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Gasholder No 2, Fulham Gasworks

A Grade II* Listed Building in Sands End, London

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4771 / 51°28'37"N

Longitude: -0.1864 / 0°11'11"W

OS Eastings: 526043

OS Northings: 176913

OS Grid: TQ260769

Mapcode National: GBR 2S.BN

Mapcode Global: VHGR4.Q49G

Entry Name: Gasholder No 2, Fulham Gasworks

Listing Date: 12 May 1970

Last Amended: 11 October 2017

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1261959

English Heritage Legacy ID: 436194

Location: Hammersmith and Fulham, London, SW6

County: London

District: Hammersmith and Fulham

Electoral Ward/Division: Sands End

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Hammersmith and Fulham

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St John Walham Green

Church of England Diocese: London

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Summary


Gasholder. Built in 1829-1830 to the design of John Kirkham of the Imperial Gas Light Company. The contractors were a Mr Ward, junior, and a Mr Wright.

Description

Gasholder. Built in 1829-1830 to the design of John Kirkham of the Imperial Gas Light Company. The contractors were a Mr Ward, junior, and a Mr Wright.

MATERIALS: Cast-iron guide standards, a wrought-iron bell and brick tank.

DESCRIPTION: Gasholder No 2 comprises 12 free-standing cast-iron guide standards or tripods, which serve as buttresses to support a water-sealed bell (gas vessel) as it rises or falls from the in-ground tank (Type 20 in Tucker’s Typology). It has a total capacity of 226,000 cubic feet and is considered to have been the largest in the world built at that time. Each tripod is 30 feet high, tee-shaped in plan and triangular in section. There are roundels, gradually diminishing in size towards the top, set within the open-webbed cast-iron frames. One of the tripods has a cast-iron plate attached to the outside edge containing the number ‘2’ in raised lettering. Another tripod has a fixed access ladder with a safety cage running to the top, providing access when the gasholder was full. The single-lift iron bell has a gently domed crown with a wrought-iron framework covered in sheets. This framework comprises lenticular trusses of wrought-iron bars, set radially about a tubular cast-iron king post at the centre, forming a trussed crown. The upper members or ribs, on which the sheeting rests, are flat radial bars set on edge, the lower members are round bars and the vertical and diagonal members are round bars with forged ends. The ribs are held laterally by forged wrought-iron bars in a herringbone arrangement and light purlins of rolled angle iron. The framework is joined together with hand-made, square-headed bolts and nuts. When inspected in 1949, original fitters’ marks were clearly visible. The sides of the bell, which rest on the bottom of the tank, are expected to be framed with similar materials. The king post is supported in the rest position by a masonry pillar standing on the dumpling (the cone of earth at the centre of the in-ground tank). The bell is covered with wrought-iron sheets; the crown or top of the bell with double-riveted 13-gauge sheets and the sides with single-riveted 12-gauge sheets. Re-sheeting was carried out in 1882 with some further replacement of the sheeting in 1949. A metal handrail runs alongside the outside of the bell. There are 12 guide carriages attached to the upper part of the bell, in the form of double-flanged rollers which rise or fall on flat guide rails attached to the inside edge of the tripods. The lower part of the bell has 24 rings running on guide rods or slippers within the tank. The brick tank is 100 feet in diameter and 29 feet 6 inches deep. A low brick wall topped by a metal handrail runs around the perimeter of the tank.

History

Gas lighting derived from coal was invented in the 1790s and from 1816 it took off in London and then spread nationally. Gasworks comprised coal stores, retort houses for the extraction of gas, plant to remove impurities, gasholders, and administrative buildings. The water-sealed type of gasholder 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. Early gasholders were placed inside buildings or gasholder houses, with the bell slung from the roof principals by a central chain and a balance weight. This practice was abandoned in the 1820s following concerns over the potential for explosions from poor ventilation in confined spaces. For larger gasholders, two early forms of guide frame developed, providing lateral guidance for the bell as it moved up or down within the water-filled tank. From about 1825 free-standing cast-iron tripods were used to accommodate large diameter single-lift bells, and from about 1835 multiple orders of cast-iron paired columns linked by a top tier of girders were used for telescopic gasholders.

