The History of Fences – An Overview

The History of Fences – An Overview

Since mankind began to populate the planet, people have felt an instinctive need to protect themselves and their homes from others. The easiest way to do this for thousands of years has been with fencing, and the fence is something that’s been around almost as long as elemental components of life that include fire and the wheel. As such, the history of fences is something that’s not only interesting to look at for several different reasons, but it’s also an informative way to put modern fencing into its proper context. 

Aluminum Fences Direct is one of the leading current innovators when it comes to fencing in both residential and commercial settings, and one of the reasons we’ve earned that place in the market is because we both know and care about the history of fences. History teaches us what we need to know about almost any topic. Not only does history teach us what went well, but we’ve all heard the saying, “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.” Therefore, we’d like to provide you with some insight and perspective regarding the history of fences so that you can obtain a better understanding of what we do, how we do it and why we approach our products and service as we do.

Prehistoric Fencing

As mentioned above, the history of fences dates back to the early origins of humanity. As people evolved and began to live in groups, they began to grow crops collectively and raise animals in the same manner in an effort to keep everyone fed and, thanks to the coats of many of the animals they raised, warm during the colder months. During these times, fences protected those crops and those animals both from predators and from nomads that roamed the countryside, looking for their own food and warmth. 

There were few tools available during this time, so the majority of fences that were built then were done so with large boulders stacked on top of each other, often held together by mud and other materials that dried and formed the spackle that we now take basically for granted today. For an extreme example, take a look at the Great Wall of China. It was an enormous “fence” that was built around 221 BC in order to keep the nomads of that time out of the territory that it protected. 

Historic Fence Designs

As mankind began to evolve and societies formed along with economies, fences continued to be an integral part of those communities. First, ancient Greeks and Romans built fences in order to delineate the lands that they had conquered, and the reason was that they wanted to announce that the land within those fences was now theirs. 

Later, as people continued to integrate with each other, emperors, particularly in Rome, encouraged landowners to build fences around their lands in order to honor their gods and to reduce conflicts that often arose based out of land disputes. When farm animals roamed, for instance, a fence would prevent them from moving onto another person’s land, thereby eliminating adversarial claims of ownership. Fences in this period of history, sometimes called palisades when used in the military world, began to be made of wood in some cases as well as with stacked stones held together by dried earth.  

Fences in the Middle Ages

As time marched on, fences remained in place as a part of life, almost regardless of location or the particulars associated with how these fences were built. One of the most interesting things about the history of fences is that you can look at almost any society in any place on the planet and find that fences were present in one form or another. The reasons behind them were all basically uniform: to protect crops, animals and property and to signify ownership of whatever was inside of them.

For example, in the Middle Ages, the Anglo Saxons began to innovate with regards to fences to an extent. People of this time still used stone, earth and wood in order to build the most secure and strongest fences designed to keep out intruders, but they also began to make use of plant life for their fences. It was at this point in history when hedges began to serve as fences, and they were grown on property lines in what proved to be an effective strategy for doing all the same things that fences had always done. 

Colonial Times

A few hundred years ago, settlers began to move and build their lives in North America, and fences came with them. At this point in their societal development, land grants and claims were far from clear in terms of their details and property disputes arose often. In addition, the vast majority of settlers came to North America with very little money, so they didn’t have a lot to invest in high-end fencing.  

Instead, which was consistent with how they built their homesteads on an overall basis, the settlers made use of the land around them. During that time, there was a lot of timber to work with, and quite a bit of it was not large enough to be built into homes or other larger structures. Therefore, the settlers began to construct what many came to know as “worm” fences, which were basically fences that were built in a zig-zag fashion using large branches of trees or trunks of smaller trees. The reason for this design was that it was cheap and easy. Worm fences did not require posts in order to have them stand up and they were easy to move and disassemble if that became necessary.

The History of Fences – Modern Times

For hundreds of years at this point, fences basically didn’t change in purpose or with respect to where or how they were built. They were made of wood and/or stone, and they were used to protect property interests and/or communities. That all began to change during the latter part of the 19th Century when metal became available to people for the first time. Metal – typically in the form of iron, hence the wrought iron gates – were now suddenly affordable enough to be used by some common landowners. To that point, these were relatively rare and they were used only by aristocrats and other members of high society. 

However, this was also the time when people began to add another component to their fencing, which was barbed wire. The Industrial Revolution brought the catalyst for this newfound affordable availability of metal products, and barbed wire at the time – lack of pleasing aesthetics aside – was seen as a positive step in terms of security. 

Continued Innovation

As more and more materials began to be used for fences, more and more options began to spring about for people who wanted to protect their homes and businesses. During the past few generations, people continued to use wooden fences for their homes in large numbers, but metal also grew in popularity because of its look and its durability. However, iron fences eventually began to lose some favor in many parts of the world because they tended to rust over the years, eventually requiring expensive replacement.

True innovators began to use materials such as aluminum or even vinyl for their fences. These materials provided a longer lifespan than wood, and in some cases they even offered the same level of aesthetics as the classic wrought iron fence. In addition, stainless steel fencing, often in the form of linked chains, or as we know it now, the chain link fence, enjoyed a degree of modernization and newfound prevalence. In actuality, chain link fences date back to the 19th Century, but they did not take their current form until much later. The point of using all these new materials was practicality. 

Why This Matters

As you’ve seen above, fencing dates back to what amounts to the beginning of time for the human race. The reasons for building fences have never really changed much. However, the design, engineering and look of fences has changed rapidly over the past 100 years or so as manufacturing has become more modernized and more materials have become realistically affordable for those who wanted them.

Aluminum Fences Direct is another link in that chain – pun somewhat intended. We are continuing to innovate by way of our wide array of product offerings that help to provide business and homeowners with the ability to add beautiful, secure and durable fencing to their properties so that they can do what the people of ancient times did – put a structure in place to protect their property from outsiders and to keep the people and property that they want to protect inside with them. 

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you add fencing to your property that will have you sleeping better at night, please feel free to contact us at any time.