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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1550-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Harvo, John (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast iron

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, Bromley-by-Bow Room, case WE, shelf EXP

Object Type
Decorated slabs of cast iron were placed at the back of fireplaces in order to protect the brickwork and radiate heat. In this one the central panel is decorated with complicated heraldic designs, while the borders have simple patterns. The royal arms are those used by the Tudor sovereigns, with a dragon and a greyhound as supporters.

Materials & Making
The fireback was made by a process known as sand casting, in which molten iron was poured into a sand mould. The mould was made by placing a carved model - usually made of wood, of rectangular shape - face down onto flat, damp sand set into the foundry floor. The model was gently hammered down until it was embedded in the sand. It was then removed, leaving its impression in the sand. The iron, heated until it was liquid, was poured into this mould and left to cool. The end product was an iron slab, patterned on one side.

As the inscription on this fireback states, it was made in Sussex by John Harvo. Sussex, because of its closeness to London and its good supplies of fuel and iron ore, was a great centre for foundry work in the 16th century and many firebacks were produced there.

Cast ironwork can be difficult to date accurately as patterns were often used over and over again, sometimes for generations. The inscription on this fireback is in late Gothic script, known as 'black-letter', still found occasionally in the 16th century.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1550-1600 (made)


Harvo, John (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Cast iron

Marks and inscriptions

Cast with the Tudor royal arms, the initials 'E.R.' and the motto 'DU ET MOUN DROI (T)' and 'HONY SOIT QUE MAL Y PAYNCE'; cast in Gothic letters 'Made in Sussex by John Harvo'


Height: 76.2 cm, Width: 107.3 cm

Descriptive line

Fireback showing the Tudor royal arms, iron, by John Harvo, Sussex, 1550-1600

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

fig. 115, pp. 106, 236
Hodgkinson, Jeremy. British Cast-Iron Firebacks of the 16th to Mid-18th Centuries. Crawley: HodgersBooks. 2010

Labels and date

British Galleries:
A fireback was used to protect the brick lining of a hearth from the intense heat of the fire. All sorts of decoration could be cast. Some show biblical or classical scenes. The original owner of this fireback probably chose the Tudor royal arms to express his loyalty. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Made in Sussex.


Cast iron



Subjects depicted

Coats of arms


Metalwork; Household objects


Metalwork Collection

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