Stretcher Railings: The Post-War Up-cycle Hidden in Plain Sight
Often in London, we forget to really take note of the things we pass most often. We forget to look for details and then we miss some interesting history. For a perfect example, look no further than stretcher railings!
What are Stretcher Railings?
The ‘ARP’ stretcher was mass produced in anticipation of air-raid casualties during the Second World War.
The all-metal design allowed them to be easily decontaminated after the much-anticipated gas attacks, but many were never used and when the war ended they were redundant.
In a period where material was short it made sense to re-use these useful items, usually converting them into railings.
So in a clever bit of up-cycling before the term was even invented, these cast iron stretchers (that can’t be melted down) perfectly replaced the wrought iron ones sacrificed during the war.
Their distinctive curved ends – built in to avoid putting patients directly on the floor – means they’re easy to spot!
You can find stretcher railings all over London, particularly on lots of post-WWII estates.
Below is a photo of them somewhat in action. Taken c.1942 you can see four stretcher railings stacked on top of the van. This is the Willesden Civil Defence Light Rescue squad.
Thank you to fellow Blue Badge Guide Mike Armitage for sharing this photo owned by his father
Have you ever noticed any?
Find Stretcher Railings!
You can use this handy map put together by the Stretcher Railings Society to find ones close to you!
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