My Wrekin
Sidmouth cover location

Bespoke steel cover at centre of new Sidmouth amphitheatre

  • Devon County Council

  • Access cover

We are proud to have created a bespoke decorative steel manhole cover as part of a significant flood alleviation scheme in a stunning new amphitheatre setting in Sidmouth, Devon. The unique cover is the focal point at the heart of the new flood storage area which doubles as an outdoor performance and event space for the community.

The project was delivered for Devon County Council, designed by Jacobs, with South West Highways as the main contractor. The scheme is a great example of truly integrated design thinking with our beautifully crafted central flow control chamber cover and frame as its centrepiece.

Jacobs established the concept along with multiple design parameters, which we quickly developed and engineered the final product to fit seamlessly in with the amphitheatre. The bespoke solution delivers a decorative and highly functional cover offering ease of removal and safe access to the chamber.

Not only was the manhole cover laser cut with an intricate leaf pattern, staying true to the concept, but the product was also left ungalvanized so that the surface would oxidise very quickly, especially with the sea water environment at Sidmouth. The body of the cover was made from galvanised steel with Corten steel used in the top plate.


Another carefully thought-out part of the cover was the unique opening mechanism, which was devised especially for the project, in order to allow a single operative to easily and safely lift the cover without causing damage to the surrounding bespoke stonework. This was achieved by creating a first of its kind for us, a spring-loaded strut which rises and then pivots clear of the opening.

In another first, we created a video with instructions on how to fit and use the cover, along with an instruction manual that included advice on changing the mechanical struts in around 15 years to maintain their effectiveness. This has also been incorporated in the operation and maintenance manual for the overall scheme, which was greatly appreciated by Jacobs.

These exciting works are the first phase of the scheme to improve water drainage in the town, with the aim of reducing the flood risk to more than 100 properties. Surface water is captured on Station Road and piped into the adjacent public open space, rather than flowing down into the town. It is then transferred by way or a pipe and swale, finally reaching the dual function amphitheatre. Here the water infiltrates into buried storage crates, which can hold 150,000 gallons of water. The water can then percolate into the ground during low groundwater conditions or is slowly released back into the main drainage system.

Working with Wrekin has been seamless and we have been impressed with the level on ingenuity shown. In particular, the opening mechanism has been very well received.

Paul Hargreaves

Head of discipline, surface water management (UK & Europe), Jacobs Engineering

Paul Hargreaves, head of discipline, surface water management (UK & Europe) at Jacobs Engineering, said: “Working with Wrekin on this project has been seamless and we have been impressed with the level on ingenuity shown. In particular, the opening mechanism has been very well received. When unlocked, the cover rises with little effort on a spring-loaded strut, before pivoting and spinning clear of the opening. What’s more, the design has multiple benefits including one-person operation. It is also theft-proof due to the locking mechanism and the ornate stonework will not be damaged during operation.”

The amphitheatre was officially opened in October by Councillor Jeff Trail, chair of Devon County Council. Other project partners included the Environment Agency, East Devon District Council and Sidmouth Town Council.

Some of our previous eye-catching manhole cover designs include a tribute to The Beatles, commissioned by Thames Water and placed next to the world-famous zebra crossing on Abbey Road, as well as a striking rainbow design dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, installed in Reading, Swindon and central London.

Images © Jacobs , client Devon County Council

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