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Sunday, 9 August 2009


Attempts to make a fuel from scrap coal preceded the gas industry. In 1799 the Marquis of Chabbannes had begun a business on Millbank to combine small pieces of coal with other things and make the mixture into 'cakes'. Interestingly his wharf was later taken over by Frederick Albert Winsor who used it, in 1808, for one of the earliest gas works to be built in London.

It is not clear how successful the Marquis' enterprise was but, nearly a hundred years later, Georg Lunge described a number of patents for fuel briquettes using coal tar and other things ‑ wood chips, sawdust, sand and similar ingredients of varying flammability.

In the 1830s and 1840s a number of makers of these artificial coal blocks sprang up in the Deptford and Greenwich areas. Colonel Francis of the Wylam Patent Fuel Co owned what is described as a chemical works on Marsh Wall, in the Greenwich Peninsula. William Wylam took out a number of patents in 1845 for the manufacture of 'artificial fuel' and for pressing machinery to be used for this. The Wylam Company used tar for their briquettes ‑ in 1848 the Chartered Company refused to supply more tar to them because of defaults on payments.

Wylam were not the only manufacturers of briquettes in the area. A patent fuel wharf is listed for Scott and Eden in Broomstead place on the Deptford Riverside. Nearby, in 1867, a large wharf between the Royal Dockyard and General Steam Navigation was described as 'Patent Fuel Company's Wharf'.

William Buckwell who held a patent for ‘compressed or solidified fuel’ owned another ‘composition’ factory on Greenwich Marsh. Buckwell eventually went bankrupt and was arrested by the Italian police in an Italian barn having absconded over the Alps.

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