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History of fences

Any history buffs out there?

The history of fences is actually fascinating stuff, and we at AMM Fencing love sharing the saga of how these structures came to be.

Not one of the original fences. Modern fences differ from their ancestors.

So, cue the music. Imagine medieval times, feuding neighbors, roaming cattle.

Curtain up.

The birth of the fence

It all started in medieval Europe. Residents produced their own crops but shared the pastures where livestock grazed. Out of necessity, villagers created a community-wide harvesting schedule to ensure that animals stayed clear of the growing crops. After grains were fully harvested, and only then, the land was made available for the animals to roam.  

But time marched on.

In the Middle Ages in England, private hands increasingly took over communal property.

And with that transition, came the fence.

The first fences carried one message: “Neighbors take note—this is mine!”

The evolution of fencing materials

The appearance of fences varied enormously from region to region in the early days. In communities where fieldstone was common, fences were built from stone. If timber was plentiful, fences were built from wood. Zigzag fences cropped up, followed by pole fences. In time, new wood cutting tools were developed and new fence styles emerged.

The barbed wire fence was discovered in 1873, altogether eliminating the need for wood. During this first year on the market, about 10,000 pounds of barbed wire were sold.

In the United States, the availability of inexpensive barbed wire led many land companies to enclose public pieces of land. This occurrence highlighted the issue of ownership – who owned what – and it cut water access to iterant cattlemen. Simultaneously, privately owned rangeland in the Great Plains became fenced in.

The small-town farmer suffered and for a time, during the mid-to-late 1800s, fencing was a serious political issue in this country. Some, in fact, deemed it the era of the “Fence Wars.”

The modern fence

Today, fences are available in literally dozens of materials and styles. Wooden, stone, wire, iron. You name it.

In addition, there is no longer a singular reason homeowners erect a fence. Yes, some want a fence to denote property lines (like the old days). But others like the charm a fence offers. Or they want more privacy, or a safe place for their children to play. The reasons are nearly endless.

Fun fence facts

So, there you go. Your History of Fences class is over. But just for fun, here are some fun facts for you to take with you out the door.

  • The word “fence” came into our lexicon in the 14th century. It was derived from the Middle English word “fens,” which means defense or protection.
  • Taking 2,500 years to build, and spanning some 13,000 miles, the Great Wall of China is the most famous fence in the world. It was completed in 1878.
  • Another famous fence – the one surrounding Buckingham Palace in England – serves both to protect royalty and connote majesty.
  • In ancient times, those who could not afford to build a fence dug a ditch and filled it with water.  

If you’re looking for something between a moat and the Great Wall of China, consider contacting AMM Fencing. We’d love to show you how fences – once boring piles of stone – have evolved into simply breathtaking structures. We know history, but we know the future too. Give us a call today and let’s start on your adventure!

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