Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet

Gas in Bures


gas works

The majority of residents think the arrival of a Gas supply in the village during 1992 was a major event - many remarked, "Gas has finally arrived in the village"
How wrong there were, Gas actually arrived in Bures some 150 earlier, during 1859 !

Left:- View of the 1859 Gas Works from the Church Tower.
Gasholders hidden behind trees.

The First 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 Murdock’s 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)

Bures Gas Works


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 distance.
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 docks.


Photograph of Colchester Rd with "Blacksmiths Cottages"

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.

Circa 1924

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 street lighting.
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 Gas Works to the left of river.
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 bill

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 1937.

gas cert

In 1923 it was renamed the"Bures & District Gas Co.Ltd", Mr F.S.Smith was Chairman, Engineer & Secretary.
The annual make of gas in 1923 was 3.6m cu ft from 300 tons of coal.
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 flaw.
Everytime the river burst its banks, the Gas Works flooded and the gas supply failed.
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 this occurred.


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, STREET LIGHTING
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

gas bill

gas invoice

Mr Deaves appears to have closed the works in 1937. records also indicate the gas supply failed that year.

The invoices above would have been the last produced, as it`s signed by "Norman Green, Liquidator"

The works were finally dismantled during 1940.

gas board

Mains Gas finally arrived in the village during 1992.

These images show the pipes being layed along the High Street.




Below....Gas works in Nayland Road

gas board















Coutesy of :-
ECC Heritage web site
Pat Creek
John Ineson, Bures

John Parkhouse, HT Cornard Upper School (dec)
Thanks also to Gerard Muldoon in Ireland for his information on Gaswork installations.
13/07/2018: Brief History added
31/12/2018 New Gasometer image