With Covid clipping my wings I’ve been spending a lot of the year scanning old railway slides going back 30 years. This process made me realise how something that was a landmark in the background at several locations (some quite famous) has gradually disappeared over the decades. Gasometers.
I grew up in Southport on the West Lancashire plain. With it being flat there were very few landmarks but one was a huge gasometer near my Grandmothers house where I spent much of my pre-school years in the early 1960s. She lived just down the road from something that used to be commonplace, the local town gasworks. Younger readers probably don’t know this but before natural gas was discovered in the North Sea towns and cities used to manufacture their own gas from coal. Many of these gasworks were near to railways which brought in their supplies of coal. Southport was a good example. It had a branch line that ran down the side of the street. Here’s an aerial picture of Southport gasworks taken in 1938 which is on the excellent ‘Britain from above’ website.
The railway to the gasworks runs along the street (Crowland St) on the right of the picture. My Grandmother’s house is just off the picture to the bottom left. Town gasworks were strange places to live near because of the smells that used to permeate the area as coal was cooked to release the gas. A by- product of the process was coke. I remember going with my dad to buy coke from the gasworks as it fuelled a boiler in our cellar which powered the central heating system he’d installed himself. I remember the sound of the gasworks whistle which signalled the lunch break and start/finish of work. The gasworks closed in 1964 but the gasometers remained and were joined by a much larger one which was built in 1969. 277 feet tall it dominated the skyline and could be seen for miles around (as you’ll see in later pictures). It was decommissioned in 2008 and it and its smaller neighbours were demolished soon after. Having lived so near to one of these monsters it’s probably no wonder that I’ve always noticed them in my pictures. So, here’s a selection of pictures where they feature, and the first one’s from – Southport!
Here’s another view of Southport taken 10 years later on the 4th October 2007 when the smaller gasometers had already disappeared.
Here’s another example from the North-West, this time at St Helens..
Another example from the North-West, this time it’s Wigan.
Meanwhile, down South..
Further down the Great Western Main Line and a few years later..
The Great Western main line seemed to be blessed with these monoliths as there was another at Southall in London.
Meanwhile, over in South London…
The Battersea monster could be viewed from several stations. Here’s how it dominated Battersea Park station – as seen on the 24th June 2009…
Next to the beast of Battersea was one of the older gas holders which had the classic frame structure surrounding it. In this case it was decorated with the shield that forms the centerpiece of the City of London coat of arms.
Od course, the classic example was over in North London, between St Pancras and Kings Cross stations.
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