Sheffield drainspotter releases ‘grate’ history book

Calvin Payne from Sheffield who is trying to get old Sheffield Local Board drain covers listed
Calvin Payne from Sheffield who is trying to get old Sheffield Local Board drain covers listed

He doesn’t want all his hard work to go down the drain - so Sheffield ‘drainspotter’ Calvin Payne has put all his research into a book.

Calvin, who hit the headlines earlier this year with his quirky hobby, has teamed up with fellow history boffin Andy Cooper to pen the tome.

‘Drainspotting - a guide to the pavement features of Sheffield’ is a pocket guide which encourages everybody to take an interest in industrial heritage.

Local history enthusiast Calvin, aged 42, of Nether Edge, said: “When I get asked what drainspotting is, I always say it’s the discovery, identification and preservation of old drain covers.

“If people have seen something and they get in touch with us, we try to answer their questions about it and where it came from.

“Sometimes they come up with something that’s completely different and then we try to find out its story.”

Calvin has spent the last couple of years on the lookout for drains and vents which have a story to tell on the city’s streets.

Since he started, he has hunted down some ‘grate’ examples of metalwork from as far back as the 1830s.

When he discovered the historical significance of some of the drains, he appealed to Amey to preserve them while carrying out their work for the Streets Ahead scheme to revamp Sheffield’s road and street network.

Calvin, who is also a DJ on Sheffield Live! said: “I have had a meeting with Amey and they have resurfaced Palm Street in Walkley, where there are some old drain covers from the Sheffield Local Board, dating back to the late 1840s.

“They haven’t touched the covers and I’m quite pleased about that. Hopefully we are succeeding in a small way with what we are trying to do.”

Calvin and his fellow historians write for the Sheffield History website at, and some 8,000 people have been online to read about drainspotting.

“I have been forced to carry on doing it,” said Calvin.

“I didn’t intend to do this - I just posted some interesting findings on a website and it’s never stopped since.”

* ‘Drainspotting’ is available in local bookshops and online at