4 Unique Decorative Cast Iron Bollards

Martello, Marine, Pedestrian, and Cannon bollards showcase ductile iron’s versatility

A glowing night scene features a vintage steam clock on a cobblestone street with a purple-lit building behind it
The quaint atmosphere of Gastown in Vancouver, BC is enhanced with decorative cast iron.

The Marine Bollard—For Land or Seaside

A short, shiny black bollard flares like a cone from a thick base, has pegs protruding from either side

Marine Bollard Stats:

  • Height: 30 in
  • Base Diameter: 14-5/8 in
  • Base Dimension: 18 in x 18 in
  • Weight: 337 lbs
  • Material: Ductile Iron
  • Maximum Interior Pipe
    • Height: 24 in
    • Diameter: 6-5/8 in

The Marine Bollard hearkens back to the time when “bollard” was mostly a nautical term given to the posts used to moor ships. Its flared shape and side pegs are designed to provide a place to securely fasten rope.

“Bollard” is an unknown term to many landlubbers, but it is familiar to most people who’ve bought a boat, because a standard measurement of a boat’s towing power is determined by a “bollard pull” test. Referring to a vessel’s bollard pull is like referring to a car’s horsepower. It tells the buyer what class of engine they can expect. As befits something that can test the power of maritime vessels, this is the beefiest of all our decorative bollards, weighing in at over three hundred pounds.

Even with a maritime history, this bollard is not limited to seaside locations. As with all our ductile bollards, it is hollow bodied, and therefore makes a perfect cladding to security posts. Installed alone or in a series, this style can be used as perimeter protection around buildings and pedestrian areas, with a distinctive and solid profile that creates a strong visual line. The curved top is 30" high. Its shape dissuades people from leaving litter behind upon it, yet it is high and flat enough to provide a place to set a bag while rummaging for keys.

The striking Marine Bollard has personality. Whether on a dock or protecting a building, it makes for a distinctive decorative look.

The Martello Bollard—Returning Tires to the Road

A columnar bollard has one straight edge and one edge that flairs at an angle, creating a trapezoidal shape

Martello Bollard Stats:

  • Height: 22-1/2 in
  • Body Diameter: 13-1/2 in x 14 in
  • Base Diameter: 24-1/2 in x 25-1/2 in
  • Weight: 180 lbs
  • Material: Steel

The Martello Bollard is specially designed by Billing Jackson Design in the style of British Martello towers—short, round defensive fortresses built around the world by the British military between 1790-1860.

The Martello Bollard is a form of active protection that returns vehicles to the road surface if they’ve misjudged their lane. It is extremely effective as a defensive measure in small spaces and tight corners where these miscalculations take place. With its gently curving wedge like shape, the Martello bollard catches a driver’s wheels like it were part of the road surface, and scoops the vehicle from its trajectory. Unlike a traditional bollard, which works like a wall to simply to stop or prevent a vehicle from entering an area, this model diverts energy rather than stopping it.

Martello towers were often defensive coastal installations. Their namesake bollards are also protective, guarding the line between rivers of rushing traffic and slower pedestrian spaces. As with the Marine Bollard, the Martello’s slightly curved cap discourages a build up of debris.

The Martello model works a bit like a bell bollard, common in the UK, which can often be found on corners to protect pedestrians from trucks making tight turns. However, bell bollards are quite short compared to most street furniture, usually about 18" high. In comparison, even small bollards are usually 30" tall. Martello bollards are in between, at a height of 22.5". Pedestrians can sit or lean against these installations—but the flaring base, pointed towards traffic, means they can only easily do so on the pedestrian-oriented side.

