History in Structure

Gasholder No 2, former Bromley-by-Bow gasworks

A Grade II Listed Building in Canning Town North, London

More Photos »
Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 51.5247 / 51°31'28"N

Longitude: -0.0049 / 0°0'17"W

OS Eastings: 538502

OS Northings: 182526

OS Grid: TQ385825

Mapcode National: GBR KY.PFH

Mapcode Global: VHGQV.VYR2

Plus Code: 9C3XGXFW+V2

Entry Name: Gasholder No 2, former Bromley-by-Bow gasworks

Listing Date: 25 October 1984

Last Amended: 11 May 2021

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1080993

English Heritage Legacy ID: 204931

ID on this website: 101080993

Location: Newham, London, E3

County: London

District: Newham

Electoral Ward/Division: Canning Town North

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Newham

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Plaistow and North Canning TownThe Divine Compassion

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

Tagged with: Building Gas holder

Find accommodation in


Gasholder. Built in about 1871 to 1872 to the design of the engineers Joseph Clark and Thomas Kirkham for the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company by the contractors Westwood and Wrights.


Gasholder. Built in about 1871 to 1872 to the design of the engineers Joseph Clark and Thomas Kirkham for the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company by the contractors Westwood and Wrights.

MATERIALS: cast-iron columns and composite wrought and cast-iron girders to the guide frame. Each girder is formed of a decorative cast-iron web between two wrought-iron angles at the top and bottom.

DESCRIPTION: the gasholder is about 23m high and 62m in diameter. The circular guide frame comprises two tiers of 28 cast-iron columns joined by horizontal cast and wrought-iron girders (Type 14 in Tucker’s Typology of gasholders). The lower columns are each fixed on a substantial moulded cast-iron pedestal. These have fielded panels and oval plaques embossed with the letters: MESSRS CLARK & KIRKHAM/ ENGINEERS and WESTWOOD & WRIGHTS/ CONTRACTORS, as well as the date of construction and an eagle motif of the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company. The lower columns are cast as Roman Doric columns with moulded bases and capitals. Surmounting each column is a junction or connection box, which takes the form of an entablature comprising a Doric frieze with triglyphs beneath a cornice. Each cornice is made as a detachable casting that conceals the structural connection between the lower column and the one above. The lower girders are embellished with filigree ironwork comprising inter-laced decorative patterns. The upper tier of columns is cast as a simplified version of the Corinthian order, each surmounted by a plain frieze. The proportions of the columns vary as the classical canon dictates; from the heavier Doric on the bottom to the lighter Corinthian at the top. The upper girders are enriched with an interlocking circle motif. Attached to the inside edge of each column are the guide rails for the wrought-iron roller carriages upon which the telescopic bell of the gasholder rose as it was filled with gas and fell as it was emptied.

Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that both the bell and tank are not of special architectural or historic interest. However, any works which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require LBC and this is a matter for the LPA to determine.


Gas lighting derived from coal was invented in the 1790s and from 1816 it took off in London and then spread nationally. The Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company (IGLCCo) was established in 1821 and initially focussed on London’s suburbs north of the Thames with gasworks at Shoreditch, St Pancras and Fulham by 1824. In 1870 to 1873, the company developed what was to be their largest gasworks on a 170 acre site on Bow Creek, off the River Lea in East London (Montagu Evans 2021, 37). Part of the site had previously been occupied by William Congreve’s Abbey Marsh military rocket factory which produced rockets for the Napoleonic Wars. The new gasworks was intended to rival those of the Gas Light and Coke Company at Beckton. It was laid out with two large retort houses, an exhauster house, a boiler house, workshop, tanks and purifiers next to a large dock for coal barges at the south, and a group of nine gasholders built between 1871 and 1882 to the north. Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge was built by the civil engineer Peter William Barlow to provide access to the gasworks across the River Lea (Grade II-listed, including its gas lamps; NHLE 1268439). Later development of the site included a carburetted water gas plant (1897), a rail link (1916) and new manufacturing plant (1952) (Thomas 2020, 208). In 1876, the IGLCCo was taken over by the Gas Light and Coke Company; the oldest gas company in the world and the first to build a public gasworks at Westminster in 1812 to 1813 under the pioneering engineer Samuel Clegg. By 1882, the Gas Light and Coke Company was one of only four gas companies supplying the inner parts of London. Men laid off from the company’s Beckton gasworks in 1889 prompted the founding of the National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers, which subsequently became part of the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union (GMB Union), now one of the three largest trade unions in the UK. The expansion of the company and competition with electricity in the late C19, led to the development of the domestic market. Demonstrators were employed to promote gas cooking and the Home Service eventually developed into a full advisory service on domestic gas use (Graces Guide 2020). By 1924, the Gas Light and Coke Company was the largest supplier of gas in the world. Its divisional structure was carried into the nationalised industry in 1949 when it became the North Thames Gas Board, one of twelve regional gas boards. The Gas Light and Coke Company is identified as the original company from which British Gas descended (Ibid).

