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Summary:

The Hungerford Gas & Coke Company was registered on 18th October 1845, but the introduction of gas to Hungerford was not an entirely smooth process!

The Gas Office was at what is now 32 Charnham Street.

Photo Gallery:

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- The canal bridge, decorated for King George V's visit in 1912, showing the gas lamps on the bridge parapets.

- The Gas Company office c1920

- Notice of a Public Meeting on the formation of the Hungerford Gas & Coke Company, Jun 1846

- Hungerford Gas & Coke Company, c1905, showing David Cookson, manager of the gasworks, with his two children, Alfred (born 1900) and Edith (born 1896) and his wife Mary (born 1870) The man on the left appears to be a gasworks employee. (Kindly sent by Paul Cookson Aug 1998).

- The gasometer prior to demolition, Jul 1989 [Ivor Speed Collection]

- The gasometer prior to demolition, Jul 1989 [Ivor Speed Collection]

The start of gas works:

It was in Birmingham in 1805 that the great industrial process of manufactured gas first emerged to light the world. The technology grew rapidly, and spread across the UK.

A few large gas companies were established under royal charter while a greater number emerged under individual Statutory Acts of Parliament. Most were simply self-incorporated. Such was the case in Hungerford.

Contemporaneous with the development of manufactured gas technology came the spread of Britain's canal and rail network, and gas works were rapidly established in towns and factories as a source of light, and later for heating.

The Gas Works in Hungerford:

Thomas Atkins proposes a Gas Company, 1845:

The initial proposal for a gas works in Hungerford came from Mr Thomas Atkins, a gas engineer from Bicester. He came to Hungerford in early 1845 with the idea of building a gas works, and lighting the town with gas. He persuaded Benjamin Keen and Henry Astley (a solicitor who had just come to the town, and who was later, in 1863, to marry Benjamin Keen's widow) to carry out a "canvass" of the town to judge the interest of such a scheme.

A public meeting was held in the Town Hall on Friday 13th June 1845; there was general support for the Gas Company, and a committee was formed.

Mr Atkins had a printed proposal made, dated 16th June 1845, outlining his full proposal, along with the commercial implications. Follow this link to read the full details of Thomas Atkins proposal. A further meeting was held on 20th June.

Initially, plans appear to have progressed smoothly. A committee was formed and the minutes recorded:

"At a Meeting of the Provisional Committee appointed for the purpose of reporting on the propriety of establising a Gas & Coke Company in this town, held last evening at the Town Hall, presents-

Mr. Allen, Mr. Matthews, Mr. H. Cundell, Mr B Keen, Mr. Viner, Mr. Astley, Mr. Low, Mr. B. Alexander, Mr. Church, Robt Lye, Mr. Lanfear, & Mr. Heath. Mr. Allen the Constable was in the chair.

The Following Resolutions were passed unanimously:-

That this committee consider it expedient and proper, from the information received, and from the result of the Report submitted and adopted at this meeting, that a Gas & Coke Company be formed in the Town of Hungerford.

That the Constable be requested to call a Public Meeting to submit the Report of this Committee thereat on Friday evening at 6 pm.

In compliance with the above Resolution, I hereby call A PUBLIC MEETING of the Inhabitants of the Town of Hungerford, to be holden at the Town Hall on Friday next June 27th. at 6 o'clcok in the afternoon, for the purpose above mentioned.

Daniel Allen, Constable.    Saturday June 21st 1845.
W.Franklin, Printer, Hungerford."

The Hungerford Gas & Coke Company was registered on 18th October 1845. However, there was much troubled water ahead!

The private company was formed with a view to lighting the houses of about 70-80 subscribers in the town. It was later proposed to "extend the measure to the lighting of the public streets and lanes [by gas], and in order to effect this, recourse is to be had to a recent Act of Parliament for the levying of Rates for the purpose".

Some of the public were against street, gas lighting, as they were afraid this would fix a heavy tax on the Rate Payers overwhich they would have no control. Apparently argument was pretty heated and residents were against the company, in particular Mr. Barnes and Mr. W. Alexander.

Mr Walter Hall objects: This raised great alarm and opposition in the eyes of Mr Walter Hall, who, on 8 Jan 1846 produced a large public notice strongly opposing the plans, for fear that the Rates to be charged were out of the control of the ordinary citizens. The notice (which was printed bu a Marlborough printer) was couched in the strongest of terms. Follow this link for full details of Walter Hall's Opposing Proposition.

