Some of the most beautiful structures in Brighton look lovely because they are made of iron.

I am thinking particularly about the remains of the West Pier, still startling although marooned off shore, and the intricate ironwork of the Palace Pier.

The impressive terraces of Madeira Drive, which provide a natural open-air viewing platform for so many events, are also largely fashioned from iron.

So are the handsome lamp standards which adorn the seafront on streets such as Marine Parade and King’s Road.

Cast iron in particular was able to stand up to the tough conditions in Brighton, especially on the seafront where salt-laden gales can provide a real challenge to most building materials.

You only have to look at the supports for the two piers to see how strong this material can be. Even though the West Pier received almost no maintenance after 1970, it took more than 30 years for it to collapse.

Forges and foundries used to be a common sight in Brighton as the demand for iron was high.

In the North Laine area, there is still a Foundry Street named after the Regent Iron Foundry in North Read.

It employed more than 100 people who mainly lived in the neighbourhood.

Surprisingly little is known about most of these foundries and the people who worked in them.

Alison Tessier has been in touch because she is undertaking research about her ancestors who were from the Saunders family. They used to run a Gothic iron foundry in Maidenhead but moved the business to Brighton in 1897.

William Saunders Senior was Alison’s great uncle and his son, William Junior, was responsible for the move.

They set up the business in Rifle Butt Lane, Kemp Town, on land later taken for the Marina development amid much opposition and controversy.

Other members of the family involved in the business were Walter, Albert, George and Arthur Saunders.

The Black Rock Iron Foundry soon established a national and even international reputation with ironwork commissioned from as far away as Buenos Aires. It also did wok for Paramount Studios in America.

But most of its Gothic ironwork went to local destinations including Brighton Museum, the central library, the Royal Pavilion, the Corn Exchange, the Dome, the head post office and Hove Library.

The firm also carried out work in the private sector including chancel gates for St Savour’s Church at Eastbourne and a weather vane for the Pilgrim Hotel in Haywards Heath.

It provided gates and railings for many schools in Sussex including Christ’s Hospital near Horsham. Many staircases, balconies and gates were provided in private houses.

Unfortunately not much is known about the eventual fate of the firm or of most people involved with it.

They do not seem to be connected with the Saunders family who gave Saunders Park, off Lewes Road, to the town.

Nor are they related to former Brghton Council leader Jim Saunders, a cabbie, or his brother Albert, an entertainer.

Most of the details I have are from an article in The Argus when the foundry was still thriving.

If anyone has any information, please send it to me so I can tell Alison. It would be good to know more about skilled craftsmen who did not produce just any old iron.