The gasholders at Bromley by Bow were of a type first developed by the IGLCCo engineer Joseph Clark at Bethnal Green in 1858. It consisted of a guide frame formed of two tiers, or classical orders, of columns linked by girders (‘double-order, double-tier guide frames’, Type 14 in Tucker’s typology of gasholders). The lower tier was in the Doric order and the upper tier in the Corinthian order, each topped by an entablature block that provided an attachment for the girders which were sometimes detailed with filigree cast-iron bands. The lower order was raised on a pedestal, which reduced the height of the column shafts and ensured they were closer to classical proportions. A total of nine were built at Bromley-by-Bow; the in-ground tanks in advance of the gasholder guide frames and bells. Two have since been demolished (Gasholders No 3 and No 5).

Gasholders No 1 and No 2 were completed in 1872, and Gasholder No 3 also built at about that time; these were all designed by Joseph Clark and Thomas Kirkham, Chief Engineer to the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company. They were constructed with gas bells that had trussed crowns and sides with box-lattice stiffeners (Tucker 2000, 82). Before merging with the Gas Light and Coke Company in 1876, the Imperial company had completed these three gasholders and also constructed a further two tanks (Directors’ Minutes Book No 27. LMA Ref: B/GLCC/33). In June 1876, the Gas Light and Coke Company resolved that Gasholders No 4 and No 5 would be erected ‘in conformity with the plan originally proposed’ but with the gasholder bells ‘constructed on the girder principle’ pioneered by the engineer Vitruvius Wyatt at a new gasworks at Redheugh, Tyne and Wear (completed 1876, since demolished) (Ibid). This was a new form of gas bell built using a system of radial girders in contrast to trussed bells or bells with support frames in the tank (‘untrussed’ bells). I-section ribs with plate or lattice webs took the place of the trusses used in the crown (top) of the gas bells of the earlier gasholders at Bromley-by-Bow (Tucker 2014, 64). This made for a stiffer crown but with lighter sheeting covering it, reducing the strain on the joints and improving gas tightness (Newbigging and Fewtrell 1879, 160). Gasholders No 4 and No 5 were completed in about 1877. The remaining four gasholders (Nos 6 to 9) were all built with Wyatt’s radial girder gas bell design and with guide frames that had 24 columns rather than the 28 columns used in the previous gasholder guide frames (Tucker 2000, 82 and Conisbee 2018, 7). Gasholders No 6 and No 7 were built in 1879 to 1882, and Gasholders No 8 and No 9 were built in 1880 to 1882. The gasholder tanks of Nos 6, 7, 8, and 9 are thought to have been built of mass concrete faced with brickwork and with walls buttressed on the inside under arcades, following railway practice and as used by Wyatt at Beckton (Conisbee 2018, 7, and Newbigging and Fewtrell 1879, 93).

All the guide frames other than No 1 have only two tiers of columns, as originally built. They have lost the separately-cast cornices from their upper tier of columns (removed subsequent to listing). In 1925 to 1927, Gasholder No 1 (and the now demolished No 3) was raised in height by adding a third tier and diagonal-bracing to the guide frame and, unusually, spiral-guided flying lifts to the gas bell (Conisbee 2018, 7, and Tucker 2014, 43). This increased capacity from two to five million cubic feet. The two outermost lifts of the gas bell were later decommissioned when the guide wheels were removed (Conisbee 2018, 33).

During the Second World War, the gasworks suffered damage due to a bombing raid on 15 September 1940, which subsequently resulted in the dismantling of a gasholder (Montagu Evans 2021, 37). The discovery of natural gas in the North Sea in 1965, together with rising coal prices, made coal-produced gas uneconomical (Ibid). The Bromley-by-Bow gasworks closed in 1976 but the gasholders continued to be used for gas storage and were listed at Grade II in 1984 before later being decommissioned of gas. They are now thought to be the largest group of Victorian gasholders in Britain, and probably the world. The rest of the gasworks has since been largely demolished. Structures associated with the past use of the wider site include a surviving part of the coal dock, the Grade II-listed Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge, a former office that was later the London Gas Museum, a Grade II-listed statue of Sir Corbett Woodall (a gas engineer and governor of the Gas Light and Coke Company) and the Gas Light and Coke Company war memorials (the main memorial lamp is Grade II-listed) within a small memorial garden.

Reasons for Listing

Gasholder No 2, built in 1871 to 1872 to the design of the engineers Joseph Clark and Thomas Kirkham for the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company at the Bromley-by-Bow gasworks, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* among the most aesthetically distinguished and finely detailed gasholders ever built, the guide frame is formed of Roman Doric and Corinthian columns with moulded bases, capitals and entablatures, joined by decorative filigree ironwork, and observes classical architectural rules regarding the order and proportions of the columns, as well as the sequence of mouldings.
* as one of a unique architectural grouping, being the largest group of Victorian gasholders known to remain in the world, which is testament to the scale of Britain’s pioneering gas industry and its contribution to the Industrial Revolution.

Historic interest:

* as a tangible reminder and physical manifestation of the Bromley-by-Bow gasworks, which was the largest works of the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company from 1870. After 1876 it became a gasworks of the Gas Light and Coke Company, the oldest gas company in the world and later the largest supplier in the world as well as the original company from which British Gas descended.

Group value:

* with the six other Grade-II listed gasholders, the Grade II-listed Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge, the former office that was later the London Gas Museum (unlisted), the Grade II-listed statue of Sir Corbett Woodall, and the Gas Light and Coke Company war memorials (the memorial lamp is Grade II-listed).

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.