Cast iron covers
This Feature of the Season involves looking down at the ground rather than looking around!
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many towns in and around the Yorkshire Dales National Park had small foundries that make goods for local markets. They cast iron and worked with wrought iron and brass to produce small items such as nails, screws and hand tools, domestic items such as grates and cooking ranges, and even large machines for the mining industry.
The local foundries also made manhole and drain covers for schemes that were aimed at improving drainage in towns and villages and were initiated due to a growing concern for public health in the nineteenth century.
The development of the railway network in the nineteenth century greatly increased the distribution of some early cast iron products and some of these made their way to the Yorkshire Dales. For example, in Sedbergh there are at least two surviving cast iron covers made by Thomas Crapper, better known for his manufacture of sanitary ware.
Similar examples can be found in Westminster Abbey in London - the Sedbergh examples certainly don’t get anywhere near the same attention from brass rubbers as those in Westminster Abbey!
Many early covers survive, but because they are made out of cast iron, they can be brittle. They are easily broken during road improvements and are very easily replaced with modern mass produced covers without consideration of their historic significance.
By identifying their locations we aim to take the first step towards raising awareness of these interesting links to past industries and hopefully ensure their survival.