Published privately by the author, 492 pages. Hardback - c.15.5cm by 21cm (N8028)
Brand New Book
From the introduction: The aim of this series is to bring together concise histories of the various gas works from around England in an easy to access format. The counties featured in this volume are Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.
Sadly the time has come when visits to consult documents at some of the archive offices has become impractical due to the time required and the distances involved. To overcome this problem a simplified version has had to be used while still retaining a reasonable account that is of use to the reader.
Newspaper reports are the main source of information generally covering everything from the opening of gas works to annual shareholders meetings as well as the tragic, humorous, and bizarre. For many concerns this is all that remains as any original papers are long gone. Wherever possible returns submitted to various government departments have been used for the statistical side. Gas directories though have had to be consulted for many others and are particularly helpful for the smaller ones. Despite all efforts some gas works remain determined to keep their secrets.
For those readers unfamiliar with the operation of producing 'town gas' basically coal was baked in airtight tubes called retorts made either of clay or iron to release the gas. In this natural state, a yellowish brown smoke, it was too dangerous to use until various elements such as tar, sulphur, ammonia, and hydrogen sulphide were removed by a process of passing gas through condensers, washers/scrubbers, and purifiers. Then recorded by a station (works) meter and stored in a holder ready for use. Other types of gas could be made to mix in with the coal gas. Water gas made by passing steam over red hot coke could also be improved in quality by adding oil forming carburetted water gas (CWG). Producer gas usually had a lower British thermal unit value compared to coal gas but used generally cheaper and inferior feedstocks.
Today it is very difficult to find any reminders of past glories except for the odd holder or perhaps a converted building that may give a clue as to its origin. Luckily one complete gas works still survives in Fakenham, Norfolk, as a museum and is worthy of a visit. Here all the components of a small town gas works can be seen...
The book is arranged as a gazetteer, with the entries listed per county in an A to Z format. There are over 220 entries in total, each detailing a local gas company/works, and they include: Bodmin, Bude, Falmouth, Fowey, Launceston, Looe, Newquay, Padstow, Penzance, Redruth, St Ives, St Just, Truro, Wadebridge, Appeldore, Axminster, Barnstaple, Brixham, Crediton, Exeter, Exmouth, Honiton, Ifracombe, Paignton, Salcombe, Seaton, South Brent, Tavistock ,Teignmouth, Tiverton, beaminster, Bridport, Lyme Regis, Poole, Swanage, Wareham, Weymouth, Wimbourne, Bilson, Bristol, Chesltenham, Chipping Sodbury, Cirencester, Lydney, Gloucester, Newnham, Stow on the Wold, Tetbury, Winchcomb, Bromyard, Colwall, Ledbury, Ross, Leominster, Bampton, Bicester, Burford, Charlbury, Eynsham, Witney, Woodstock, Axbridge, Burnham, Chard, Clevedon, Glastonbury, Langport, Milverston, Portishead, Radstock, Taunton, Watchet and Williton, Wedmore, Wellington, Worle, Yeovil, Calne, Chippenham, Mere, Swindon, Trowbridge, Tisbury, Warminster, Wilton, Bromsgrove, Dudley, Evesham, Kidderminster, Malvern, Redditch, Stourport, Tenbury, Worcester, and many many more! The length of each entry and the amount of information included varies. There are also a handful of pages of photographs and illustrations.