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No. 2 Gasholder and No. 3 Gasholder, excluding tank and shells to No. 2, sunken tank and inner shells to No. 3 and any telemetry, pipework or other items that connect to the gasholders above or below

A Category B Listed Building in Dunfermline Central, Fife

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Latitude: 56.0613 / 56°3'40"N

Longitude: -3.4562 / 3°27'22"W

OS Eastings: 309420

OS Northings: 686344

OS Grid: NT094863

Mapcode National: GBR 1Y.Q3GX

Mapcode Global: WH5QR.WXB5

Entry Name: No. 2 Gasholder and No. 3 Gasholder, excluding tank and shells to No. 2, sunken tank and inner shells to No. 3 and any telemetry, pipework or other items that connect to the gasholders above or below

Listing Date: 12 December 2017

Last Amended: 18 September 2018

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407042

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52444

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Dunfermline

County: Fife

Town: Dunfermline

Electoral Ward: Dunfermline Central

Traditional County: Fife


A pair of gasholders located on the former gasworks site at Grange Road, south of Dunfermline. No. 2 Gasholder (the northern of the pair) was built in 1893 by Clayton Son and Co Ltd (guide frame, holder and tank) for the Dunfermline Gas Light Company and is of Type 32 frame. The two-tier circular frame is 15.1 metres in height and has twelve wrought iron lattice standards on plain classical moulded plinths, braced by two tiers of wrought iron lattice girders with flower-bosses at the diagonals. It has two tiers of diagonal tie-rod bracings. Two telescopic wrought iron riveted shells are set in a sunken brickwork and puddled clay lined tank (31.1 metres in diameter and 7.3 metres in depth).

No. 3 Gasholder (the southern of the pair) was built in 1922 by R and J Dempster Ltd (holder and tank) for the Dunfermline Corporation Gas Department. The four-lift spiral guided circular holder is around 41.1 metres in height when fully extended and 8.2 metres in height when retracted into the above ground tank. Four telescopic steel riveted sheeted shells are set in an above ground steel riveted sheeted circular tank (40.3 metres in diameter and 8.5 metres in depth).

There have been some repairs to the interior of No. 2 Gasholder and several alterations and repairs to the interior of No. 3 Gasholder. Alterations to No. 3 Gasholder are known to have taken place in 1970, 1995, 1996 and 1997 and include repairs to the inner lifts, related mechanisms and guides and the tank. There has also been the addition of passing platforms around the lift access staircase and a solid bar handrail at the crown curb in 1995 and 1996 respectively.

The offices building and adjacent ancillary building, both located north of the gasholders, date to the middle of the 20th century. Each building is of brick construction with flat roof and rendered exterior wall finish. The offices building, immediately north of the gasholders, is arranged over two floors containing multiple office rooms with a money safe on the ground floor and paperwork safe on first floor. The ancillary building, located north of the offices building, is also arranged over two floors with live gas equipment on the ground floor, acting as a booster house, and a suite of offices on the first floor. These buildings are of later date than the remaining gasholders and relate to a later period of development of the gasworks site.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the shells and the tank of No. 2 Gasholder, the inner shells of No. 3 Gasholder and all other structures and buildings on the gasworks site.

Statement of Interest

The pair of gasholders at Grange Road are a striking example of historic industrial infrastructure and are among a very small number of surviving structures of their type and date in Scotland. No. 2 Gasholder is the joint second oldest surviving gasholder in Scotland is a rare survival of the frame-guided gasholder type. No. 3 Gasholder is one of the oldest surviving examples of a spiral-guided gasholder in Scotland. The gasholders, which are a local landmark are also an important reminder of an industrial process that is now redundant.

Age and Rarity

Dunfermline Gasworks

The Dunfermline Gas Light Company, created by an Act of Parliament, was founded in 1829 and initially operated gasworks at Priory Lane, located near the centre of Dunfermline. The Company subsequently moved operations to Grange Road, southwest of Dunfermline, opening gasworks there around 1893. The Burgh Gas Supply Act allowed the formation of the Dunfermline Corporation Gas Department in 1896. The Corporation managed the gas manufacture and supply to Dunfermline.

Throughout the late 18th and entire 19th centuries, Dunfermline was a renowned centre for the weaving of linen damask. Dunfermline became one of the leading producers of damask in the world. The quality of the linen produced by the Dunfermline factories was extremely well regarded and ensured demand for this product remained high. There was an ever increasing demand for gas in Dunfermline to cater to the intensive output of the linen and other industries, such as rope making and iron founding, as well as its expanding population s need for gas at home. In order to meet gas supply demands, the Dunfermline Gas Light Company increased gas production and storage facilities by moving to new premises at Grange Road around 1893. A new substantial gasholder was built in 1893 and a further, likely smaller capacity, gasholder appears on maps from 1897 at the north of the site. In 1922, a third high capacity spiral guided holder was built at the south of the site ensuring continued reliable and efficient supply of gas to Dunfermline.

