Gas Light & Coke Company - Great Peter Street, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 29.803 W 000° 07.821
30U E 699185 N 5708969
Quick Description: This City of Westminster green plaque, to the Gas Light & Coke Company that provided the first supply of gas, is located on the south side of Great Peter Street at the north west corner of the Home Office.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 11/27/2014 2:53:55 AM
Waymark Code: WMMZ25
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bill&ben
Views: 0

Long Description:

The National Archives website tells us about the company:

The Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company was the first gas undertaking in the world, concerned chiefly, until the 1880s, with the production of gas for lighting purposes. It was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1810 and the charter was granted by the Prince Regent in 1812.

The origins of the gas industry lay with the discovery of coal gas in the early 18th century. Gas lighting for homes, buildings and streets was pioneered by William Murdoch, a Scottish engineer, who with his pupil Samuel Clegg of Manchester and John Malam of Hull, designed and built gas works for mills and factories from 1800 to enable them to be lit. They worked with entrepreneurs such as F A Winsor to secure financial backing. Winsor's ideal was to have a central gas works making gas for illumination in every town and city in the country. Samuel Clegg joined the Chartered Company and constructed the first operational public gas works in Peter Street, Horseferry Road, Westminster, which began producing coal gas in September 1813.

The gas light alternative proved to be popular; simple open flame gas burners provided a much brighter light than could be obtained from candles or oil lamps and also proved to be safer and cheaper. By 1823 it was reported that the Company's three stations at Peter Street, Brick Lane and Curtain Road, were annually consuming 20,678 chaldrons of coal, producing 248,000,000 cubic feet of gas, and lighting 30,735 lamps through 122 miles of gas mains.

Developments at Westminster were followed by the rapid expansion of gas works and their Companies across London and other cities and large towns in England and Wales. By 1830, there were 200 gas Companies, by 1850 there 800 gas Companies, 13 of which were in London, and by 1860 there were nearly 1,000 gas Companies.

The Chartered Company was quick to explore more effective and efficient means of manufacturing gas. Coal gas was first produced using retorts (horizontal tubes) which were charged (filled with coal) and, having given off the gas, discharged (the coke removed) by hand through a door at one end. These retorts were made of iron and distorted badly with prolonged heating. Fire clay retorts with iron lids were introduced around 1822 and the through retort, a coal-gas retort with charging door and discharge door, 20 feet long and sharing heat at the former dead-end space, was developed in 1831 by George Lowe, the Company's Superintendent of Works. The through retort raised the charge to 600 pounds and lowered heating fuel to 400 pounds.

Falling dividends caused by the rising competition between companies in London impelled the Company's Directors in 1850 to nominate a special committee to consider the question of amalgamation. The Gas Act 1860 ended the severe competition and encroachment on Companys' gas supply areas, by permitting companies to arrange for the lighting of allotted districts. However this also encouraged London Companies to exact greater profits. It was reported to the House of Parliament that the public were paying £1,700,000 a year for gas, a far greater sum than outside London. Public opinion and the Parish Boards became increasingly dissatisfied with the monopoly of the private companies. In 1866, the Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Board of Works wished to restrict the powers and heighten the obligations of the 13 Companies supplying London with gas. The City Corporation considered buying out the Companies' rights and managing a municipal supply.

A committee in the House of Pariament advocated amalgamation in 1867. The City of London Gas Act 1868 brought the Chartered, City of London and Great Central Companies to a working agreement and reserved their rights to 10% dividends, and to raise money via loans. In return they submitted their production and finance records for Government inspection.

The new Act also enabled the right of further amalgamation with any Metropolitan gas company without Parliamentary sanction.

From 1878, the Company began to experience increasing competition from newly established electrical lighting Companies which were applying to the Government for powers. The passing of the Electric Lighting Bill 1882 granted these Companies right of exploitation in public areas. At the same time the expanding Company broadened its business into the letting of gas stoves for heating and cooking. In 1879 the Company applied to Parliament to seek 'powers to apply capital to the purchase or manufacture of engines and apparatus which they proposed to sell or let on hire, with the object of encouraging the use of gasfor cooking warming, and other purposes'.

In 1949, the Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company was nationalised and placed under control of North Thames Gas Board.

Blue Plaque managing agency: City of Westminster

Individual Recognized: Gas Light & Coke Company

Physical Address:
Great Peter Street
London, United Kingdom

Web Address: [Web Link]

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