Stoke Newington historian documents the fascinating designs of Victorian coal hole covers

Amir completed a survey of coalhole covers, finding 76 different ones across Stoke Newington. Pictur

Amir completed a survey of coalhole covers, finding 76 different ones across Stoke Newington. Picture: Amir Dotan - Credit: Archant

Until the Clean Air Act 1956, coal was used to heat homes and was delivered to cellars through a hole outside front doors or pavements.

The coal hole would usually be covered by a decorative cast iron plate, which surprisingly for such a utilitarian object, often included charming designs.

Sometimes the name of the foundry that made it would be inscribed on the plate.

Fascinated with the variety of coal hole cover designs and their historical context, Stoke Newington history enthusiast Amir Dotan recently embarked on a survey of them within the boundaries of the former metropolitan borough of Stoke Newington, which merged with Hackney in 1965.

Amir estimates that he spotted approximately 600 coal hole covers, out of which he photographed close to 80 to document all the unique designs he came across.

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He told the Gazette: “Once I got hooked, it’s like a coin collection where you don’t know how many different ones you will find and there’s the excitement of discovering a new design, just when you think you have seen them all!

“I estimate I spotted close to 1,000 coal hole covers, out of which I photographed close to 80 unique designs. Many were removed over the years as front entrances were renovated or because they leaked so they are a rare sight in some parts of Stoke Newington.

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Amir posted a picture of the collage, right, on Twitter and was inundated with messages. One person said: “Random and marvellous!”.

Another added: “I love this kind of thing. Ghosts from a former time”.

Amir can be found on Twitter @HistoryOfStokey. More of his work can be found at

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