You would be forgiven, when walking down the street hurrying along the pavement, ignoring the street furniture that you have walked past every day because all your attention is on the journey ahead, but sadly these days we forget to take in the details of things that appear to be the everyday, especially when it comes to street furniture.
Estates in places like Dulwich, Peckham, Brixton, Deptford, Oval, and East London feature surviving relics of the past. Exposed to the elements, and starting to deteriorate, some have already gone, they are so unique people who care for them and want to keep them have a close community eye on them, all to help protect these relics. I am of course talking about the Stretcher Railings.
They were originally used by the ARP during the second world war helping to rescue the wounded civilians. The Air Raid Precaution wardens were organised by national government and delivered by local authorities. The aim was to protect civilians from the danger of air-raids. One of the main tasks a warden in the ARP had to do was try and protect people during air raids, ARP wardens supervised the Blackout. When enemy planes dropped bombs, especially on cities, they would hand out gas masks and guide people to shelters.
They would patrol the streets during blackout and check that there was no light visible, if the warden spotted any light during blackout they would shout an alert to the people that were responsible, another task was to report the bomb damage and evaluate to what extent they would need the emergency services, they would use their knowledge of the local areas to reunite family members split up while running to shelters.
The stretchers were mass produced for the ARP in anticipation of air-raid casualties during the war. More then 600,000 stretchers were built and made of cast iron, which made them easy to clean and disinfect.
Many estates lost their original metal railings due to the war effort, with large piles of surplus stretchers after the war, in 1960 the London Council decided to use the overstock of stretchers to replace the missing fencing.
The Dulwich Society unveiling its latest information board explaining the Stretcher Railings - Saturday 19 February 2022.
Opposite is an interactive map courtesy of the Stretcher Railings Society.