They are unmistakable. Their construction is very standardized. Yet the metal beds being made in England in the 1800’s all have the same problem …… instability. Why? Because there are way too many connecting points, where iron tubing is joined to brass tubing or iron rods are connected to iron tubingand those connections are problematic because of the manner in which the British secured that connection, with threaded screws and small brass balls. Thats not a problem if the brass you’re joining to iron is simply decorative. We did that in this country all the time, with no problems at all. But the British used that same manner of joining brass to iron, and iron to iron on the structural points of the bed, where strength and rigidity were most important.
At no time can all the connecting points on a British bed be tight and secure. It’s the nature of the beast. They will continue to work themselves loose after continuous movement and friction. So not only will they make the noise of a grade school rhythm band, they will also start to “move” and feel unstable.
In this country the iron beds that were made, corrected that inherit problem of noise and movement, by “pouring” hot moult-on iron ore into moulds that surrounded those “junctions/joints”, and created beautifully detailed “castings”, or as they were referred to back then as “chills”. Consequently our beds never had the same problems of noise and instability that the beds from England and Europe had.
The added factor of solving the noise and instability problem, by pouring castings around the joints instead of using screws with little brass balls, was the beautifully decorative castings that became each and every foundries pride and joy. Craftsmanship in the detailing, with a foundries castings, denoted their pride in creating something other foundries might not be doing. There seemed to be a constant competitive battle between bed manufactures to come up with new designs and more detailed and unique “castings”. Foundries that stuck with the same designs for long periods of time would loose considerable business to those foundries that continued to come up with newer and more unique styles.
When a foundry designed a “casting ” that was well received by the public, it was quite common for them to use it and many of their other bed designs. The old adage “if it aint broke…… don’t fix it” became their theme.
So if you’re considering getting an antique iron bed, know what you’re getting yourself in to if you get a British bed from the 1800’s. There’s just no getting around it…….we made far better beds in this country back then, because we learned from the mistakes that were made on beds made in Victorian England.