Brief history of gas manufacturing

The early years of gas manufacturing focused on small-scale private production for lighting. The gasification of coal was first developed by Archibald Cochrane, 9th Earl of Dundonald in 1781. Cochrane came across coal gas while heating coal to obtain tar. This by-product was captured and used to light rooms in his home.

In 1792 William Murdoch, a Scottish engineer and inventor, pioneered the process of manufacturing gas for industry and was the first to use coal gas to light his entire house and office in Redruth in Cornwall. Murdoch soon broadened the practical use of gas for lighting factories and established the first small gasworks for Boulton and Watt in Smethwick, Soho, Birmingham in 1798. Frederick Winsor, a German inventor, was granted a Royal Charter in 1812 creating the world s first public gas company called the Gas Light and Coke Co. which principally supplied gas for street lighting and households in London.

In Scotland, the first towns to receive a public gas supply were Balfron, Dunbartonshire and Deanston, Perthshire in 1813. This was soon followed by the first large-scale gasworks at Townhead in Glasgow, in operation from 1818. By the mid-1820s, all the major towns and cities across Scotland had a ready supply of gas available.

By 1859, there were over 1000 gasworks across Britain with most found in urban centres near large concentrations of population. Electric lighting was introduced and offered competition to gas from 1880 but improvements in gas burners enabled gas to compete with electric lighting until the 1950s.

By the start of the 20th century, many gasworks were publically owned with some still operating as private companies. In 1948, the Gas Act nationalised the majority of gasworks that provided a public supply creating 12 local gas boards. The Gas Act of 1948 amalgamated and nationalised the gas producers and suppliers of England, Scotland and Wales. Prior to the Act, there were 1046 private and municipal gas companies operating in the UK. A Gas Council with twelve Area Boards were set up across the UK. The Scottish Gas Board took over the operations with around 200 gasworks in Scotland.

As the industrialisation of the country intensified and as urban populations grew, so did the scale of gas production, its supply and its storage. The method of gasifying coal did not change significantly from the time it was first produced on a large scale for public supply in the early 19th century until coal gas was replaced with natural gas from 1959.

Gasworks were necessarily connected to significant transport networks such as railways and canals to ensure easy access to coal. The works was made up of a number of specialist building types to produce the gas for distribution.

Coal was brought onto the gasworks site and burned in retorts (large iron tubes) in retort houses to produce gases which were captured. The gases were condensed and purified before being stored and/or fed into the mains pipes for its onward supply. Storing gas made its production more efficient and it ensured that the demand for gas could be met especially during peak hours.

Gas was stored in a gasholder consisting of a circular iron container known as a lift, set within a water sealed below ground tank with an inlet from the works on-site and an outlet ultimately leading to the mains pipe. The larger gasholders had telescopic lifts which usually had from two to four sections and were guided by the outer circular frame. The first telescopic holder was built in Leeds in 1824.

Gasholders were further developed from 1890 with the introduction of spiral guided frame holders, first seen at Northwich in Cheshire. These holders were mostly built above ground, saving the effort and expense of excavating a deep, large tank. The holders still retained a telescopic feature where each shell could rise guided by internal rails mounted to the inside of the neighbouring shell. The rails ran at 45 degrees allowing the shells to rise and store additional gas. Such spiral holders were frequently over four tiers in height and allowed greater storage of gas with lower construction costs as no external guide frame was required.

Each regional Gas Board controlled every aspect of gas supply in its region. From the period of nationalisation of the industry in the 1940s leading up to the discovery of North Sea gas in the 1960s, most town gasworks gradually became gas reforming plants and coal was no longer burned onsite to produce gas. By the 1970s, natural gas completely replaced the production of gas by coal and oil gasification. The British Gas Corporation took control of the twelve regional Area Boards under the Gas Act of 1972. Oil price increases in 1973 and 1979 further fuelled the demand for gas as a source of power. The discovery of major gas deposits in the North Sea, around this time, provided a means to meet the increased demand for natural gas.

Following the privatisation of the industry in 1986, private companies introduced new processes which gradually modernised the supply of gas. The mains system and distribution networks were adapted and the complex of buildings previously needed to produce gas were systematically decommissioned, many of which have since been demolished. Gas was still being stored in gasholders but their number was steadily decreased as natural gas was more compressed and needed less storage space.

Many gasworks sites have since been completely decommissioned with the land cleared or repurposed. From 2011, gas has no longer been stored in holders connected to the mains.

Survival of gasholders

As the technology of storing and distributing gas continually developed since it was first applied to domestic use in the early 19th century, historic structures related to the earliest inception of the industry are now extremely rare in Scotland with one small early site remaining at Biggar (from 1839, altered in 1914 – the site is listed at category A). What does remain of what we recognise as the prototypical gasholder is now very limited and is confined to a small number of sites which retain gasholders and some with a scattering of ancillary buildings dating to the end of the 19th and the early 20th century, a point in time when the industrial output of Scotland was nearing its peak.

