Sunday 17 June 2012

Welcome to coalhole cover compendium

Welcome to my blog about coalhole covers (or, in Latin opercula) of the UK. I've been a bit obsessed about these for a few years as I marvelled at the lovely design of some of them, their history and what they told us about the way people used to live.

They are usually set into pavements or just within the curtilage of houses in towns and cities where the properties had cellars containing coalholes. The cover would be lifted by the coalman and the coal poured down into the underground cellar. A door from the inside would allow the householder (or their servant) to fill a coal scuttle and then stoke the fires of the house. Their use meant that there was no mess and dust of having the coal delivered.

They are increasingly being lost as Councils replace pavements.

The designs reveal the forgotten industrial history of our towns - in many cases the covers are marked with the name of the foundry where they were made. These have often disappeared.

A few years ago I started to record the coalhole covers in my home town of Brighton by photographing them.Then I took it one step further and took rubbings of them. Photographs of my rubbings are on this blog and I aim to post a photo of each different design I find.

Unless otherwise stated, all photos are by me and are in the UK. Please contact me with any comments and contribute history or your photos.

This is the largest collection of coal hole cover photos on the web (that I've found).

Andrew 'Coalhole' Coleman


  1. We're delighted you've taken an interest in Coal hole covers - it's quite a rare thing nowadays. Although we specialise in all sorts of cast iron vents, it wasn't our forte until someone from parliament phoned the office and asked if we could get them. As always we try to oblige and managed to get solid and ventilated castings complete with frame.

    I have to admit though, that some of the designs you have here are quite wonderful and we're almost inspired to cast something a little more intricate than our utilatarian coal hole cover we normally sell.

    Should sales pick up, we may add to our catalogue of designs - watch this space!

    Adrian at the Cast Iron Air Brick Company

  2. Adrian - thanks very much for the positive feedback. It would be fantastic if you could start manufacturing some more intricate designs. Andrew

  3. I've just recently become obsessed with these beauties. Lots of interesting ones around Islington - have look at the Lower Road album (towards the end) on my Facebook page for some examples

    1. Mick - thanks very much for the message. You've got some real beauties in your album. It just shows how much further I've got to go to document all the coal hole cover manufacturers! Andrew