many of these gates are the product of the blacksmithing industry. They remain in various stages of repair throughout the countryside and illustrate a wide range of distinctive local gate design and construction. Forged wrought iron gates are evidence of the changing dynamics in the mining, smelting and forging industry since the 17th century. In his survey a total of 76 gates, across 24 townslands in South East Kilkenny were recorded. A number of beautiful gates set within their iconic stone built round piers became evident. The future of this heritage asset is uncertain. It is important that the significance of these rural heritage items is recognised and that steps are taken to conserve them. This project was an action of the Kilkenny Heritage Plan and was commissioned by the Heritage Office of Kilkenny County Council.