Gasworks – The Independents

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.

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.

This is a list of places in Cumbria – mostly industrial sites – that built their own gasworks to supply their needs, mainly for lighting. Most of them were some distance from the mains at the time, some just chose to go it alone.
There a separate list of country house gasworks on this website, and more information about the history of the town gas works can be found by clicking on the link to Gasworks in Cumbria.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this list. 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 Supplied Type Evidence Notes
Allenwood, Heads Nook NY 490558 Paper mill coal 1901 OS 25” shows gasometer
Arnside SD 462788 Station and/or village coal OS 25” 2nd ed Furness Railway plan of 1914Ref to Arnside Gas Company of 1901 A mystery. Was it built? Did it ever start production?
Barrow – Furness Railway SD 204687 Railway workshops coal Furness Railway plan of 1856.Diary of William Fisher ;”In 1854 the FRC built a gas works in the railway yard to light the company’s premises” Barrow (town) gasworks opened in 1861
Blennerhasset, Aspatria – Mechi FarmNY 174411 Model farm coal Ten years of gentleman farming, 1874. “Gas house and smithy stand alone” Gas lit 1st April 1865.Also supplied the village
Buckabank NY 371494 Cotton mill coal OS 25” 1st ed shows gasometer
Burneside SD 505959 Paper mill coal OS 2nd ed shows gasometer.Fatal accident reported in Kendal Mercury, 10 April 1858
Caldbeck – St. Kentigern’s NY 325399 Church petrol/air? OS 1st ed shows gasometer
Carlisle – LNWR NY 419516 Railway workshops coal 1900 25” shows gasometer at Upperby sheds
Carlisle – Raven Nook NY 414557 Woollen weaving mill coal Carlisle Journal, 28 February 1851, description of new mill inc. gas works
Carlisle – Midland Railway Works coal? 1870 advert for manager of the company’s “Water and Gas Works”  Not traced – loco shed was at NY 422548
Carlisle – Carr & Co NY 393560 Works coal CRO drawings of 1892 Was it built?
Carlisle – Garlands Hospital NY 433539 Hospital coal 25” 1st ed 1865 shows “gas and water works “ and gasometer. Asylum minutes show tender accepted 1861.
NY 021137
Flax mill coal OS 25″ 1898 shows
Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway Stations acetylene Bowtell, H. Rails through Lakeland, Vol 1,1999 Installed 1898-1909 at 7 wayside stations
Cummersdale NY 394532 Cotton mill coal OS 25” 1st ed shows gasometer
Dalston – Low Green NY 373508 Cotton mill coal OS 25” 1st ed shows gasometer
ElterwaterNY 326052 Gunpowder works producer Gas engine references in English Heritage report pp.24 & 34
EmbletonNY 175307 Quarry producer Glover : The quarries of Lakeland – “vast amount of plant powered by gas engines” (1931)
Force Crag, Braithwaite NY 199216 Barytes mill producer Tyler : Force Crag – “power for the mill was supplied by 2 gas engines” (1908)
Ferry House, Windermere SD 389955 Hotel coal 25” 2nd edReport of death of retired “gas maker” in August 1916 in Ian Muir – The Ferry Inn on Windermere New Ferry Inn opened 1881
Furness Railway Stations acetylene CRO plan of Lindal Station. Likely elsewhere Old photos of other stations with gas lamps
Gatebeck SD 548858 Gunpowder works coal?producer? “a coal gas plant” at the High Works mentioned on p.17 of English Heritage report on the Low Gatebeck works, but a “gas generator house” on post-1926 plan More likely to have been a producer gas plant powering a gas engine?