Victorian Bollard—Historical Flair with a Small Profile

A thin six-sided fluted bollard narrows from base to a flat hexagonal pyramid cap

Victorian Bollard Stats:

  • Height: 30 in
  • Body Diameter: 3-1/2 in
  • Base Diameter: 10 in
  • Weight: 77 lbs
  • Material: Ductile Iron
  • Maximum Interior Pipe
    • Height: 19 in
    • Diameter: 2-7/8 in

This small-diameter bollard draws inspiration from the evolving design of bollards. After the popularity of cannon bollards in the early 1800s, foundries began casting custom bollards to help guide traffic in a densifying industrial urban landscape. This bollard draws inspiration from the Victorian era, with a hexagonal cap reminiscent of popular Victorian finials and door knobs. The bollard’s petite diameter makes it a good choice for a densely populated urban environment, because it allows people to weave around it easily. Yet it is not so small as to be ignored: at 30" tall and tapered gently, it is obvious on the street, including those who are visually impaired and using canes. Drivers also will not miss this bollard if a line is placed for traffic guidance or as a lane delimiter.

Even with its narrow profile, this pedestrian-friendly bollard can be fortified with an interior high-impact security pipe. It is also a lovely choice for creating a perimeter around a garden bed, or for marking a path, where impact protection is not needed.

Chain eyes can be installed to add optional chains on all decorative cast or ductile iron bollards, but the addition is particularly popular with this model. With chains, these bollards work as permanent stanchions, and can be used to discourage people from crossing a street or other area at a convenient but dangerous place.

The Cannon Bollard—Creating Security with Style

A black cannon bollard sitting on a white background

Standard Cannon Stats:

  • Height: 53-3/4 in
  • Body Diameter: 9-1/2 in
  • Base Diameter: 16 in
  • Weight: 259 lbs
  • Material: Ductile Iron
  • Maximum Interior Pipe
    • Height: 36 in
    • Diameter: 8 in

From the mid-1700s and especially through the Napoleonic wars, it became popular to bury confiscated or spent iron cannons. Brass cannons were usually re-used for scrap and sent back to foundries for recasting, but iron was plentiful enough, and the need for bollards was great enough, that cannon reuse was a popular architectural choice. Cannon Bollards were used during the war as a way of providing ship moorings: the “trunnions,” or pins, that held the cannon in place on their mounts were perfect for wrapping rope around, as they jutted out from either side of the bollard. Cannons eventually moved inland where they were used to protect brickwork from carriage wheels. They also came to grandly delineate public areas, a victorious sign in the case of captured weaponry. The effect was sometimes a replacement for architectural columns or colonnade. Cannon bollards dating from this time are still visible around the world, but they grew especially popular in Britain.

There were two ways of creating a cannon bollard from a spent cannon. You could bury the gun muzzle down, in which case the “back” of the cannon, or the cascabel, pointed skyward. These almost always had a knob protruding out from the cannon body to help with lifting, turning, or dragging the heavy guns. The other way to bury the cannon was muzzle up, in which case the bore would be open to the sky. Iron does not do well with standing water, which would certainly accumulate in an open bore, so it became common to seal the top with an oversized cannonball. In both cases, the bollard’s cap was usually spherical. Round caps that seem to sink into the bollard body emulate a cannon-ball sunk into the bollard bore. Round caps that protrude up on a shaft are more like the hardware on a cascabel once used for moving the gun.

Cannon-sized bollards can cover heavy-duty security pipes, providing high levels of impact resistance. At almost 4.5 ft tall, they are imposing and formal. There’s no missing these bollards, which are a strong architectural accent that bring a sense of history and solemnity to a place.

A large stone building with classic columns and impost blocks is enhanced with cannon bollards
An imposing row of cannon bollards lend gravity and security to a Kentucky courthouse.

A range of options for any situation

A decorative cast iron bollard can change the look of a site the way a good tie changes the look of a suit. It’s a simple item, but one that comes in many styles, each with its own impact. Bollards reflect a long history in which they have adapted and changed, influenced by evolving streetscapes, intended functions, world events, and aesthetic trends. Picking a bollard model for an architectural project can be simply a matter of choosing what is most appealing, or it can be a way of alluding to historical time periods and motifs. Even when the motivation for installing these traffic posts is completely functional, providing a crash-resistant or removable perimeter, taking time to consider what sort of bollard works best aesthetically for a site can make the difference between a reluctant investment and an asset-enhancing one.