The gasworks at Sands End, Fulham, was established in 1824 when the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company purchased the Sandford Manor estate, a manor first recorded in the late C14. It was situated in a previously agricultural area which had begun to be industrialised with the development of the Kensington Canal. The Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company had been founded three years earlier in 1821, quickly becoming a major company with works on the Regent’s Canal at Shoreditch (opened 1823) and St Pancras (opened 1824). An initial pair of gasholders was erected at Sands End in 1825 by the company engineer Samuel Clegg. One of these is shown in a picture in King’s Treatise of 1879 (Vol 2, 117). They had free-standing cast-iron guide standards that were tee-shaped in plan and triangular in elevation, becoming known as ‘tripods’ (Tucker’s Type 20). These were designed on the principle that they would serve as buttresses supporting the bell as it rose up from the tank. They were possibly the first of their kind, going on to be built by the company at its three works. The completion of the canal and construction of a retort house in 1829 allowed gas production to begin on site; prior to this the gasholders had stored gas manufactured at the St Pancras Gasworks. The works continued to expand under Clegg's successors. No 2 Gasholder (Grade II*-listed) was built in 1829-30 and in 1856 an office block (Grade II-listed) was added. Between 1853 and 1867 a further three gasholders were erected (Nos 3, 4 and 5 (all since demolished or replaced)) along with several more retort houses and other plant buildings. Barges delivered coal to the site via a lock leading off Chelsea Creek on the north side of the River Thames.

The Fulham Gasworks are shown on the 1869 OS map with five gasholders, retort houses, offices and ancillary buildings, between Sands End Lane and the West London Extension Railway of the Great Western Railway. In 1876 the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company was absorbed into the larger Gas Light and Coke Company. Two years later the gasworks expanded to the south of Sands End Lane, where two more holders (Nos 6 and 7) were built in 1878 and 1880, followed in 1927 by a research laboratory building (Grade II-listed) designed in Neo-classical style by the architect Sir Walter Tapper. The company was nationalised in 1949 as the North Thames Gas Board, one of twelve regional suppliers under an umbrella body known as the Gas Council, which built its London Research Station at Sands End in 1968. By this time most of the early gasholders had been reconstructed as spiral-guided holders, ultimately leaving only Nos 2 and 7. Decommissioning of the gasworks began in 2010, with the eastern part of the site cleared for redevelopment, and the remaining buildings let for other uses.

No 2 Gasholder was designed by John Kirkham, the engineer of the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company, and built in 1829-1830. The guide standards or tripods had roundels, gradually diminishing in size, set within the open-webbed cast-iron frames to provide added structural strength; this feature is absent from the earlier relatively plain tripods of 1825 shown in King’s Treatise. There were twelve tripods standing 30 feet high around the 100 feet diameter tank. The gasholder had a total capacity of 226,000 cubic feet, which was record-breaking at the time. In 1830 a gasholder of 50 feet diameter and 40,000 cubic feet capacity was considered large; the straight jump from 50 feet to 100 feet at Fulham No 2 was subsequently described in The Engineer as a ‘remarkable feat in design’ (21 Oct 1949, 459). Gas company meeting minutes indicate that the contractors were a Mr Ward, junior, and a Mr Wright. The bell rose in a single-lift from a brick tank about 30 feet deep. This bell was constructed of a frame of wrought-iron trusses with a central cast-iron tubular ‘king post’ and was covered in wrought-iron sheets (a ‘trussed crown’). The frame is considered to be original but re-sheeting was carried out in 1882 with some further replacement of the sheeting in 1949 when an inspection and survey of the gasholder was carried out by the North Thames Gas Board. At that time it was deemed to be in a ‘remarkably good state of preservation’ (Ibid). Prior to the repairs in 1949, the gasholder had been in constant use for nearly 120 years since its original construction. The bells of early gasholders used rings running on guide rods (also referred to as ‘slippers’), rather than rollers and rails, and this feature survives in the lower guides of Fulham No 2; the upper guides have rollers. Fulham No 2 Gasholder was in use until 1971 and is the oldest surviving gasholder in the world.

Reasons for Listing

Gasholder No 2 at Fulham Gasworks, built in 1829-30 to the design of John Kirkham of the Imperial Gas Light Company, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* By far the oldest surviving gasholder in the world, built in 1829-30;

Architectural interest:

* A unique survival from the early pioneering days of the gas industry during the Georgian period;
* An exceptionally rare type of gasholder of which no other examples survive anywhere else in the world;
* A remarkable feat in design, the gasholder broke new ground in size and capacity, and is considered to have been the largest in the world in 1830, being about twice the diameter of most large gasholders at that time;
* The structure survives relatively well and largely unaltered with the original cast-iron guide standards (uprights), brick tank and wrought-iron framework for the bell (gas vessel);
* The tripod form of guide standards were the forerunner of buttress-styled cast-iron standards used and developed until the 1870s whilst the gas bell was particularly innovative with a sophisticated trussing system that became widely used in later gasholder bells;
* For the early surviving features such as the free-standing cast-iron tripods with elegant roundels, the gas bell with wrought-iron trusses and a central cast-iron king post, and the guide rods within the in-ground tank;
* For the craftsmanship of the blacksmith-made wrought-ironwork used in the bell;

Group value:

* With the former Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company offices built in 1856, Former Gas Light and Coke Company Laboratories constructed in 1927, and the Gas Light and Coke Company War Memorial, all Grade-II listed within the Imperial Square and Gasworks Conservation Area.

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