Hidden History Of London Railings

All over London, upcycled stretchers from World War II can be found on public display — not as monuments or memorials, but as everyday elements of urban infrastructure. Many housing estate fences, initially stripped for critical materials to aid the war effort, were reconstructed with stretchers suspended between vertical supports.

Over 600,000 steel stretchers were built by Air Raid Precautions (later: the Civil Defense Service), an organization dedicated to protecting civilians during air raids leading up to and through the Blitz. They were made of metal so they could be easily disinfected in case of gas attacks.

In the wake of the war, the London County Council began utilizing these surplus stretchers as railing fixtures. They are easy to spot if you know what to look for — most are black with wire mesh and curved supports used to lift a stretcher up off the ground.

Estates in places like Peckham, Brixton, Deptford, Oval and East London still feature surviving stretchers. Exposed to the elements, though, many are deteriorating and some have already been taken down.