Drainspotting in Sheffield

This drain cpover carries the legend 'SHEFFIELD LOCAL BOARD' which apparenty referrs to the Local Board of Health, an organisation set up in sheffield in the mid 1800s.

This drain cpover carries the legend ‘SHEFFIELD LOCAL BOARD’ which apparenty referrs to the Local Board of Health, an organisation set up in sheffield in the mid 1800s.

This cover is one of a pair in the Broomhill area which are very similar to the earlier 'Local Board' castings. However compare the two and you will see that the holes on this casting look slightly narrower than the 'Local Board' ones. Was this the second design to be used in Sheffield, possibly sometime between the 1850s to early 1890s?

This cover is one of a pair in the Broomhill area which are very similar to the earlier ‘Local Board’ castings. However compare the two and you will see that the holes on this casting look slightly narrower than the ‘Local Board’ ones. Was this the second design to be used in Sheffield, possibly sometime between the 1850s to early 1890s?

This cover in Broomhill was either cast without any lettering or has worn smooth with the passage of time and traffic, which I think is more likely. At first sight it looks like one of the early 'Local Board' covers but, from the slightly narrower openings, I would say it's one of the corporation ones, other examples of which were found in the locality.

This cover in Broomhill was either cast without any lettering or has worn smooth with the passage of time and traffic, which I think is more likely. At first sight it looks like one of the early ‘Local Board’ covers but, from the slightly narrower openings, I would say it’s one of the corporation ones, other examples of which were found in the locality.

After much talk on http://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.

It seems that the design of drain cover changed during the mid 1890s to this larger, flatter and more square type. Helpfully the corporation also started dating their drains at this time. Does this one read 1895? If so it's the earliest one we've found.

It seems that the design of drain cover changed during the mid 1890s to this larger, flatter and more square type. Helpfully the corporation also started dating their drains at this time. Does this one read 1895? If so it’s the earliest one we’ve found.

Sheffield Corporation 1897 drain cover.

Sheffield Corporation 1897 drain cover.

Sheffield Corporation 1898 drain at Commonside.

Sheffield Corporation 1898 drain at Commonside.

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.

LATEST NEWS:
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.

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