Bollard History

History of Bollards – Part 2

Putting old weapons of war to use in a ways that protected property and provided safety really showed the inventiveness and common sense of the people living around the time of the dawn of the maritime bollard in the 17th and 18th centuries. But what happened next?
As early as 1721, wooden posts were used to direct traffic and protect pedestrians from the extensive horse-drawn cart networks which threaded throughout the cities, towns and villages of England. Hertfordshire is home to one of the earliest documented cases of this where ‘two oak-posts’ were installed in order to guard Waltham Cross against damage from carriages. This early traffic management was extremely rudimentary but it marked the beginning of a system which would be developed and refined to handle the most dense, chaotic and unpredictable city traffic.
So they are the humble origins of the bollard, but where does the word bollard actually come from?
The word, a noun, is made up of two parts: the prefix bole- and the suffice -ard.
Bole- is traced back to the early 14th century where in Old Norse it meant ‘tree trunk’ and in Middle Dutch, ‘trunk of a tree’. The suffix -ard (which can also be written as -art) comes from Old French and is also found from such German words as ‘hard’ and ‘hart’. The suffix came to be used as the second element in personal names (such as Gerard and Edward) and also as an intensifier. The suffix hit it’s high note when it took on a derogatory meaning in words such as cow-ard, bast-ard, drunk-ard and blaff-ard (an archaic, now dead term for someone who speaks with a stammer). So, bollard came in to use around 1844 as a term for a mooring post, since 1948 the word has come to mean traffic control device. More to come about these uses in subsequent posts!