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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Cannon Row

A small, unsuccessful and short lived attempt to build a public supply gas works. Constructed by a group of enthusiasts it had the advantage of a riverside site in Westminster, close to the area where the first customers were to be found.

With their legal framework in place the new ‘Gas Light and Coke Company’ next took the big step of setting up their first gas works. A wharf and house were rented at Cannon Row - slightly to the north of Westminster Bridge in 1812. One of the directors, Mr Barlow, was asked to provide apparatus. Although Barlow does not seem to have any obvious connection to the Barlow family of iron mongers from Sheffield (see under Poplar Gas Co.) it is however very likely that he was one of them - and he may have therefore had recourse to some expertise.

The site was managed by James Hargreaves, the company’s Deputy Governor and Plans were made to light the areas immediately adjacent to this site. It is very probable that gas from Cannon Row provided the first public gas supply, to Westminster Bridge in September 1813.

The site of the Cannon Row Gas Works, shown on the Horwood Plan. c.1800The Company was obliged to recruit an expert in coal gas manufacture and they employed Samuel Clegg who arrived from Manchester with a group of workers. Clegg said at once that the works at Cannon Row would not do - so, in due course, it was closed and the site sold in 1814. Everard remarks that the lease went to a Government body - The Transport Board - and on the Horwood Plan a riverside site at Cannon Row is marked ‘Transport Office’. It can therefore be assumed that the site was adjacent to this. The area is now covered with Government Offices and Cannon Row itself is not accessible to the public.

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