Country House Gasworks

by Roger Baker

By the 1860s, most of the towns in what is now Cumbria had their own gasworks producing coal gas for lighting the streets, public buildings, shops, and the town houses of those well enough off to afford it. Click here to find out more).

But the companies that ran these gasworks were always reluctant to extend their areas of supply unless they could see a profit in it – the cost and the technical difficulty of laying mains for any distance made it not worth their while.

This meant that anyone outside town who wanted the benefit of gas lighting had no choice but to make their own. These independent producers included mills such as the woollen mill at Mealbank near Kendal, hotels such as the Ferry House on Windermere, even the county lunatic asylum (as it was known) outside Carlisle.

Also included were a number of country houses, from Netherby Hall near Longtown in the north of the county to Boarbank Hall near Grange-over-Sands in the south. Most were smaller versions of the town gasworks, producing gas from coal. Easier and cheaper methods were introduced around the turn of the century – producing acetylene gas from carbide, or using the vapour created by mixing petrol and air.

Here is a list of the country house gasworks identified to date. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to it. Please let me know via the e-mail address on the welcome page if you find any more. Coal gasworks needed gas holders to store what they made, and these can usually be seen on old maps. Acetylene or petrol/air gas was not stored – just produced when needed – and the apparatus involved was much smaller and simpler. As a result they tend not to show on old maps, but may get a mention in documents such as sales notices.

Place Type Date Evidence Notes Remains (if known)
Barkbooth,Cartmel Fell.SD41319060 Petrol/air 1920s Personal correspondence & recollections from previous resident Gas house demolished. Pipework in house cellar.
Beathwate House,SD48878621 Acetylene 1910 Finance Act surveyor’s notebook – “  house lit throughout with acetylene gas – own plant”. Info from Stephen Read. House demolished. None
Belle Isle,SD39259645 ? 1873-1885 List of tenant’s fixtures at CRO D/Cu/3/88 includes ‘apparatus for gas-making’ Info from Adam Menuge
Boarbank Hall,SD37887660 Coal Post purchase by Henry Chandler in 1863 OS 25” 2nd ed..Barrow CRO BD3 17/SP3/24 – 1898 Sales particulars 1921 sale notice advertises ‘electric lighting’ Retort house still obvious. Field wall bends round where gas holder stood
Castletown House, Rockcliffe.NY34636216 Coal 25” 2nd ed XV1/5.Cumbria HER – SMR 10352 Referred to in HER as “Rockliffe Gas Works” Owner recalls “knocking the building down many moons ago”
Conishead Priory,SD30507610 Coal Late 1850s OS 25” 2nd ed. (not 1st)1852 sold to Henry Askew, then again in 1865 – bill of sale refers to “private gas works” See S.E.Holmes: The Paradise of Furness, 2012 None
Crofton Hall, Thursby.
Coal? OS 6″ 1868 shows Gas House Hall demolished 1958 Gas house site cleared
Eden Hall, Penrith.NY56133262 Coal Given as 1876 in local walk leaflet 6” 2nd ed L/14 .Gasman’s wages slip.Cumbria HER – SMR No.11163 Hall rebuilt in late 1860s, and demolished 1934 HER refers to “site of old gasometer”, but retort house still in situ
Fell Foot, Newby Bridge.SD38178718
(Gaslight : illuminating Fell Foot ; Kevin Grice et al, The Cumbrian Industrialist Vol 12, CIHS 2020)
Coal Date stone 1869 OS 25” 2nd ed.NT Conservation Plan House demolished 1907/8.Col. Ridehalgh’s steam yachts lit by gas making apparatus Gas house converted to cottage – Grade II listed.Gas lights in boathouse.
Gilgarron/en/an Mansion, Distington.NY03062286 Acetylene 1921 sale notice referred to in Les Nicholson’s “Distington” includes “gas house with acetylene generating plant” House demolished 1957 None
Graythwaite Old Hall, Satterthwaite.SD37259085 Acetylene 1905 – 1938(?) CRO archive Z1179/4 – architect’s survey of house Housed in a wood framed building with a corrugated roof
Holbeck House, Windermere.NY39220226 Coal OS 25” 2nd ed. Shows site of gasometer Bought as a “hunting lodge” in 1888 by Earl of Lonsdale
Holmrook Hall, Gosforth.NY08090010 Acetylene 1923 sales particulars mention acetylene gas
Kershope House, PentonNY47808220 Petrol/air 1920s Scotsman sale notice – “house lit by petrol gas” Water supply from tank on hill above
Lowther Castle, Penrith.NY52242384 Coal OS 25” 2nd ed shows “Gasworks” at the Saw Mill in the North Park Lowther Archive (CRO) – 1898 booklet shows route of gas pipes to castle.
Milton Hall, Brampton.NY54856012 Petrol/air Two plants – 1911 and 1916 – one replacing the other? CRO archive D TH 2/39 & 2/47 – correspondence re installation House demolished None
Netherby Hall, Longtown.NY39827183 Coal Gas Works shown on OS 25” 2nd ed. (not on 1st ed.)
Rigmaden Park, Mansergh.SD61188524 Coal Gasometer on OS 25” 2nd ed – at Rigmaden Farm Also water turbine in house cellar
Sedgwick House, Sedgwick.SD51278699 Coal New house built 1868-69 Gasometer on OS 25” 2nd ed – in village Shape of gasometer evident in garden until recently
Sizergh Castle, Levens.SD49858790 Producer gas Powered generator to supply lighting Electrical switchboard in Power House
Tallentire Hall, Bridekirk.NY10383520 Coal Gasometer on OS 25” 2nd ed.
Underley Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale.SD60877999 Coal Gasometer on OS 25” 2nd ed. – at the Home Farm
Warwick Hall, Warwick-on-Eden.NY46815664 Coal Pre 1865 In 1865 list of places built with stone from a local quarry.Gasometer on OS 25” 2nd ed – near Bridge End Minor earthworks in field


(Page created 18/05/12. Last updated 21/02/16)