Gilsland – Spa Hotel NY 632677 Hotel coal 6” 1st & 2ndCumbria HER
Greenodd, Ulverston SD 314826 Saw mill coal 25” 2nd ed, CRO plan, Ulverston Advertiser 29/9/1853 report of accident Did it also supply the village streets?
Heversham SD 496834 Church petrol/air? “Gas generating plant” ref in Sisson : A century of Heversham & Leasgill1902 CRO plans for gas pipes and bracket lamps More likely supplied by Milnthorpe gas works. 1903 invoice in CRO
Kirkhouse, Brampton NY 568599 Railway works coal 1899 OS map. Listed building – dated 1883 – described as “colliery gasworks”. See also Webb, Brian & Gordon, D.A. – Lord Carlisle’s Railways More likely supplied nearby engineering works (and village church!)
Lakeside, Windermere SD 378873 Station coal 25” 2nd edLDNP HER Also for lighting steamers?
Levens SD 487862 Village institute 1.petrol/air2.acetylene History of the Institute (Chambers), and Finance Act (1910) surveyors’ notes in History Society archive 1.1911-18 2.1923-?
Levens, Lords Plain SD 474865 Farm producer Finance Act (1910) surveyors’ notes
Lindal SD 255757 Iron ore crushing plant etc coal 25” 2nd ed + photos Also supplied company offices and manager’s house
Lowca Foundry NX 983213 Works coal 1st ed OS map
Lowther Pit, Great Clifton NY 048301 Coal mine coal Gasometer shown on 1st ed OS map Gasometer some distance from early coke ovens – no connection?
Low Wood, Windermere NY 386021 Hotel ?  “the 1871 and 1881 census show a resident ‘gas man’ and ‘gasmaker’ respectively Terry Marsh article in Trans. of the CWAAS, 2014
Mealbank SD 541957 Woollen mill coal OS 2nd ed 25” 1898 shows gasometer
Penny BridgeSD 308838 Paper mill ? Barrow Times 30.3.1878 sale notice inc “complete gas-making plant”
Roa Island SD 232649 Station + village coal 25” 2nd ed. Cumbria Railways Assoc. archive and journal Lifeboat house, watch tower, + leading lights in channel supplied
Scotby, Carlisle NY 440553 Tannery + village coal CRO archive, OS 1st ed , 1873 directory shown on their letterheadsPurchased by Carlisle in 1891
Seascale NY 039009 1.Golf club 2.Church acetylene Article by Nev.Ramsden in the Seascale Magazine, July 2013 St.Cuthbert’s church and vicarage
Sedbergh – Birks Mill SD 652915 Woollen mill petrol/air 13/12/1849 report of gas explosion1917 valuation report inc “has apparatus for petrol gas”
Sedbergh – Farfield MillSD 677919 Woollen mill ? 1851 list of rules includes “not hanging anything on gas pendants” No evidence supplied by town gas
Sedbergh – School SD 656919 School acetylene Installed 1890-1900. School archives ref to gas pendants in 1893
Spark Bridge SD 307846 ? ? 25” 2nd ed shows gasometersLDNP HER Unusual location and no evidence of what supplied
Staveley – Chadwick’s Mill SD 472983 Bobbins/Wood turning mill producer Somervell : waterpower mills of South Westmorland – a “wood gas plant, burning waste material, replaced a steam engine in 1918” BUT 1896 photo shows “gas house” and 1858 OS shows gasometer on site
Tebay NY 612039 Station + houses coal 25” 2nd ed shows 2 gasometers. Photo in Cumbria Railways collection
NY 326258
Lead mine producer Power station built 1900 with suction gas plant for 2 100hp electricity generators Info at Threlkeld Mining Museum
Waberthwaite SD 113944 Granite quarry producer Powered aerial ropeway to Furness Railway siding, and (?) crushing plant Atkinson ; Millom pp.86/7
Warwick Bridge NY 479566 Woollen mill coal 6” 1st ed shows gasometer. Also photo.Cumbria HER
Workington – Derwent Paper Mill NY 008293 Paper mill coal 1866 OS 25”. 1890 valuation – “excellent … plant”

(Page created 02/03/15. Last updated 02/08/23)