The History And Uses Of Bollards From AD203 To 2014

By Eloise Hewitt

A bollard (aka "boles" or (French) "boulard") is a short, vertical post. Originally used mainly for mooring ships, bollards today have a number of functions. Among the earliest boles to be documented is the white marble Arch of Septimius Serverus in AD 203. Here, five of the structures are in place to protect the arch from damage by vehicles. It is unclear whether these were in place at the time the arch was constructed or whether they were installed later. Today, a bollard is likely to be set into the pavement in front of an expensive jewelry store to discourage would-be ram-raiders.

A dragon's tooth is a special kind of bollard. Dragon's teeth are pyramidal square posts made from reinforced concrete. They were used extensively during the Second World War for the purpose of halting the movement of enemy tanks and directing them into "killing zones." The Siegfried Line used a lot of dragon's teeth. This was a defense system that was erected directly opposite the French Maginot Line in the 1930s.

Boll-Art at Winchester Cathedral shows a whimsical example of boles used both decoratively and functionally. Designed to protect pedestrians from nearby vehicles, the posts have been painted with various themes. Mona Lisa is accompanied by works adapted from Matisse, Lautrec, Mondrian, Klimt and others.

Bells are another form of bollard. Located on sidewalks at intersections, they are surprisingly not designed to trip up innocent pedestrians. Rather, they are there to deflect heavy goods vehicles from jumping onto the pedestrian walkways.

On London streets you will see the posts lit from the inside in an effort to help motorists see where to turn. One artistically-inclined Londoner used a felt-tip pen to decorate one near her home with lovely butterflies and flowers. She got the idea from her home town of Brisbane in Australia, where the city council actively encouraged residents to decorate things like signal boxes.

Probably one of the most elaborate examples of boll-art is in London, located on Duke Square in the Sloane Street area of SW1. A boy is shown leap-frogging over a bollard. Nearby, there is a little girl sitting on top of a concrete plinth. Engraved on the plinth is the title of the piece, "The Two Pupils, " and a short description of how they came to be there.

The structure of a bollard designed for mooring may have a cross bar on either side. This is to enable the ship's crew to wind the rope around it in a figure 8. This type of bollard is a source of fascination for tourists. "Ghent mooring bollard 17, "Mooring bollard in the Marina of Izola, " and "Mooring bollard at sunset, Lyme Regis" are all perfect examples.

The bollard is a familiar object of life in Britain. We back into them in our cars, we trip over them in our streets. They protect us from bombers, ram-raiders and truck-drivers. They keep sailors figure-eight-tracing skills up to date and keep tourists occupied. Where would we be without the beautiful bollard!

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