use of Coal Gas
One of the most important
inventions of the late 18th century was gas lighting. It was
developed by William Murdock, who was the son of an Ayrshire millwright.
He was born in 1754 and initially worked with his father before joining
Boulton and Watt in Birmingham.
His best known invention was the use of coal gas for lighting. In 1792
he heated coal in a closed iron retort with a hollow pipe attached. The
gas produced from the heated coal flowed through the pipe and was burnt
at the end to produce a steady flame. The story is told that as a child
he heated coal in his motherís old kettle and lit the gas that came out
of the spout.
In 1794 he heated coal
in a closed iron vessel in his garden at Cross Street, Redruth and piped
the resulting gas into the house, where he lit a series of burners attached
to the other end of the pipe. This was the first practical system of gas
lighting to be used anywhere in the world.
In 1802 Boulton and Watt agreed to the
installation of two gas lamps outside their Soho factory. This was the
first installation of gas lighting in the country. The following year
the whole works was illuminated by gas. In 1806 the cotton spinning mill
at Manchester that was owned by Phillips and Lee was illuminated by Murdocks
gas lights and his invention was soon in demand. It was not long before
all large factories were using gas lights.
(Courtesy of Wolverhampton University)
One major concern for neighbours
of Gasworks was the Gas or Storage holder, which residents feared would
explode with catastrophic results. The fear of explosions was scotched
when a leading gasworks developer drove a pick axe into the side of a
gasholder and lit the escaping gas, without incident!!
The reason for this:- Gas needs to combine
with air before ignition, to create an explosion. In the demonstration,
it was known that the gas would not burn in the air as the pressure from
the holder would exclude oxygen until after ignition.
(Courtesy of Gerard Muldoon, NI)
Brief History of the Gas Works Site.
From 1859 until 1940 the site formed a part of a larger site comprising
the village's Gas Works. Town gas was produced from coal, with creosote
a by-product. The gas was used for lighting - both in private houses and
to illuminate the village's streets. Coal was brought to the site by barges
on the River Stour and an unloading dock and inlet were located to the
north of the current site.
Land to the south (now River House and its curtilage and beyond) also
fell within the gas works site.
Indeed, the 1876 and 1904 Ordnance Survey plans suggest that a substantial
portion of the land lying between the Colchester Road and the River Stour
at this point was in a single ownership.
The wider gas works site contained two gasometers situated on land to
the north, the first constructed by 1876/1887 and a second appearing before
1904: the latter one partially overlapping the current application site.
The eastern part of the site, close to the river and set well back from
the street frontage, contained a T-shaped building with open canopy on
the rear. A chimney rose from this building and was visible over a long
The demand for town gas reduced and in the 1930's the site fell vacant.
The buildings and structures associated with it were demolished in 1940
and nothing now appears to survivesfrom the former gas works use.
The village Gas Works once stood
on the site now occupied by the now empty garage (opposite the
Eight Bells Public House) in Colchester Road.
To the rear of the property runs
the River Stour by which the coal arrived by barge from Mistley
Photograph of Colchester Rd with
At the end of the row of cottages
you can see the closed Blacksmiths Shop with the Gasometer towering
above the roofline.
The Gas Works Chimney can be seen
to the top left of the picture.
||Very rare photograph showing
the Gasometer adjacent to the river bank
It was erected in 1859 with a capital of
£800 in £5 shares and called the "Bures Gas Light &
Coke Co Ltd"
Two forms of gas were produced, both from heating coal in ovens, but in
one method, steam was passed across the coal for greater efficiency. This
was known as Mond gas.
Not only did it supply the local residents, it provided gas for the village
The Gas Works also supplied creosote as a by-product.
Gas lamps were located along
the main roads in the village, they were lit at dusk and extinguished
after the pubs had shut !
It was owned by Charles
William Grimwood, Mr Barrie Deaves was the operator and Mr Goody the
secretary and manager.
Mr Goody was also the village Postmaster.
||Gas Works to the left
The `T` shape building was the Gasworks with the two circular Gasholders.
An inlet/spur from the river can be clearly seen to the left, which
enabled the barges to offload their cargo of coal.
In 1900 and 1915 Charles
William Grimwood was still listed as the proprietor, engineer and Manager,
now with his office in Sudbury.
Gas invoice dated 1919, sent
to St Mary`s Church for the
supply of Gas for Heating.
Sun December 4th 1910 a fire
at the Gas Works plunged the entire village into
darkness. The village lit by Gas lamps until its closure in
In 1923 it was renamed the"Bures
& District Gas Co.Ltd", Mr F.S.Smith was Chairman, Engineer
The annual make of gas in 1923 was 3.6m cu ft from 300 tons of
The Works Manager was A.E.Bunker.
Bures Gas Certificate issued 14th
September 1923 for 100 shares.
8,000 shares were on offer at £1.00 each.
Courtesy of John Ineson, who
recently purchased this certificate.
By 1929 it was known as
"The Consumer's Gas & Coke Co.Ltd". with Mr Barrie Deaves
as Managing Director and S.W.Hume as Secretary.
Reliability was a problem.
The Gas Works were built alongside the river, because of the ease of
unloading fuel from the barges. However this arrangement, had one fundamental
Everytime the river burst its banks, the Gas Works flooded and the gas
The demise of Gas came during the early 1930`s, when electricity
was generated in the village. In an attempt to counter the local competition,
Mr Deaves started to generate his own electricity, It is not known where
|However, by 1932 the
arrival of (AC) electricity by overhead cables from Sudbury resulted
in the death of the locally generated (DC) supply and a further
nail in the coffin for Gas,
... BURES. A PARISH MEETING
for Bures Hamlet was held in the school on Friday evening, the chief
business being to pass the necessary resolutions for carrying out
the street lighting for 1937-38. ........................................
Published: Saturday 04 September 1937
Newspaper: Bury Free Press
In 1937, Mr B.C.Deaves was
still M.D. but Mr H.Underwood had become Secretary. The generating make
in 1937 was 2.5m cu ft but sales were only 1.7m cu ft
Mr Deaves appears to have closed
the works in 1937. records also indicate the gas supply failed
The invoices above would have been
the last produced, as it`s signed by "Norman Green, Liquidator"
The works were finally dismantled
MAINS GAS ARRIVES IN BURES
Mains Gas finally arrived in the
village during 1992.
These images show the pipes being
layed along the High Street.
in Nayland Road
ECC Heritage web site
John Ineson, Bures
John Parkhouse, HT Cornard Upper School (dec)
Thanks also to Gerard Muldoon in Ireland for his information on Gaswork
13/07/2018: Brief History added
31/12/2018 New Gasometer image