Catalogue description GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY

This record is held by National Gas Archive

Details of NT:GAL
Reference: NT:GAL

This collection contains administrative, financial, legal and related records as well as drawings.

Date: 1807 - 1970
Held by: National Gas Archive, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Gas Light and Coke Company, 1810-1949

Physical description: 21 Sub-fonds
  • Gas industry
Administrative / biographical background:

In 1809 the company's promoters raised a bill in parliament with the object of enabling the company to be incorporated by Royal Charter, power to raise capital and limit the liability of shareholders and authority to dig up the streets for mainlaying purposes. The first bill failed, with opposition from Murdock amongst others, on the basis that gas lighting was already established, the company would comprise a monopoly and limitation of liability would promote speculation. A second bill, introduced the following year 1810, with reduced proposed capital, was passed subject to financial conditions before a Royal Charter could be obtained, these were met and the Charter was granted in 1812. The first meeting of the Court of Directors, presided over by chairman, James Ludovic Grant, was held at 27 Norfolk Street, Strand on 24 Jun 1812. By July a lease was taken on 96 Pall Mall, which served as the offices and a wharf and house rented at Cannon Row, Westminster, as a site for the works. In Dec 1812 Samuel Clegg was appointed the Engineer and immediately deemed the works at Cannon Row as insufficient. A second works was established at Providence Court, Great Peter St which when expanded became the Peter Street Works and the first operational gas works to supply gas for public consumption. The increase in demand led to a site at Curtain Road, Moorfields (1812/1813). In Jun 1814 both the Pall Mall offices and the wharf at Cannon Row were vacated and the Court moved to Peter St. In 1814 a further site and works was established at Brick Lane, Old Street. It was not until 1868 that the company built another of its own gas works; the Beckton works were to become one of the largest gas works, its significance increased by the presence of a Products Works built alongside the gas works. Between 1812 and 1949 the GLCC controlled 50 different works, through the amalgamation and take over of 38 gas companies, either directly or through previous amalgamations, in the North Thames area.


The supply of coal was a vital element of the company's industry and was orchestrated by Thomas Livesey, for the first 15 years it tried all the alternatives of buying, direct and indirect, using an agent, chartering ships and purchasing ships. By the 1830's the company had settled on the use of agents for the purchase of coal but employing its own inspector. In 1818 the company leased premises at Orchard St., Poplar and established a tar works: the Poplar station. In 1833 the business was sold on, however, the Brick Lane and the Westminster works began their own ammonia products works and the company maintained its interest in by-products culminating in the building of the large Products Works at Beckton in 1868. Coke had always been sold on to a wide domestic market. The rapid expansion of the Gas Light & Coke Co. led to the need for a large transport fleet. Every type of transport was utilised and usually owned by the company, shipping, barges and railways engines were often focused on the import and export of coal and by-products at the works. Road transport from horse drawn carts to wagons catered for other supplies and maintenance needs.


The expansion of the company and competition from electricity in the late nineteenth century led to development of the domestic market. Lady Demonstrators were employed to promote gas cooking and the Home Service eventually developed into a full advisory service on domestic gas use. As a large employer the company took its social obligations seriously and provided various pension, sickness and benefit funds. Links were established with the Territorial Army and by the time of the Boer War, company employees were eligible for duty as reservists and volunteers were given leave of absence.


The internal administration of the company had grown into a departmental structure with specialists being increasingly employed during the twentieth century. However in the 1930's the need for re-organisation due to expansion became obvious and a divisional structure developed which was carried into the nationalised industry.


On nationalisation in 1949 the undertaking became part of the NTGB.

Link to NRA Record:

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