The Mystery of the Missing Manhole Cover

posted Aug 19, 2010, 5:29 AM by A Standish
I was reminded recently about a strange request received from a lady representing a local village parish council. They were trying to locate an old manhole cover outside the local village hall.

She explained that the existence of the manhole cover was denied by the local water, electricity and telephony services. There was no apparent record of its existence, yet it was known that 2 villagers had worked on its installation way back in the 1950s. Now the reason for the search was that the Utility companies were going to charge a small fortune to put in a new one, unless it could be shown that the old one existed.

An exploratory survey by the Utility companies, who took the easy option by yesterdays standards, sent a remote camera down the pipe and it indeed showed a covers existence, below ground. On the surface, everything was grassed over. However each of the Utility companies, said it wasn't theirs. So therein lay the problem, where was it and who owned it?

On the agreed date and armed with 3 different types of detectors, [just in case!], I arrived at the village hall and duly started to search, under the watchful eye of the parish council. No pressure there then!! Within a few minutes i got the first signal -- but it wasn't iron. As i dug it, up popped a ship halfpenny. Filling in the hole and moving forward, another signal came. This time it was a 1930's 6d and also in the hole was a decorated clay pipe fragment, [later identified as 18th century]. Having walked over the entire grass area, with the explorer 2, no strong iron signal was forthcoming.

So a quick change of tack, i resorted to a more basic machine, and lo and behold, within 2 minutes the signal nearly blew my eardrums out. Talk about overload!  Digging down, just beyond spade depth, we hit a corner of the manhole cover. The Parish council were now intrigued -- who's name was on it. 

Willing volunteers scrambled for the remaining spades and the sense of anticipation mounted as a lovely mesh decorated design started to appear, then some letters .......PR ......... O .......PER ........TY ............of ...................G.P.O. ..........................1957

Cameras clicked away and there was much excitement as they were now able to demonstrate its existence and ownership.

A few weeks later, i received a lovely letter of thanks from the Parish Council with an offer to reimburse my expense. Naturally, i was only to pleased to help, and declined the offer.