There are only small number gasholders surviving in Scotland from the late 19th century and the early 20th century with one surviving example at Well Street, Paisley (1890), two at Temple Gasholder Station, Glasgow (1893 and 1900) and two a Provan Gasworks in Glasgow (both 1903). Two small gasholders are at Biggar Gasworks Museum, which are earlier in date, but both were largely rebuilt in the 20th century. The Granton Gasholder, in Edinburgh, is listed at category B and was designed and constructed between 1898 and 1902. Early spiral guided gasholders became the standard type of gasholder after the 1920s and this example at Dunfermline is known to be the second oldest in Scotland.

A greater number of early gasholders have survived in England than in Scotland and a small number of these (17) have been listed. The concentration of population in England in large cities has meant that there were larger, early gasworks established in major industrial centres, with London being the most prominent.

No. 2 Gasholder and No. 3 Gasholder, Grange Road, Dunfermline

The No. 2 Gasholder at Dunfermline is understood to be the joint second-oldest surviving gasholder in Scotland that provided a public supply of gas. It is one of the last remaining examples of the 19th century gas industry in Scotland and is a reminder of the former industrial use of the suburban site.

The neighbouring No. 3 Gasholder, built in 1922, is of a newer design using spiral guided shells in an above ground tank to store gas. No. 3 Gasholder is the second oldest surviving spiral guided gasholder in Scotland. It is among the earliest examples remaining of what became the standard technology and method to store gas in Britain.

The pair of gasholders, located immediately adjacent to each other, offer a unique example in Scotland of the development in gas storage technology and signals the move from guide frame to spiral guided holders. This group of structures at Grange Road are a rare survival in Scotland, attesting to the storage of gas and are an important reminder of a technology that has become redundant in the 21st century.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interior of the gasholders was not seen. However, it is likely, based on the construction drawings and decommissioning works of other similar gasholders that they are typical for gasholders of these dates.

The below ground tank of Gasholder No. 2 is of brick and clay puddle construction. The holder is constructed from wrought iron shells using riveted pieces of cladding to form the two-tiered domed holders. A rounded mound, known as the dumpling, would sit in the centre of the tank and saved unnecessary excavation work. Gasholder No. 3 has an above ground tank, only slightly set into the ground. The tank and shells are of steel formed by riveted sections of cladding.

The interiors of the gasholders have been repaired and altered in the later 20th century and are not included in the listing.

Plan form

The plan of the guide frame and spiral gasholders is standardised with the tank and holder and frame being circular on plan.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Tiered (or telescopic) steel frame-guided gasholders superseded cast and wrought iron examples from around 1890. While not the first of their type, the iron frame-guided No. 2 gasholder at Grange Road is among the earliest of their type to survive in Scotland. Along with two other examples at Temple Gasholder Station in Glasgow, it the joint-second oldest of its type.

The guide frame structure of No. 2 Gasholder is utilitarian, providing an industrial storage facility. However it has is some architectural decoration with flower-bosses on the diagonal braces and classically inspired moulded plinths for each standard. Historical photographs of the gasholders show that they are largely unaltered.

Historical maps and plans of the gasworks at Dunfermline indicate that No. 2 Gasholder was originally accompanied by a similar, possibly smaller, gasholder to the north, removed sometime after the 1970s. Such telescopic guide frame holders were patented in England in 1824 and became a tried and tested technology. However, they arrived later in Scotland.

From the 1890s, a new method of storing gas in spiral guided holders spread from England. The spiral guided holders commonly had four or more tiers of shells which gave them huge potential storage capacity. The uptake of this new storage technology was much slower in Scotland with Dunfermline being a relatively early example. Spiral guided holders were easier to construct due to the above ground tanks with lower relative construction costs. This new, larger gasholder provided Dunfermline with a more reliable supply of gas and allowed greater efficiency of gas production to assist with keeping gas supply costs for consumers to a minimum and ensured viability of this essential utility.


The gasholders sit in their original position at the centre and south of the site and are a prominent feature in the landscape. The immediate setting of the gasholders has changed since the time of its construction as all the contemporary gasworks buildings have been cleared with only two mid-20th century buildings onsite. The gasholders are area landmarks visible from nearby roads and vantage points. The adjacent remnants of the railway line to the gasholders helps contribute to their original general setting in an area of industry. The pairing of the gasholders enhances their prominence as it offers a tangible example of the shift in storage technologies for a major industry.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2017).

Statutory listing address amended in 2018. Previously listed as 'No. 2 Gasholder and No. 3 Gasholder, excluding tank and shells to No. 2, sunken tank and inner shells to No. 3 and all other structures and buildings on the gasworks site, Grange Road, Dunfermline'.

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