Gas lighting



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    Gas was a new and exciting at the start of the nineteenth century. It was barely known anywhere outside London was when Joseph Ballard visited London in May of 1815 he wrote in amazement;

      "At night a good many of the streets and stores are lighted up with gas. The brilliancy of light thrown out this wasy is astonishing."

    There were various methods of making gas, either from oil, resin or coal. Most theatres made their own gas on the premises from oil, but the main gas works made it from coal gas and were sited at Vauxhall.

    Gas pops up a little at a time but was not common for most streets. It was not until 1820 that gas was in common use to light most main thoroughfares and perhaps busy side streets. Oil lamps were still being used as they had been in the previous century - or the streets might not be lit at all.

    It was not until after 1820 that the use of gas began to predominate. By then there were three rival gas companies in London north of the Thames and by December 1826 London could boast 26 miles of gas-mains. It was not until 1860 that gas was widely used in homes in London though smaller city streets still did not have gas lighting. Rural areas did not generally have gas at all until the latter part of the century.

    Gas Lighting in London - Timetable
    1800 - The Lyceum theater is lit by gas. (probably oil gas)
    1807 - 28 January Pall Mall is lit by gas - the first street of any city to be gas lighted
    1807 - Golden Lane Brewery and a portion of Beech and Whitecross streets receive gas.
    1810 - Ackermann's shop lighted by gas.
    1812 gas Light and Coke company of London
    1813 - Westminster area receives gas lighting and seven residential customers get it to, from the Gas, Light & Coke Company.
    1814 - Piccadilly gets gas lighting. In April, the Parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, is lit by gas.
    1817 - London theaters lit by gas.
    1827 - London clock faces get lit by gas

    Coal Gas
    Coal gas is made from coal enclosed in red-hot cast-iron, or clay cylinders, or retorts; when hydro-carbon gases are evolved, and coke left behind; the gas is carried away by wide tubes, then cooled and washed with water. It is then exposed to lime in close purifiers. Gasometers which are sheet-iron gas-holders are used to store the gas and it is then driven by the weight of these holders through the cast iron pipes and mains to the wrought iron service pipes of the lamps and burners. The gas was made at Vauxhall.

    Gas could also be made from oil and resin but this was a costly process and mostly used for at large public establishments. Covent Garden Theatre was one of the first to be lighted oil-gas which was made on the premises.

    It wasn't used for balloons until 1821, prior to then hydrogen was used.

    You can see pictures of gas lamps in London on The Quadrant or in Covent Garden pictures.


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