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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Fetter Lane

This possible gas works has a vague and insubstantial existence. It might have been in Fleet Street, or Fetter Lane, or it might not have existed at all. Everard says that the works was set up by a William Knight of Duke Street, West Smithfield, who had previously displayed lights at an office in the Strand. He has proved very resistant to any research and does not appear in later lists of directors of the City of London Gas Company - of which this gas making plant appears to be the forerunner.

Hugh Barty-King in ‘New Flame” quotes a Times report of April 1814 which describes illuminations in ‘Knights Gas Light Office in Fleet Street’ with a display in which gas lights are the leaves of a laurel bush. Stewart, in the supplement to his ‘Historical Index of Gas Works’ gives the address as 183 Fleet Street. From the numbering shown on Horwood this was a couple of doors down from the Fetter Lane junction, to the east and next door to St.Dunstan’s church. Everard also says that it was closed in 1814 following a prosecution for nuisance.

This is all very vague and relies entirely on notes by Everard who had access to the Gas Light and Coke Company archives before they were split and scattered following nationalisation and, since he gives no references, they cannot be verified unless found by chance. It seems most likely that this was a small demonstration plant set up by an enthusiast - perhaps in order to persuade people to join with him to form the City of London Gas Co.

Knight’s absence from the City Company’s records can be explained by another note by Everard which says that on an unspecified date, but probably in the mid-1820s, Knight’s widow appealed to them for money.

The City of London Gas Company itself moved to a permanent site in Blackfriars soon after 1814.

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