History in Structure

Gasholder Number 172 at former Great Yarmouth Gasworks

A Grade II Listed Building in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.5943 / 52°35'39"N

Longitude: 1.7303 / 1°43'49"E

OS Eastings: 652739

OS Northings: 306148

OS Grid: TG527061

Mapcode National: GBR YR8.69L

Mapcode Global: WHNW5.K15Z

Plus Code: 9F43HPVJ+P4

Entry Name: Gasholder Number 172 at former Great Yarmouth Gasworks

Listing Date: 26 February 1998

Last Amended: 8 June 2023

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1096789

English Heritage Legacy ID: 468426

ID on this website: 101096789

Location: Southtown, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR30

County: Norfolk

District: Great Yarmouth

Electoral Ward/Division: Nelson

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Great Yarmouth

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Great Yarmouth

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

Tagged with: Gas holder Gas streetlight

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Gasholder, built in 1884 to the design of the consulting engineer Robert P Spice of London for the Great Yarmouth Gas Company by the contractors Samuel Cutler and Sons of Millwall, London. In 1885, after foundation settlement caused the water tank to leak, it was dismantled and re-erected on a site immediately to the east.


Gasholder, built in 1884 to the design of the consulting engineer Robert P Spice of London for the Great Yarmouth Gas Company by the contractors Samuel Cutler and Sons of Millwall, London. In 1885, after foundation settlement caused the water tank to leak, it was dismantled and re-erected on a site immediately to the east.

MATERIALS: the tank and bell are constructed of rivetted cast-iron plates while the composite guide frame is formed of cast-iron columns and steel box-lattice girders.

PLAN: it is circular on plan and measures around 29m in height and 29.8m in diameter.
DETAILS: the gasholder is of a column-guided type and consists of three main components: a circular guide frame (Type 18 in Tucker’s Typology of gasholders) along with an above-ground water tank and telescopic gas bell. The guide frame consists of three tiers of 14 cast-iron tubular columns joined by octagonal joint boxes to a triple tier of horizontal I-section curved steel box girders. The box girders have repeating St Andrew's cross latticework and end detailing while the top tier of girders are supported by Paddon wind ties. The columns broadly imitate Tuscan columns (although a 1909 photograph appears to show Corinthian capitals) with octagonal moulded bases, astragals and capitals, although the bases and capitals have been adapted to accommodate external bolts and stiffening feathers. Each lower column has an oval makers' plate with either ‘S CUTLER & SONS / CONTRACTORS LONDON / 1884’ or ‘RP SPICE / ENGINEER / LONDON/ 1884’ cast in relief. The top tier of columns are surmounted by needle finials set upon moulded bases with pierced volutes. Attached to the inside face of each column are guide rails for the wrought-iron carriage rollers upon which the three lifts of the telescopic bell of the gasholder rose as its was filled with gas or fell as it was emptied from its above-ground tank. The bell also bears makers' plates as described above. An access ladder is attached to one side of the guide frame.


Gas lighting derived from coal was invented in the 1790s and from 1816 it took off in London and then spread nationally. Gasworks, which comprised coal stores, retort houses for the extraction of gas, plant to remove impurities, gasholders, and administrative buildings, were one of the most ubiquitous and widely distributed industrial complexes in the C19 and C20, often constructed in urban fringes, close to customers, and adjacent to rivers, canals and railways whence coal was delivered. The water-sealed type of gasholder, as at Great Yarmouth, was adopted from the earliest times, comprising a bell (gas vessel) open at the bottom and placed in a water-filled tank, so as to seal in the gas, rising or falling vertically according to the volume of gas being stored.

The origins of gas lighting in Great Yarmouth dates to 25 May 1824 when the town's Paving and Lighting Commissioners entered into an agreement with the Great Yarmouth Gas Light and Coke Company to erect 121 public lamps and a gasholder which was constructed in the South Denes area of the town. Further contracts between the two parties were signed on 31 August 1829, 7 November 1833 and 3 December 1835. An Act of Parliament incorporated the company formally in 1863 as the Great Yarmouth Gas Company and the gas works were inaugurated in 1869.

