Wednesday, 26th March 2014

by Joshua Gaskell

During the Second World War George Orwell noted approvingly that the railings around many of London’s private garden squares had disappeared: ‘the object was partly to accumulate scrap-iron, but the removal was also felt to be a democratic gesture.’

Nowadays, walking around the affluent residential areas just outside central London, I notice more and more railings. And they’re not around garden squares, but plain old front gardens; as if the owners, who would really like to live in gated communities (or closer in to town, around a garden square), are forced to settle for railed-off communities consisting of one family each. Perhaps some of them are starting to think, subconsciously, that they probably deserve to be burgled or have their Porsche keyed. In any case, the sliding, remote-controlled railings can be jumped over as easily as the postman opens a gate. In Orwell’s time as now, ‘where there is money, there are railings’, and they’re ‘not only unnecessary but hideously ugly’.