Wednesday, 4 July 2007

England. General and early coalhole covers.

ENGLAND. In England the precursors of manhole covers are the coalhole covers. In the 19th century many buildings in larger towns had a coal hole in the pavement to allow the coal merchant to empty his sacks into the coal bunker, which was often in the cellar at the front of the house, without the need to enter the house. The hole was normally between 30 and 60 cm in diameter and was lined by a cast-iron ring and and covered by a cast-iron plate. This often advertised the name of the maker. One cover by J W Cunningham of 196 Blackfriars Road reportedly features a dog with his head in a pot, a sign is derived from the early trade sign for an ironmonger. They were normally given a raised pattern to prevent slipping and some include glass or concrete panels. Covers are more common from from the 1860s onwards but became redundant after the implementation of the Clean Air Acts. In the later 19th century Shepard Taylor was attracted by their varied designs and studied them, coining the word 'opercula' from the Latin for a cover. They have also inspired artists and even embroiderers and there have been several exhibitions of rubbings of coalhole covers. In London they can be found in areas like Bloomsbury, Kensington, Pimlico or Paddington. Gordon Square and surrounding streets has a good selection but they are often removed during street improvements.
Coalhole covers.

Blank coal hole cover, 1820s? Seen in Paragon, Clifton, Bristol. Early square example.

Coalhole covers.

Decorative coalhole cover, 1840s? Seen in Clifton, Bristol. Compare the dated Ludlow example.

England. [Foul].

Foul. Seen in Sidmouth.

England. Great Western Railway.

GWR fire hydrant. Seen in Didcot.

England. Great Western Railway.

GWR, sewer. Seen in Penzance.

England. Grifo.

Grifo, Made in England. Seen in Streatley. It has not proved possible to identify this manufacturer.

Telling it as it is.