By 1887, when the first edition 25-inch Ordnance Survey map of Great Yarmouth was published following a survey undertaken in 1883, Great Yarmouth Gasworks had developed into a considerable-sized industrial complex bounded by South Denes Road to the west, Barrack Road to the north, Middle Road (now Sutton Road) to the south and an empty plot of land fronting Admiralty Road to the east. Within the site stood several buildings housing plant for the production, purification and metering of gas along with two gasholders. A further two gasholders stood on a separate site on the north side of Barrack Road, connected by pipes under the road.

In 1884, the year after the Ordnance Survey mapped the town, construction of a new gasholder commenced to the designs of the consulting engineer Robert P Spice of London by the contractors Samuel Cutler and Sons of London. However, in April 1885, as reported in the Norwich Mercury (see Sources), foundation settlement as a result of variations in the subsoil caused the water tank to leak. Consequently, the gasholder was dismantled and re-erected on the vacant plot on Barrack Road to the east of the gasworks, which the Gas Company had acquired from the Council in August. Due to the poor load-bearing properties of the soil it was equipped with an above-ground water tank and gas bell.

The Goad Fire Insurance map of 1909 shows the gasworks in considerable detail. At this time the main site included three gasholders (labelled Numbers 3 to 5) along with a horizontal retort house, purifier house, coal store, coal bunker, meter house, governor house, laboratory, offices and an engine house with hydraulic accumulator tower. The separate gasholder station on the north side of Barrack Road, however, had lost one of its two gasholders by this date, with the surviving gasholder labelled as Number 1. An account of the gas works is given in the Journal of Gas Lighting, Water Supply, and Sanitary Improvement in 1910 (see Sources), describing it as occupying a four-acre site at the south end of the town, adjacent to the Fish Wharf, with the engineer Mr RP Spice of London being responsible for the design, arrangement and general details of the buildings and plant, and Samuel Cutler and Sons of Millwall their manufacture and later additions.

A photograph of the gasholder published in the Gas Journal in 1909 (see Sources) appears to show the guide-holder columns with Corinthian capitals whereas the capitals today broadly imitate the Tuscan order. As there is no known documentary evidence confirming that the capitals were replaced wholesale, particularly given the cost and disruption this would have caused, it is probable that the acanthus leaves were removed at an unknown date. It is possible that this was undertaken when a major reconstruction of the site was undertaken between 1919 and 1923.

The Gas Act of 1948 nationalised the 1,064 local gas undertakings, vesting them in twelve area gas boards. On Nationalisation in 1949 the undertaking became part of the Great Yarmouth Group of the Norwich Division of the Eastern Gas Board. Between 1949 and 1958 the number of gasworks nearly halved from 1,050 to 536 as the industry battled to remain viable, thereby diminishing their ubiquitousness.

Following the discovery of natural gas under the North Sea in 1965, the UK gas network underwent a massive process of conversion between 1967 and 1977. Coal gas stopped being utilised in favour of natural gas transported under high pressure in pipes, resulting in the immediate redundancy of much gas manufacturing equipment and the clearance of many traditional gas works sites, including Great Yarmouth Gasworks. The 1884/5 gasholder (labelled Number 5 on the Goad Map) was retained, along with a 1960s spiral-guided gasholder, to store natural gas. The 1884/5 gasholder has now been decommissioned and the 1960s gasholder was demolished in 2023.

Reasons for Listing

Gasholder Number 172 at the former Great Yarmouth Gas Works, rebuilt in 1885 after being built in 1884 by Samuel Cutler and Sons of Millwall, London to designs by the consulting engineer Robert P Spice of London, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* the composite guide frame is aesthetically distinguished and finely detailed with three orders of cast-iron columns with moulded bases, astragals and capitals, topped by decorative finials, as well as unusual curved steel box girders; a relatively early use of such steel girders;
* as an increasingly rare example of a complete gasholder, with it being one of only seven intact designated examples to survive, and also one of three with an above-ground water tank and gas bell, the latter also likely to be one of no more than four nationally to be of trussed construction.
* for its design by the noted gas engineer Robert Paulson Spice.

Historic interest:

* as the sole surviving component of the former Great Yarmouth Gas Works, it stands testament to the scale of the Britain’s pioneering gas industry and its contribution to the Industrial Revolution, marking a transition in the town, namely the introduction of gas into people's homes, giving warmth and light to the masses.

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