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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The Independent - a bit of a shifty company

The minute books stop and restart in 1827 with the name of ‘Independent Gas Light and Coke Co.’. The earliest records under this name are enlivened by the news that the Works Manager has given away tactical information about the court case to the other side ‘while insensible with drink’.

Complaints from the Regent’s Canal Company on the waste water continued.

It took some time to sort out the problems with the previous management and Edward Hinde had to be removed from the company property in the midst of a aggravated litigation. Derek Matthews describes how ‘Hinde..... had 120 of the company‘s directors and shareholders imprisoned .. and eventually had to be evicted bodily.’

Despite setbacks the Independent Gas Company and its Haggerston Works continued until eventually taken over in 1876 by the Gas Light and Coke Company. They were always in competition with the Imperial Company and perhaps it was the need for constant cost cutting that gives the whole operation a slightly down at heel and shifty air.

First the Subscribers to the Company. The Chairman, a rather racy MP:

Michael Prendergast: MP and barrister. Involved with Indian issues. He also fought a number of duels. London address 32 Castle Street, Holborn.

almost all the rest can be found in local street directories of the period, and seem to be traders and businessmen in the area of Shoreditch and the City fringes.

Joseph Gratton - corndealer, Shoreditch.
Matthew Warton - surveyor, Spital Square.
Robert James Hendrie - calico glazer, Fleur de Lis Street, Norton Folgate.
James Vernell - silk manufacturer, 18 Steward Street, Spitalfields.
Richard Tillyer Blunt - solicitor, 10 Union Court, Old Broad Street.
John Townend - grocer and tea dealer, 9 Shoreditch.
Thomas Robinson - there are 13 businessmen with this name in the 1839 edition of Pigot’s London Directory! One of them – perhaps a likely candidate - is a baker in Shoreditch.
Thomas Beale - surgeon from Commercial Road.
William Williams – there are 31 businesses in the 1839 edition of Pigot’s London Directory with this name.
William Rhodes - listed in the street directories as ‘brick, tile and chimney pot manufacture’ of Hackney Road, also owning ‘chalk wharf’ in Kingsland Road on the Regent’s Canal. The Rhodes family were not only brick makers but major land owners in the area.
Charles Earith - silk dyers, 82 Goswell Street.
Thomas Eaton - surgeon, 44 Shoreditch.
Robert Penny - barrister at Stone Buildings.
John Jeffkins - wine and spirit merchants, Crosby Square.
James Kendle Browne - corn factor, Mark Lane.
William Henry Burgess - merchant, Mincing Lane.
Ebeneezer Fernie - stone merchant of Cornhill, but by the 1839 Directory he is also managing director of the British Commercial Life Insurance.
William Lefevre - carpenter of Plough Yard, Shoreditch (an address adjacent to the Gas Light and Coke Company’s Curtain Road works) and George Street, Mansion House.
Charles Montague Williams, Edmund Homersham, John Blackwell

Around 1900 the Gas Light and Coke Company closed the works for gas making and it became a factory for stove and meter manufacture. The whole site was eventually closed in the 1950s. There exists a very dramatic photograph of the large gasholder under demolition in 1911 - the great guide columns are falling and all around outside the wall are the tiny houses of Victorian London.

Housing was built in Laburnum Street in the 1990s but a few remains can still be seen if they are sought. The inlet from the Canal became part of a boating club for local children, inspired by the daughter of the Thames enthusiast A.P.Herbert, and around it has grown up an activities centre - perhaps not such a bad use after all.

1 comment:

  1. HI,

    I was wondering if that dramatic photo of the gasholder being demolished can be viewed somewhere?