Friday, 27 May 2011

The Kings Road (1): The Coalholes

I had to make a quick trip up to town the other day and I managed to remember to take the camera with me. Not that I was out for long, just a short trip from Sloane Square tube along the Kings Road to Flood Street, but I did take the opportunity to have a quick stroll down a few side streets to see if I could spot any interesting odds and ends.

As it turns out, the side streets off the Kings Road in Chelsea have some very nice terraced houses and as few of them seem to have avoided having their pavements replaced (for the time being at least) I had a bit of a bonanza with the coalholes. One of the effects of having new pavement arriving on a fairly frequent basis seems to be that the coalhole covers themselves are removed - for scrap presumably - the holes are filled then covered and another bit of old London bites the dust. Apart from the ubiquitous Hayward Brothers there did seem to be a very local flavour to the coalhole companies represented. Take this one for example
Green & London, Chelsea, London, SW
The London Street Directory of 1921 records the business of Green & London as being situated at 121 Kings Road but apart from having an advert in the 1908 Chelsea Historical Pageant - where they also advertise their Gas & Electrical Fittings; Builders & Engineers supplies and their Brass Foundry - I can't find much more about them. 
C. L. Hacking, 259 Kings Road, Chelsea SW
The same London directory as mentioned above also lists Charles Leonard Hacking, ironmongers of 259 Kings Road ( In fact only the third of the Kings Road ironmongers hasn't yet been identified in association with a coalhole cover is Samuel Wilkinson Kerwood and he could pop up at any time!) Charles Hacking seems to have been involved with some of the local Pre-Raphaelite painters - not only doing some repairs and replacing a grate for the Carlyle's (30 shillings to them. Special price) but also creating some props for their paintings most notably the centrepiece brass lantern for William Holman Hunt's The Light of the World.
Brass lamps. A welcome change from cast-iron coalhole covers.
 In 1894 Charles Hacking was accepted as a member of the Evangelical Alliance and the following year put in the winning tender to install electric lights in the Upper Hall of  Chelsea Town Hall with a quote of £48, so he was obviously a man of many talents and of some faith as well.
A. C. Woodrow & Co., London
1954 might seem a little late in the day for coalhole plates, but  A. C. Woodrow & Co were still offering them for sale through publications such as Roads and Road Construction. In fact A.C. Woodrow specialised in cast iron castings throughout their history and are one of the most commonly seen names on manhole covers and other street ironware. They seem to have started off in Holborn, London but then moved out to Kent where they were still going strong at least into the 70s, and even now, for all I know. One interesting snippet caught my eye from the Municipal and Public Services Journal of1970
This golf trophy - imaginatively combining the scale model of a manhole cover surmounting three silver replicas of the Minoan axe - has been presented to the staff of Milton Keynes Development Corporation by A. C. Woodrow and Company. The Woodrow trophy will be presented annually...[at] the Tower Club...
Sadly I couldn't find a picture of this 'imaginative' trophy. I wonder if it's still being contested to this day?
J. W. Carpenter, 186-190 Earls Court Road, SW
Quite an interesting design here produced by J.  W. Carpenter Ltd., which reminds me somewhat of a compass design. According to Gillian Cooksey in her book "Artistry & History Underfoot" has looked into the history of the company and apparently it's still trading as the Cargo Homeshop, currently celebrating its 135th birthday!
R. R. & J. Pearson, Patent Automatic, Notting Hill Gate

The Pearson's not only seem to be significant local ironmongers, as evidenced by the number of coal-hole plates in the area, but were also engaged in speculative building projects. Sadly this doesn't always seem to have gone quite to plan every time. In 1869 R. H. Pearson (ironmonger of Notting Hill) and a Mr Tidesley (brickmerchant) appear as trustees seeking the bankruptcy of Henry Saunders (builder) of Kensington. A later appearance in the records shows that by 1893 The Statist magazine was discussing the make up of Mr Robert Henry Pearson's wealth (and the fact that he had over 200 people working for him at the time) so presumably that was the year of his death.  The business carried on though and in 1900 the British Architect magazine were reporting news of other, more domestic products, although coal hole plates were still on the menu
RH & J. Pearson, Limited, wholesale and manufacturing ironmongers, High Street, Notting Hill, W., have just issued an illustrated catalogue of their well- known specialities in close and open-fire kitchen ranges
So a significant supplier of local coal hole plates then and appearing on our posting today with what I think is a very attractive design with the seven circles with leaf cluster details.
This Durey plate is a bit of a puzzle. There were plenty about and compared to the others its fairly plain typeface and layout seems to be more modern in style. My first thought was that the plate might have been the work of a modern company of the same name, Durey , who specialise in manholes. However, according to their website they were only formed in 1975 which I would have thought was a little on the late side fro coalhole plates. So, it seems there's a bit of a mystery to end on with this one...


LondonRemembers said...

Lovely coalhole plates, so varied. What puzzles me is - how did they work? The Carpenter one possibly has a keyhole into which a handle could fit but none of the others show any way of gripping them. And one describes itself as "self-locking" - how does that work? They surely weren't opened from the inside - that would be a cramped and dirty job. You've possibly answered this question in an earlier post.

Office Cleaning London said...

This is certainly an art. I am amazed how the little, less seen details make impression much bigger than the huge exposed to vision things

nike free run 2 said...

great art!

Anonymous said...

Coal holes are the most amazing thing. And I must say: people are paying attention on them now...noticing them more.

Anonymous said...

It's worth keeping an eye out for "Opercula" (note the posh name), pub The Golden Head Press, Cambridge 1965. Intro by Raymond Lister, sketches by an 1860s medical student, "Aesculapius Junior".

Many of the patterns he illustrates can still be found; he doesn't show any named ones - perhaps they were infra-dig.

Different names can be found on the same pattern; presumably made by the same foundry, with local iron-monger's name as an extra.

milestone mike

stephen said...

My great grandfather was Samuel Wilkinson Kerwood and while I don't know whether he ever made any coal holes, he had two shops in the King's Road - the one next door was china and glass and run by his sister. I have a photograph of him and his son outside the shop which must have been taken in about 1900/10ish....
He had been articled as a tinsmith and was also I believe a founding director of the Chelsea Building Society.

Bryan Ransome said...

Instant payout loans are services which are tailored for settling your earlier debts. You can opt for it in the secured and in the unsecured type. You can thus avail this monetary facility although you are a non-homeowner. Application for this scheme is easy through the online medium. For more please visit us @ short term business loans for bad credit.

Suzanna Bevin said...

Cash Loans in 24 Hours are services which are tailored for settling your earlier debts. You can opt for it in the secured and in the unsecured type. You can thus avail this monetary facility although you are a non-homeowner. Application for this scheme is easy through the online medium. For more please visit us @ 1000 Text Loans.

Ren said...

There are quite a few of these in St John's Wood - now I know what they are!

Manhole Monkey said...

Durey Castings are still trading and own the patterns to a lot of those coal plates. I believe the plain coal plate with the simple word a Durey cast in it was for the newer properties built in London where the builders didn’t want the area to appear ‘old’.
These days most coal plates installed are what are known as ‘Dummy plates’ which don’t open because there is nothing below.