This is a picture of an imaginary place festooned with the decorative cast iron structures produced in their thousands at Walter MacFarlane's Saracen Foundry. It is from an old trade catalogue produced by the firm and distributed around the world.
Walter MacFarlane was born in 1817 in the village of Torrance at the foot of the Campsie Fells a few miles north of Glasgow. After a basic education he entered the employment of jeweler William Russell in Glasgow, marrying Russell's daughter in 1848. After apprenticeships in two foundries in 1850 he entered into partnership with his brother-in-law, Thomas Russell and James Marshall. They took over an old brass foundry in Saracen Lane off the city's Gallowgate in 1851 - thus the name Saracen Foundry was born. Ten years later they were employing 120 people and in need of larger premises and in 1862 the Saracen foundry moved to Washington Street in the Anderston District, near the River Clyde. However, the firm's growth was so rapid that it outgrew the second Saracen foundry by 1872 when it moved again to a new 'greenfield' site on the northern extremity of Glasgow, having purchased the Possil Estate of Sheriff Allison. Over the next 93 years the third Saracen Foundry grew to over 80 acres, employing over 1400 people. Walter MacFarlane died in 1885 and his remains were interred at the Necropolis in Glasgow. He was succeeded in the business by his nephew, also Walter MacFarlane. After WWII the business declined and, in 1965, Walter MacFarlane & Company was taken over by the Glynwed Group - the huge Saracen Foundry was closed in 1967. Forty years later many examples of the Saracen Foundry's products can be found worldwide. The business name Walter MacFarlane & Co and the company's extensive portfolio of designs was purchased by Glasgow-based Heritage Engineering in 1993.
A fuller history of Walter MacFarlane & Co can be studied at