A Brief History of Bollards: From Cannons to Street Scape


From city streets to outside businesses to alongside parks, you can find a bollard integrated into the landscape of most urban spaces. Bollards have been performing important functions in public spaces for centuries. From eighteenth-century canons to modern designs, we take a brief look at the history of bollards and explore Street Scape bollards made today.


History of Bollards:


We take a look into the history and evolution of bollards.


Nautical Beginnings:


From as early as the seventeenth century, numerous countries have used a bollard to perform various functions, such as hitching horses or as walking guides. At the start of the eighteenth century, the most prominent use for a bollard was for mooring boats. Bollards were located on quaysides and as boats docked, the boat ropes would be tied around the bollard. This kept the boats safely moored whilst the boat was being loaded or unloaded.


During this time, decommissioned cannons were typically used as the quayside bollard for mooring boats. Cannons were popular to use as a quayside bollard as they were readily available. During this time, cannons were widely used on navy ships and as the cannon became no longer useful, it would be repurposed into a bollard.


Cannons were also used as a quayside bollard because of their design. Cannons were strong and heavy which provided a secure bollard for mooring boats. The cannon would typically be buried muzzle-first, which gave the bollard a sturdy anchor. The astragal, trunnions, knob, and reinforcement rings were helpful for tying the mooring lines as they could catch on these cannon features.




Using cannons as a bollard is most typically associated with the British Isles, but they were also used in areas such as Cuba and Nova Scotia. Currently, there are still some of the original cannon bollards in these areas. The use of cannons as a bollard in England also gave rise to an urban myth.


It was rumoured that when the British Royal Navy won the Battle of Trafalgar, the French ships were stripped of all their cannons. These cannons were said to have then been brought back to England and used as a bollard to demonstrate the British victory against the French. This is inaccurate, but still a widely known myth in England to date.


From Quaysides to Roadsides:


Towards the end of the eighteenth century, cannon bollards started being used alongside roads as well as on quaysides. The purpose of these cannon bollards was to be used as traffic control for carriages and to keep pedestrians and buildings safe in busy towns.


Although cannons were used, they did not serve as much purpose as they did along the quayside. For example, the trunnions, knob, astragal, and reinforcement rings which were so useful for tying the boats had no function along the town streets. These features of the cannon even caused damage to passing carriages if the wheels got caught in the trunnions.


To avoid these issues, some cannons were buried with their muzzles facing upwards so that the cannon features could no longer cause damage. To avoid the inside of the cannon becoming filled with water and debris, an oversized cannonball was placed on top to act as a lid. This is often the inspiring feature that is still present in a modern designed cannon bollard.


Transporting the cannons to all areas of busy towns was difficult, and soon wood replaced the use of cannons as bollards in towns located away from the sea or major rivers. Wood, specifically timber, was used because it was cheap, easy to source, and quick to convert into a bollard.


As motor vehicles replaced carriages, the wooden bollards no longer offered adequate protection for buildings and pedestrians against the heavier vehicles. Bollards needed to be stronger whilst still easy, quick, and cheap to manufacture. This then gave rise to the creation of the cast iron bollard.


Cast iron bollards were widely adopted, especially as busy towns transformed into city centres and flows of traffic increased. Cast iron made an ideal bollard material as it was strong, durable, and was a fairly affordable material. The downside to using cast iron bollards was that they were prone to rust, which over time reduced its impact resistance. Cast iron was quickly replaced by stainless steel due to stainless steel being rust and corrosion-resistant.


The trend of using strong bollards for protecting vehicles, pedestrians, and buildings in towns became popular across the world. Amsterdam, for example, quickly adopted this use of a bollard due to the narrow streets and numerous waterways which posed a threat to vehicles and pedestrians. Bollards are now a defining feature of Amsterdam.




Bollards Today:


Presently, bollards are integrated into the urban landscape of countries across the world and now have a variety of functions.


  • Safety: A bollard is still used as a barrier to keep pedestrians safe from vehicles.
  • Traffic Control: A specifically placed bollard can help control traffic, prevent vehicle access to certain areas, and temporarily block traffic.
  • Designated Spaces: Parks, pathways, parking lots, cycling lanes, and no-park zones can be created with a bollard placed in specific spaces.
  • Preservation: Historical buildings, shopping centres, statues, and businesses can be kept preserved and safe from damages due to a bollard.




Over time, bollards have evolved to have numerous features which improve their functioning in certain urban spaces.


  • Light Bollard: A bollard with a light fitting that is used to help guide pedestrians along pathways. They can also be used as landscaping decorations.
  • Fountain Bollard: A water source is embedded in the bollard for drinking purposes. Street Scape offers the Tap Concrete Bollard to suit this function.
  • Removable Bollard: This is a light-duty bollard used for temporary control of access.
  • Flexible Bollard: Bollards that bend when struck by a vehicle to minimise damage to the vehicle but still offer slight protection.
  • Retractable Bollard: This bollard is usually on an electric or hydraulic mechanism and can be raised to block access to an area or lowered to allow vehicles to enter.