There were two replies in defence from H.E.Astley and J.O.Culyer. Mr. Astley explained about the misrepresentation by Mr. Hall, and accidents had occured in the unlighted streets,and Mr. B, Alexander (Grocer) and Mr. George Martin (carpenter) were recovering from the accidents:

Mr Astley supports: The notice produced by Walter Hall spurred Mr Astley, the local solicitor, and supporter of the scheme, to write a responding, and venomous, paper countering much of what Walter Hall had said four days earlier. Follow this link for full details of Mr Astley's counter claims.

Mr Culyer responds: To add to the venomous atmosphere in the town, Mr Culyer printed a very strongly worded response on the same day, 12 Jan 1846, robustly denying all of Walter Hall's assertions. Follow this link for full details of Mr Culyer's response.

The building proceeds:

Despite all the hot air, it seems that the installation of gas around the town proceeded successfully. The Reading Mercury on 24 Dec 1847 records that "the lighting of Hungerford with gas is proceeding very rapidly and numerous workmen are busily engaged in laying down the pipes."

The works included (BRO B/El/m B26) Retort house, Retort Stack, Flues and chimney, Lime and Coke sheds, Purifying shed, Foul lime house with privy adjoining, gasometer and tank, cottage and boundary wall. The builder was Thomas Atkins of Bicester, Gas Engineer and Contractor.

The gas works were operational at least by 1850 (maybe 1848). The Deed of Settlement is dated 23 Aug 1849.

There were 24 shareholders: Alexander Benjamin (grocer, High Street), Daniel Allen (grocer, High Street), Richard Allen (farmer, Denford), E H Astley (solicitor, High Street), Jason Austin jnr (farmer, Chilton), H A Cundell (farmer, Hungerford), Joseph Cundell (builder, High Street), Francis Cundell (farmer, Eddington), Andrew Heath (baker, High Street), William Hogsflesh (miller, Eddington), Thomas Hutchins (builder, High Street), Benjamin Keen (chemist, High Street), William Keen (victualler, High Street), Ambrose Lanfear (gentleman, High Street), James Little (farmer, North Hidden Farm), Rebecca Mary Little (spinster), John Mason (grocer, Newbury), James Schuter (Esquire, Chilton House, Wilts), Edward Spary (florest, Brighton), James Toulkon (gent., Littlecote), Stephen Waldron (Esquire, Eastridge House, Wilts), George Willes (esquire, Hungerford Park), John Williams (esquire, Rushley Park), Thomas Wooldridge (gent, Hungerford, engineer).

There were seven directors: Daniel Allen (grocer), Thomas Hutchins (builder), William Keen (victualler), Henry Arthur Cundell (farmer, Parsonage Farm), Andrew Heath (baker), Joseph Cundell (builder), Benjamin Alexander (gent).

The Trustee was Robert Lye, and auditors were Thomas Wooldridge (engineer) and Thomas Jelfs (solicitor).

The original capital was £1,300, but a further £800 had to be raised, partly by new shares, and partly by a loan.

The Parish Magazine of October 1873 records that "The Hungerford Gas Company have given notice of an increase of price, of Ten-pence per foot. It is hoped that there will be a corresponding improvement in the quality of the Gas supplied."

The Hungerford Gas Company office and works were in Charnham Street. Behind the office and works were two large gasometers.

For much more on the managers and other aspects of the gasworks, see 32 Charnham Street.

Extinguishing a Lamp - A caution:

The Newbury Weekly News, in its first edition on 7 Feb 1867, reported:

"On Monday, four respectably dressed young men were charged before F L Coxe, Esq., on the information of Messrs. John Platt, and Charles Low, gas inspectors of Hungerford, with extinguishing one of the public lamps. The names of the prisoners were Joseph Wells, miller, William Sturges, labourer, Joseph King, carpenter's apprentice, and William Cox, miller, and they all reside at Hungerford.

The charge was proved beyond all doubt by Sergeant Bennett, who caught the accused as they were enjoying themselves at this reprehensible kind of larking; and they were each fined £2 with 6/3 expenses; in default of payment to be committed to Reading gaol for one month of hard labour.

The money was paid by Wells, but the others were removed in custody.

Considerable invconvenience and annoyance has been experienced for some time past by the tampering with public lamps, evidently by young men whose object was "a spree"; but it is to be hoped that now punishment has been administered in so prompt a manner that ifothers are guilty of similar conduct they will take warning, and allow the public lamps to remain undisturbed."

The closure of the gas works:

Hungerford Gas Works ceased production of gas at the Charnham Street works in 1950, just over 100 years after it started production. After this gas was piped from Swindon.

The two gasometers were demolished c.1990.

See also:

- 32 Charnham Street

- Parish Magazine, esp Oct 1873

- Thomas Atkins' proposal, 16 June 1845

- Walter Hall's opposition proposal, 8 Jan 1846

- Mr Astley supports, 12 Jan 1846

- Mr Culyer responds, 12th Jan 1846