People soon became aware of the benefits of gas lighting, when it was installed in a prominent part of London. It began in 1805 when George IV, who was Prince of Wales at the time, had gas lighting installed in Carlton House, his London home. This was followed two years later by the installation of gas lamps in Pall Mall, which was the first street to be lit by gas.
Many gas street lights were wall mounted like the old oil lamps.

The earliest lights in which the gas was lit directly from an open-ended tube were very inefficient. To increase the amount of light produced, iron caps with several holes were introduced. These burners quickly corroded and the light output fell accordingly. They were known by the shape of the flame that was produced and given such names as batswing, cockscomb, cockspur, and rat-tail.

The first gas works in the U.K. were built for the Gas Light and Coke Company, that was established in 1812 to light the City of Westminster. The company was formed by Frederick Winsor from Germany, who had previously worked in France for Philippe Lebon. 

The company’s chief engineer was Samuel Clegg, an ex Boulton and Watt man. In 1817 he installed a gas works at the Royal Mint and developed an efficient gas meter. By 1819, 288 miles of pipes had been laid in London to supply 51,000 burners. 

Within ten years most of the country’s larger towns and cities were lit by gas.

In 1813 Aaron Manby took over the Horseley Ironworks at Tipton and immediately began development of an apparatus for the production of coal gas. At the time many gas works were being built and his apparatus proved to be very popular. 

Early gas retorts were made of iron in the form of a horizontal tube about 12" in diameter. Each tube was filled with coal and emptied, after producing the gas, through an iron door called the mouthpiece. It was very hard and dirty work. After prolonged use, the retorts would often distort badly and so in about 1822 clay retorts with iron lids were introduced. Filling and emptying the retorts through the single door was a slow process. 

To speed things up George Lowe developed his through retort in 1831. This had a door at both ends, allowing the retorts to be filled at one end and emptied at the other.

Another example of a wall mounted light. This was on the corner of Victoria Street and St. John Street.

Return to Beginnings Return to the beginning Proceed to Gas Arrives