Modern bollards are typically made out of wood, plastic, concrete, or stainless steel. These materials are widely accessible across the world and are used because they are affordable, easy to work with, require little to no maintenance, and are durable. Bollard designs have also changed from being purely functional to aesthetically pleasing. You can easily find a bollard design that will reflect the design or of the urban space, business, or home. Certain bollard manufacturers create bollards that act as artistic pieces.


Street Scape Bollards:


Street Scape is a Cape Town-based manufacturer of bollards. Our bollards are firmly mounted in the present whilst still reflecting aspects of the history of bollards.


Street Scape Bollard Materials:


At Street Scape, we offer bollards in modern materials of either steel or concrete. We have selected steel and concrete due to their characteristics of being durable, strong, and having longevity in outdoor settings. The strength and quality of our steel and concrete bollards ensure that they can perform as protective barriers, control traffic, and create safe, designated spaces.


The materials are also cost-effective which ensures that we can make our steel and concrete bollards affordable for a wide range of budgets. You get to enjoy both quality and affordability when you purchase a bollard from Street Scape.


Street Scape Bollard Designs:


Street Scape offers a variety of steel and concrete bollard designs.


Steel Bollard Designs  Concrete Bollard Designs 
Ball Head 50 Steel Bollard.  4040 Cube Concrete Bollard.  
Canon Steel Bollard.  500 Cube Concrete Bollard. 
Newton Steel Bollard.  Ball 500 Concrete Bollard. 
Quay Steel Bollard.  Barrier Concrete Bollard. 
Regal Steel Bollard.  Bloc 220 Concrete Bollard. 
Round 150 Convex Steel Bollard.  Bloc 250 Concrete Bollard. 
Round 150 Flat Top Steel Bollard.  Cape Concrete Bollard. 
Round 150 Tri Band Steel Bollard.  Concrete Bollard with Chain 
Square 150 Flat Top Steel Bollard.  Croydon Concrete Bollard. 
Square 150 Single Band Steel Bollard.  Dome Concrete Bollard. 
  Fence Rail Concrete Bollard. 
  Quartet Concrete Bollard. 
  Rectangular 900 Concrete Bollard. 
  Round 600 Flat Top Concrete Bollard. 
  Stellenbosch Concrete Bollard. 
  Tap Concrete Bollard. 
  Taper Concrete Bollard. 


History is embedded into the design of many of our steel and concrete bollards. For example, we use the Quay Steel Bollard to pay homage to the nautical beginnings of the bollard. The design of our Ball Head 50 Steel Bollard and Canon Steel Bollard is also inspired by the previous use of cannons.




We also take inspiration from historically relevant spaces, such as the Croydon Concrete Bollard and the Stellenbosch Concrete Bollard. Creating bollards that reflect iconic spaces is important to help keep history integrated into the modern, urban landscapes.


Street Scape concrete and steel bollards reflect the past whilst still incorporate a variety of modern designs. For example, the Cube Concrete Bollard, Rectangular 900 Concrete Bollard, and the Ball Concrete Bollard reflect a contemporary bollard design. You can easily find a Street Scape bollard design that suits your historical or modern design preferences.


Street Scape Bollard Mounting:


Street Scape bollards are mounted in the traditional way. In the same way that the cannons were buried into the ground for stability and sturdiness, every Street Scape concrete bollard and most of the Street Scape steel bollards are sub-mounted.


We have also added a mounting option. For certain Street Scape steel bollards, you can have the bollard surface-mounted. Surface-mounted bollards are bolted onto the surface and are usually recommended for light-duty use.




Street Scape Bollard Finishes:


Street Scape offers a variety of finishes for both the concrete and the steel bollards. From different aggregates to powder coating to bright colours, you can select a bollard with a finish that works for your style. Our bollard finish options provide you with greater choice than what was historically available for bollard finishes.


About Street Scape:


Street Scape manufacturers a variety of landscaping elements. Alongside our bollards, we produce kerbs, concrete planters, seating, aggregate paving, steps, and more. No matter your needs for your urban space, business, or home, we have a landscaping element perfectly suited.


Our landscaping elements are bespoke. We create each landscaping element specifically to accommodate your requirements and aesthetic desires. Our landscaping elements are unbeaten when it comes to our unique designs and use of quality materials. Although we are based in Cape Town, we are able to provide landscaping elements to the whole of South Africa with our trusted delivery system.


Should you need any assistance selecting a landscaping element for your urban project, you can contact us. Street Scape is comprised of a passionate team with experience in landscaping elements. We will offer you the best advice suited to your needs for creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing landscape.  We look back on the history of a bollard to appreciate modern-day Street Scape bollards.