Street lighting in the form of oil lamps was first installed in Wolverhampton town centre in the late 1770s.  On the 20th June 1777 the Commissioners met and decided that they "are open to tenders for glass lamps for lighting the town, also lamp irons and oil and lighting". By 1800 a lamp was positioned at every corner and over the doorway of every Inn. The streets were dimly lit and remained so for over twenty years until the oil lamps were replaced by the far superior gas lights.

A typical gas light.

In the late 18th century and early 19th century a number of Acts of Parliament were passed to make towns safer and healthier places to live. The Town Improvement Acts compelled towns which came under them, to clean, light, pave, and make the streets safe, and take other steps to promote a town’s health, such as the provision of a pure water supply. 

By 1800 about 200 such Acts had been passed, including two for Dudley and Stourbridge. When the 1814 Act for Wolverhampton came into force the Commissioners advertised for someone to take care of the lighting. The town was to be lit between the months of November to March, except for eight nights at or around a full moon. There were 640 oil lamps with double burners, which were kept alight from sunset until four o’clock in the morning. 

After the invention of gas lighting the Improvement Acts referred specifically to lighting by gas. Such Acts were passed for Wolverhampton in 1820, Dudley in 1821 and Stourbridge in 1825.

In 1817 Aaron Manby offered to light Wolverhampton with gas. The offer was not taken up because some of the Commissioners had already realised that profits could be made from such a scheme. The Commissioners took no further action in the matter and future of gas lighting in the town was left to private enterprise.

The first gas lighting in the town was provided by Mander, Weaver and Company for their own works and for some of the manufacturing processes which required the application of heat. The exact date of the installation is uncertain but this must have been one of the earliest installations in the area.

In November 1819 fifty seven subscribers purchased shares in a new venture called ‘The Wolverhampton Gas Light Company’. The company was incorporated after an Act of Parliament which was passed on 27th June 1820. 

In the petition it stated that the 57 subscribers would fund the venture and that the town of Wolverhampton was "a large and populous place, and it would be of great advantage to the inhabitants there of, and to the public at large, if the streets and other public passages and places were better lighted". 

The type of lamp that was mounted over entrances to public buildings.
It also mentioned that "Inflammable air or gas, being conveyed by means of pipes, may be safely and beneficially used for lighting the several streets etc. and for lighting shops, private houses and buildings, and the coke may be beneficially employed as fuel in private house and manufactures". The 57 subscribers included many well known Wolverhampton people and 5 of the town’s Commissioners. The list included the following:
John Weaver and Benjamin Parton Mander, paint manufacturers
Chrees and Tompson, solicitors
Henry Hordern, banker
William Ready and William Ryton, constables
William Hanbury Sparrow, ironmaster
Joseph Smart, one of the founders of the Wolverhampton Chronicle
Richard Fryer, banker and company treasurer
Harry Parkes, Commissioner and company clerk
John Dixon, of Ready and Dixon

The fine lamp that hung over the door of the Star & Garter Hotel.
The company’s engineer was John Grafton who had taken out patents for gas purification in 1818, 1819 and 1820. 

The pipes were laid during the summer and autumn of 1820 by the firm of Ready and Dixon. 

The work had been completed by January 1821. 

In the Wolverhampton Chronicle of 22nd November, 1820 it mentioned that the company had promised to supply customers with gas "of the purest quality without smell or stain". 

Two gasometers were ordered for the company’s gasworks which were built in Horseley Fields and began production on 17th September 1821.

The location of Wolverhampton's first gasworks.

Return to Distribution Return to the beginning Proceed to the Candlestick