Old Heritage Archive

Cornish heritage beneath our feet

Have you ever looked down when you’re walking about outside (do you walk about much)? We’re often encouraged to look up when we’re in the middle of towns and cities to admire the architecture of urbanisation above the modern, slightly jarring, signage of our high street shops.

But do you look down?

Local foundries made street ironmongery – that’s stuff like manhole covers, gutter grills, bollards, lamp-posts and railings. Here in Cornwall foundries were better known for building gigantic pumping and winding engines for the mining industry. Names like Harvey and Holman are household names, still.

Some of their iron and steel founding can be seen in our towns even though many have been replaced with less distinctive metalwork.

So next time you are out and about, take a look down, check out where that hydrant cover was made and by whom. I’m going to start collecting photographs of Cornish street ironmongery. If you want to add your own, just leave a comment or link us to your own images.




Last week I was in Truro which turned out to be a real find for Cornish ironwork. This gallery traces my route from Old County Hall to Truro Cathedral. Avondale Road was most interesting, the site of ironmongery from four different Cornish foundries.

Newlyn and Mousehole

Some additions from Newlyn and Mousehole, including an unusual triangular manhole cover. All made by local founders N. Holman, St Just.

5 replies on “Cornish heritage beneath our feet”

I appreciate the variety —-signs, bits of history and culture. Down trodden but still there.

Look at cast iron signposts or ‘fingerposts’. Cornish fingerposts were made in Cornwall by a variety of foundries, with some wonderful designs. Visit the Milestone Society website to learn more – you can download a google earth map with an overlay showing many of the fingerposts in Cornwall with pop-up photos and information.
And of course there are milestones, hidden in the hedgerows along many of our roads. These are granite not cast iron and much older than manhole covers. They take some finding. Start searching for them with the aid of a good map and the Milestone Society website.

Thanks for this Ian, I’m going to email you belatedly! I really want to find out more about our Cornish foundries. Tin tends to take the limelight in Cornwall’s metal histories.

Thank you so much Tehmina!
Those photos mean a lot to me.
My Great-Great-Grandfather was W M Sara.
I think that the iron-works that you show are actually after his time, possibly from World War 2, although I may be wrong.
My parents still have a manhole cover as a feature in the back yard.
I have followed the family tree back to 1510 and they were mostly involved with iron, tin, or fishing.
Kind regards,
Paul Martin

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