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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Apothecaries' Hall

This was a small gas making plant designed for scientific research. The interest partly lies in the fact that the research was funded by a City Livery Company - albeit one with a known interest in scientific advance.

It is entirely appropriate that one early experimental gas making plant should have been in the charming Hall of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries in Blackfriars Lane. Research among engineering historians has shown how a century earlier the Company had fostered and encouraged the development of the steam engine.

William Brande held the appointment of Professor of Chemistry to the Company and was required to report regularly on specific work undertaken by him on behalf of the members. Sadly, the Company’s archive does not contain the results of his research. It is however very likely that he was asked to look at the waste products of gas manufacture with a view to their use in agricultural fertilisers, since the Apothecary’s Company approached the Gas Light and Coke Company in 1816 for information on sulphate of ammonia.

It is also clear that there was an oil gas apparatus at Apothecaries Hall which had been supplied by Taylor and Martineau. This apparatus was used in the early 1820s for experiments on oil gas. In 1823, 1,638 gallons of oil were used to make 125,250 cubic feet of gas. – which it was claimed implied about 30 lights in the building. The waste products were removed by Taylor and Martineau’s contractors.

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