Sunday, 22 April 2007


Link to introductory page
See also pages for individual regions and towns in France.

Older manhole covers in France have all the monumentality of French public buildings. Their bold lines are deeply cast with proud large letters for the inscriptions. A good example of this style is furnished by the anonymous example above, seen at Coutances and the cover by A.Durenne, Maitre de Forges of Paris. Unfortunately many of these early examples are now disregarded, often covered by tarmac, their inscriptions barely visible or replaced by the omnipresent PAM productions or other anonymous examples with feeble low relief patterns. Rarely are there individual designs for municipalities. The main historic interest is furnished by the names of the different foundries.

Eaux usées. A general cover, seen at Bayeux
Eaux pluviales. A general cover, seen at Concarneau

Many manhole covers in France, and increasingly in many other counties, bear the brand name PAM with its distinctive bridge trade mark. The new Princesshay development in Exeter installed some of their products in 2007. They are manufactured by Saint-Gobain PAM, a metallurgy company which is a branch of Saint-Gobain Canalisation. The birth of the enterprise was in 1854 when the discovery of iron ore deposits was made in Lorraine at Marbache, in Meurthe-et-Moselle. The factory at Pont-à-Mousson (hence the initials PAM) was founded in 1856 and the first cast-iron water-main was produced in 1866. During the 19th century the firm supplied many towns in France and Europe with iron water mains and in 1886 the creation of the Société Anonyme des Hauts-Fourneaux et Fonderies de Pont-à-Mousson reflected the main area of activity of the firm - cast ironwork. Activities spread to South America in 1937. In 1970, bringing together several industrial firms in France, Germany and Brazil, Pont-à-Mousson S.A. merged with the Compagnie de SAINT-GOBAIN. International development continued from the 1980s, spreading to Spain, to Great Britain, to Asia in 1997 and to South Africa in 1998. In 2006 Saint-Gobain Canalisation employed more than 9,000 persons world-wide, of which 2,850 were employed by Saint-Gobain-PAM. A visit to the town in 2007 ascertained that the firm had full order books for the next four years. Website:

The bridge at Pont-à-Mousson. The old bridge, which provided the inspiration for the firm's logo was destroyed in World War 2.
The PAM-Gobion Foundry at Pont-à-Mousson. The trucks in the railway sidings contain products of the foundry.
Pont a Mousson. An excellent early example, seen in Coutances, Manche. The town of Roscoff has numerous examples of this style of manhole cover, the strong design complementing admirably the heavy granite buildings of this Breton port.
Pont-à-Mousson. Another early style design seen in Pont-à-Mousson.
Pont-à-Mousson. Fonte ductile. A wave pattern forms one of the more distinctive designs of the PAM foundry. Seen in Pont-à-Mousson.
Pont-à-Mousson, Egouts. A simple design, typical of many commissioned for towns across France. Seen in Nancy.

PAM InterAx. Seen in Newton Ferrers, Devon. A typical example of the style of cover to be found across Europe.
Classe 250. An anonymous design seen in Roscoff.
Ville de Nantes, G.M.Bouhyer, Ancenis, Egouts. A manhole cover for Nantes.

Isard & Favre, Annecy

Isard & Favre, Annecy
Fonderie de Beauvais
Fonderie de Beauvais
Bleré, Indre-et-Loire
A.Richard, Bleré, I & L.
Le Mans

Chappee & Fils, Le Mans. Seen in Caen
Chappee, 7. Seen in Granville.

Link to introductory page
See also pages for individual regions and towns in France.