Once a specific reference to the iron goods produced for domestic rather than industrial use, ironmongery has come to mean a much wider range of useful household items – today produced in all sorts of materials, including the original iron, various other metals and plastics. The word is still widely used in Great Britain, as is the term ironmongers for a supplier of such goods. The equivalents of ironmongery and ironmonger’s in the USA are generally “hardware” and “hardware store”.
Dealing in ironware has a long tradition, dating back to the first recorded use of the metal to fashion useful objects as long ago as 1200 BC, and studying the movement of such goods around the world, often over long distances, has provided valuable insight into early societies and trading patterns.
By the Middle Ages, skilled metalworkers were highly prized for their ability to create a wide range of things, from weaponry right through tools and implements to more humble domestic items, and the local blacksmith remained the principal source of ironmongery until the Industrial Revolution saw the introduction of mass production from the late 18th Century. This came to a climax in the second half of the 19th century, when Victorian ironmongery offered a treasurehouse of appealing metalwork, with elaborate manufacturers’ catalogues offering literally thousands of wonderful objects to meet each and every need, almost all of which sought to combine practicality with pleasing design.
The second half of the 20th century saw the steady decline of ironmongers’ shops. Although every small town in Britain used to have at least one, their fate has mirrored that of many traditional emporia. The number of ironmongers has fallen dramatically with the advent of DIY superstores that offer a complete range of ironmongery and associated products under one roof, and more recently the arrival of comprehensive mail order catalogues and internet suppliers.
Revival of Ironmongery
However, there has been a simultaneous revival in the fortunes of old-style hand-forged ironmongery, with strong interest in the authentic restoration of period homes leading to demand for items such as traditional iron door handles, door knobs, door knockers, letter plates, locks, hinges, hooks, cabinet fittings and window furniture.
There has even been renewed use of “blacksmith nails” – the four-sided hand-made rosehead nails that have so much more character than the modern equivalent. This is typical of a trend that has seen greater appreciation of designs that have stood the test of time, that has allowed hand-forged ironmongery to find a much wider application than use in property restoration – although the practice of incorporating traditional ironmongery into contemporary housing has been helped by thoroughly modern techniques like galvanising and powder coating to inhibit that old enemy of iron – rust.
Mercer and Sons – Fifth Generation Ironmongers
Mercer & Sons Ltd was established in 1840 and the present Managing Director is the fifth generation of the family to continue in successful trading.
The business was started by Thomas Turner Mercer who opened the ironmongers shop on Northgate from where his sons eventually took over and the company became known for a while as Mercer Brothers. Our first lorry which replaced the horse and trap was purchased in 1949!
Mercer & Sons expanded into its Steel stockholders division in 1967 with the purchase of the Pump Street Mill Warehouses from where our successful trade department has traded ever since.
Our custom built Trade Centre services collections by our customers and our Warehouse team send out telephone, fax & internet orders via our fleet of vehicles to Lancashire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside & Cheshire.
Our specialist experienced internal Sales Team can advise and competitively quote on not just all our vast range but will source any product that you may require. Our years of experience in building up our supplier contacts mean we rarely are unsuccessful in sourcing a products at a realistic price and lead time.
For more details about Mercer and sons Ironmongery products visit