After much talk on www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk about the hobby of ‘drainspotting’, here is what we’ve discovered so far about the cast iron covers in the city streets.
It seems the oldest covers are the rare ones marked ‘LOCAL BOARD’, which refers to the Local Board of Health, an organization set up in the late 1840s after a cholera epidemic to help improve the living conditions and health of the general community. One of the improvements they implemented was the construction of proper street drainage systems, hence their title appearing on the covers.
Almost identical covers are to be found in the Broomhill area, but with ‘SHEFFIELD CORPORATION’ markings. As the corporation were using a larger design of cover by the latter half of the 1890s, these either date from the period between the Local Board covers and the 1890s (which I think is most likely) or they may be later corporation replacements designed to fit into original Local Board frames. However I think the latter option is unlikely because where this cover was found there was an identical one on the other side of the street. Would two covers together really break and get replaced at the same time? I doubt it. So lets assume these Corporation covers date from somewhere between 1850 – early 1890s.
Sometime around the mid 1890s Sheffield Corporation changed the design of the covers they installed to the larger and flatter type, which helpfully also show a date on the casting. Most of these seem to be dated around 1896 or 1897, which must have been a boom time for drain building in the city. However examples have been found with dates into the first decade of the 20th century.
We’ve written a book! Calvin and I have been hard at work cataloguing and photographing the historic drains and other features to be found around the Sheffield area. ‘Drainspotting: a guide to the pavement features of Sheffield’ is out to buy now. Order a copy by following the link on right. Or, if you’re in Sheffield, you can get a copy at either Sheffield Scene in the city centre or The Famous Sheffield Shop on Ecclesall Road.