26 July 2023

Kensington Coal Holes in the Rain

I was out for a wander on Saturday and happened to be following the Long Water from the Italian Gardens to the Serpentine Gallery via the Peter Pan statue. It started to rain so I tied back my hair and buttoned up my mac and headed into the streets behind Kensington Gore as it occurred to me that I'd never properly explored that zone. 

Well, what a delight. Embassies and empty houses, cul-de-sacs, courtyards, mews and gardens, and hardly a human in sight. And I'm sure that wasn't due to the inclement weather on that day. I kept noticing how lovely some of the coal cover plates looked, highlighted by the rain. 

I turned into Palace Gate and noticed some ironmongers' designs that were new to me so, of course, I had to start taking snaps. If you notice any strange rainbow effects in these images it is the reflection of my colourful stripy umbrella!

First, above, two covers from distant locations – Lely's of Station Approach, London Bridge, with its four circular lenses sparkling in the rain, and a Luxfer Prisms of Clerkenwell cover, its centre section in-filled with cement. 
Then, on the West side of the street, I found a very unusual nobbly self-locking plate, here contrasted with one of its neighbours, in the conventional flatter style, here made by Needham & Sons. I am at a loss where or who Stockport John is/was.

I turned into Kensington Gate, a lovely enclosed street with private gardens, and along its northern side I found lots of what I can only call 'pretty' plates. It's as if someone had filled or coloured in the holes within the discs. Or perhaps it was just the water highlighting their features: 

These are two almost identical Hayward's plates, yet the left one looks to have marble inserts in some of the holes, and the one on the right contains a variety of coloured mosses, making it looked like an artist's palette. 
A James Bartle & Co plate further along looks like someone has been busy with a gold pen. And the holes in an adjacent Woodrow plate are filled with seeds etc, making it look like a little biology collection:

Then two unbranded plates, each with four lightwells/lenses but clearly (opaquely?!) using different grades of glass as one is more blue than green:

And here's another self-locking plate with little samples of grass within it alongside an earlier James Bartle design sporting five concentric circles:

Along the southern side of Kensington Gate I found some makers' names new to me including J. W. Benney & Co of Stepney in the East End (pic not included here because the photo's not very good) and two plates bearing the name of a local company J.W. Lawson of Kensington:

Both are floral, but I particularly like the unusual design on the one on the left. The one on the right shows a High Street Kensington address – a quick peek into the 1882 directory shows the business at No.108 as John Welch Lawson, builders' ironmonger which is directly opposite the tube station and it may well have been inside this building
I hope you enjoyed looking at these as much as I did finding them. There are lots more streets I haven't investigated in this area of Kensington, so I am pretty sure there are more architectural gems to be found there.
To see more of my coal hole observations, click here


  1. Bartle's iron covers had an eerie connection... the ironworks were of the Chimney overlooking/overshadowing John Christie, the serial killer's house at Ten Rillington place.

    1. Ha ha. Thanks.
      I've just checked the 1895 directory – James Bartle & Co, iron & brass founders, engineers, smiths &c. 236 Lancaster Rd, Notting Hill. Christies house is long gone and what's left of Rillington Place is now called Bartle Road – thanks for that as I hadn't made the connection.

  2. Thanks for the reply so soon, respect, keep up the good work, Jane!

  3. Thanks for the kind words and feedback – you caught me 'live' when I just happened to be looking at some old directories for a couple of other posts I'll write about soon.

  4. Best wishes, sleep well, eventually, lol ;o)


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Thanks, Jane