If you walk through Limerick’s Georgian streets and cast your eyes downward, you might notice a square object punctuating the surface of the path – a cast iron plate in a limestone frame, cut from a single block. When the plate is removed, the opening leads to a brick vault running beneath the street. These openings were used for the delivery of fuel, coal mainly, but also turf to the basements of Georgian buildings. From there, the fuel was distributed to fireplaces beautifully and elegantly articulated in the Georgian style. The coal holes, brick vaults, fireplaces, and chimneys all describe the energy infrastructure of the late eighteenth century when Limerick’s Georgian city, Newtown Pery, was built. Though coal has been replaced by electricity and gas, our present-day energy infrastructure is still reliant on carbon-based fuels and we now know that this must change.
Authors: Helena Fitzgerald