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A Brief History of the Purpose of Manhole Covers

Have you ever wondered what those big iron circles in the road actually do? If so, read this brief history of the purpose of manhole covers.

Roman Origins

Did you know that the first sewer system was designed and implemented by the Mesopotamians in 4000 BCE? Their function was the same as sewers are today—remove waste from the town and, in some instances, collect rainwater. Over thousands of years, sewer systems improved and become more capable and complex.

Roughly 5000 years after the Mesopotamians, the Romans began using manhole covers in their own cities. These covers were made with stone grates, although some in wealthy areas were decorated with fine details and imagery. Unlike modern manhole covers, they were small and weren’t used for sewage access.

The “Modern” Manhole

The “modern” manhole and manhole cover design originated sometime in the mid-19th century. Citizens realized that having easy access points to the sewer system made maintenance far easier and more effective. Plus, falling into the sewer was a much more common occurrence than it is today!

City planners and other residents began making holes big enough to fit a person and complemented these openings with utility covers to protect both the sewer and pedestrians. They had a straightforward design—round and made from iron with added holes for drainage and sewer protection. As you can probably tell, we haven’t changed the design of the maintenance hole cover much since then because the design is tried and true.

Added Functions

While the basic functions of the manhole cover remain similar to those from the mid-1800s, covers these days do serve other purposes. Specifically, manhole covers are also used as access points to septic tanks, electrical controls, and wiring.

These covers keep moisture and animals out of sensitive areas but still provide an easy way to maintain and monitor important systems. Cities and property owners today implement different grate patterns to address specific areas of their landscapes—they use bigger openings for more flood-prone locations.

The history of manhole covers and their purpose shows how smart and innovative we were, even thousands of years ago. Maintenance holes and covers are essential today, and if your property requires protection for ground openings, consider our selection of utility covers here at Vodaland!

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