GAS 01

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GAS 01

Post by Stanley » 25 Aug 2018, 06:44


For the last few weeks I have been looking at water supply in Barlick. I started this series of articles because I felt there was a need for us all to know where we get our services from and even the history of how they came about. Now I'd like to have a look at our gas supplies. In the town we are all lucky enough to have a small pipe coming into our houses that supplies us with fuel and we have no need to do anything beyond paying the bill. This wasn't always the case. Let's go back into our history and have a look at how this service grew.
Three hundred years ago things were very different. The only fuel obtainable for heating and cooking was wood or peat gathered on the moor. Coal was available but was too expensive for ordinary people because it could only be brought in by pack horse. Imagine the situation in winter or other hard times, our ancestors must have been tough! At the beginning of the 19th century there was a major improvement when the new canal reached the town and relatively cheap coal became available, delivered to the door by enterprising people who set themselves up as coal merchants. The open coal fire used for heating and cooking became the norm and the fireside was the focus of the household.
There was another need for energy in the home, to provide lighting. This need used to be catered for by 'dips', a small vessel containing animal oil or fat and a wick at first made from dried reed and later by cotton. Incidentally the first mention of cotton for wicks that I have found was in the monasteries as early as the 15th century. It was very expensive as the cotton fibre had to be imported from the Orient. Towards the end of the 18th century cheap cotton wicks became available and we see the establishment of 'chandlers' who refined fat and used the tallow to make what we would recognise as crude candles also called dips. As late as the early 20th century the 'twopenny dip' was the usual method of lighting poor people's houses. In the early 19th century the Scottish shale oil industry started supplying paraffin in large quantities and as part of their marketing, designed oil lamps to use the product but these were expensive and confined to the better off houses. All these methods were relatively crude and smelly and left a lot of room for improvement.
At the end of the 18th century it was discovered that if fuel, usually coal, was heated in oxygen poor conditions it gave off vapours that could be refined to extract a flammable gas. Shortly afterwards an engineer called William Murdoch improved the process and used the gas for lighting. The usefulness of this was immediately recognised and the London based Gas light and Coke Company was incorporated by Royal Charter in April 1812 and started supplying gas to the public.


The first candles, crude twopenny dips.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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