The Three Counties Hospital Gas Works 1857-1952, by A.T. Marks

The Three Counties Hospital Gas Works 1857-1952, by A.T. Marks

Published privarely by the author in 2012, 32 pages. A5 size booklet (N7689PE)

From the introduction: In this small booklet I hope to have recreated the life and times of a small private gas works. This establishment was in operation for just over 90 years providing fuel for the hospital. By no means unique its longevity set it aside from many others. Once the gas industry started from the generally accepted date of 1812 with the founding of the Gas Light and Coke Company in London many other towns and cities followed suite in building works. Their aim was to provide gas for a safer, more reliable, and brighter light. This allowed the nineteenth century businessmen to dispense with the potential hazard of fire in their workplaces from oil lamps and candles.

Returning to the hospital it is easy to see why gas was chosen for lighting with all these benefits. However the original lights relied solely on the luminosity of the gas in other words the naked flame. Various burners were developed with names such as batwing and fishtail which directed the flames in different directions to improve their overall effectiveness. Reflectors and mirrors were also used. The major breakthrough came in the 1880's when Welsbach developed the gas mantle which relied on the heating power of the gas to make it glow and produce light. Further developments followed including high pressure lamps which improved gas lighting by a considerable degree but to no avail the competition from electricity proved too much.

F or those readers unfamiliar with the operations of a gas works basically coal was baked in airtight tubes called retorts made either of iron or clay. The gas was drawn off, passed through a condenser which lowered the temperature, on through a washer/scrubber to remove tar, ammoniacal liquor, and naphthalene. Then fed along by an exhauster, through the purifier filled with lime later iron oxide which removed the lethal hydrogen sulphide to then be stored in the gas holder. From this process useful by-products were made. Coke which was used by the hospital and if necessary in the furnaces, ammoniacal liquor and sulphur which could be used in various industrial processes, and fmally tar sometimes used on the hospital site for roads and pathways.

In order to calculate the cost of gas to the hospital the works were virtually run as a business. This is illustrated by an entry in the Building Committee minutes of the 12th December 1859 'the following to be kept as separate and distinct accounts; Gas House- expense of manufacture of gas (including wages) and consumption therof.' Separate figures were kept up to 1890 when coke and gas were combined.
Contents include:

Planning and Construction
The Gas Men
Gas Meters
The Railway
Gas Holders
Gas Appliances
Gas Engines
Gas Engineers, Fitters, and Consultants
Gas Works up to 1945
The Final Years
Table 1 - Hospital Gas Consumption 1860 to 1890
Table 2 - Gas made at Works 1906, 1907, 1945 to 1952
Condition of the booklet is generally very good. The covers have one or two minor scuffs but are clean and tidy, the staple spine is tight and intact, and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound.