town gas works
town gas works
"In 1830 King William the Fourth came to the throne and it was celebrated in Yeovil by a grand and general illumination. Gas Works were being erected there and the Gas was let into the town from the works for the first time on that day [26 June] and it was the first time I had seen gas and I remember some of the designs were very beautiful. A young man, a Mr Llewellyn was the Gas Engineer who erected and after managed, for a time, the works. He was a Wesleyan and a local preacher, he was very popular, he entered the ministry and 'ere he died he became president of the 'Old Body'." (From the diary of Edward Ensor (1821-1905)).
The Town Gas Works, off Middle Street, were built by the Yeovil Gas & Coke Company and completed in 1833 on the site of a drained withy bed. Complete with retorts and gasometers, by 1856 it was producing 28,000 cubic feet of gas daily and supplied gas to the Corporation's 124 street lamps. The newly-elected Improvement Commissioners had initially provided 160 oil-burning street lamps in the town but these were converted to gas from 1834.
In 1856 Daniel Vickery wrote "Previous to the year 1834, the streets of Yeovil were lighted with oil, there being about 120 lamps, at an expense of about £135 a year. A private Company, neither registered nor incorporated, was established in 1833, with a capital, in shares of £30 and £10 each, amounting to £3,500. In 1853 the capital was increased to £5,600. Under the powers of the Town Act, the Commissioners conceded to the Company the right to lay mains under all the streets. The works are situated in the lower part of the town, near the Newton turnpike gate. There are two gasometers, holding collectively 28,000 cubic feet, and premises for 11 retorts. The pipes are laid under every street in the town. There are 124 lamps, which, according to an agreement recently made with the Town Council, are for the future to be lighted from the 16th August, instead of the 1st September, to the 1st May. Sixteen lamps are kept lighted till four in the morning; each lamp costs the town 48s 6d per annum. The whole cost of lighting exceeds £300 annually. The consumption of gas for private purposes averages, in winter, daily, about 10,000 cubic feet; in summer about 1,200. The factories consume a good deal. The cost of land, buildings, mains, lamps, &c., &c., amounted to £5,553 15s 9d."
In the 1851 census 55-year old John Bunn was listed as the Manager of the Gas Works and lived there with his wife, Frances, and their five children. In the 1871 census the Gas Manager was 25-year old John Ball from Loughborough, Leicestershire who lived there on his own.
The enterprise was eventually acquired by the Corporation itself, under a local Act of Parliament in 1899, and continued to illuminate the town until the close of the Second World War.
The gas works closed in 1957 and the site cleared in the early 1960s.
MAPs & Aerial photograPH
Map based on Watt's map of 1831 showing Yeovil's first workhouse off Lower Middle Street. The stream running past the withy bed and then alongside part of Dodham Lane was the combined Rackel Brook and Milford Brook. The future gas works eventually stretched from the withy bed as far as Stars Lane.
The 1886 Ordnance Survey shows the location and size of the gasworks at this time.
This 1946 aerial photograph shows the gasworks, at centre, which had by this time extended as far as Stars Lane next to the new, large gasometer just left of centre. The right-hand side is occupied by Yeovil Town railway station.
An advertisement by the Yeovil Gas and Coke Company for a trendy new gas cooker in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1885.
An an advertisement for a gas fire in the 1888 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.
This postcard, taken from Summerhouse Hill, dates to about 1905 and shows Talbot Street at centre, behind the row of houses in Summerhouse Terrace. At the left end of this terrace is the entrance to Talbot Street. At right, the gasometer was next to Stars Lane, the houses of which are seen between the gasometer and Talbot Street. Below the gasometer is the Foundry House leather glove factory before its extension was built at the rear.
Courtesy of Colin Haine
Courtesy of George Hallett
By 1918, the date of this Rendell photograph, the former Western Gazette offices were being used as a Salvation Army Temple. Note the gasometer dominating the view into town.
Looking down Lower Middle Street, remarkably traffic-free in the 1950s. At right is the Yeovil & District Co-operative Society's furniture branch store. At the far end is the office building of the Town Gas Works.
The offices, and originally accommodation for the gas works manager and his family, facing Middle Street and built in 1833 - photographed from Central Road in the 1960s.
Courtesy of Olly Ewens
Reproduced from a newspaper of 1957. The caption read "A view of the frontage of the Gas Board premises in Middle Street, Yeovil, which will continue in use as showrooms etc. when the gasworks at the rear close down in June."
The same building given a 1930's art deco makeover in the 1970s, now somewhat tired. Photographed in 2014.
The building is more recogniseable as its former self from the back, albeit not a pretty picture. Photographed in 2014.
The gas works photographed in the 1950s.
Taken from the very bottom of Stars Lane, looking north, with Foundry House at left and the gas works at right.
.... and now for something completely different - the Lysander Road gasometer (before Lysander Road was even thought of) photographed in 1953. Westland airfield covers the lower half of the photograph with the start of the factory buildings at centre right.
An aerial photograph of the gasometer near Lysander Road (running across the top of the photo). Photographed, I would guess, during the early 1960s.
Photograph by Geoff Bowler, courtesy of Sue Bowler
The Lysander Road gasometer, photographed in 1969.