Search This Blog

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Mackintosh's Limehouse Gas Works

The only thing known about this works is that it was built in the east end of London.

E.G. Stewart listed a gasworks in Limehouse which he attributed to Mackintosh, the building contractor, who was currently working in the area. Neither Stewart, nor I, have any idea where this site was - ‘Limehouse’ being an unclear definition which can be used loosely to cover a section of the London riverside as well as the parish of St.Ann. I would also suggest, however, that the works was not necessarily built by or for Mackintosh, the contractor.

The main evidence for the existence of this works comes from the various London gas company records. In 1819 the City of London Gas Company took over the Aldgate Gas Works. They reported that the then owner, Mr. Peto, was being sued by a Mr. Mackintosh and also that that a ‘Mr. Mackintosh of Limehouse’ had bought the equipment from the Aldgate works - and it can thus be assumed that this equipment was to be used in Mr.Mackintosh’s own works. In 1824 the Imperial Gas Company recorded that they had agreed to buy ‘Mr. Mackintosh’s Limehouse works’.

There are, however, more details to be found about the works in the Oil Gas Enquiry Report, There, Mr. George Mackintosh with a works in Limehouse registered his wish to lodge a petition with the enquiry. Unfortunately he failed to turn up and so we will never know what he intended to say - but the first name of ‘George’ is given and is the only clue we have to the identity of Mr. Mackintosh.

Stewart assumed that Mackintosh was a member of the family of contractors who were busily engaged in east London in that period. This firm was currently involved with a number of gas companies on construction projects and, what is more, had significant land holdings in the area having bought land in the Bromley by Bow area from the Foster family in 1824. Ten years later Samuel Clegg Jnr. worked for them on the London and Greenwich Railway.The head of the firm in this period was Hugh Mackintosh, to be succeeded by David Mackintosh - no ‘George’ seems to be involved.

‘George’ was however a name in the family of which Charles Mackintosh was the current head - both his father and son were ‘George’. Charles Mackintosh is the man after whom the raincoat is named and some information about his links with the London gas industry is given in the chapter on Portable Gas. He was based in Glasgow but in the 1820s was clearly involved and interested in the London gas industry with a view to making tar - fact, in 1800 he had seriously considered moving his whole business to the south of England. Charles Mackintosh probably also had an interest in a tar distillery in the Bow Common area - the Bromley by Bow Court Book seems to indicate that he may have been involved with one of the many tar distilleries there.

Also of note is Mr. Thomas Parker of Bow Common who in 1821 visited Bristol to extol the virtues of oil gas. Mr. Parker’s tar distillery was somewhere near the top end of Bow Common Lane – in the same area as that in which Mackintosh may have had an interest.[4]

It seems a reasonable hypothesis therefore to consider that ‘George Mackintosh’ was one of Charles Mackintosh’s relations and that they decided to upgrade a tar works into a gas works, perhaps in conjunction with Mr. Parker, in 1821. They bought equipment from the defunct Aldgate Company and then found it did not pay and so, in 1824 disposed of it to the Imperial Company. In 1824 Charles Mackintosh visited the Gas Light and Coke Company to discuss buying gas tar from them.

By this time the area was filling up with industries of all kinds – including many chemical works. Mackintosh's tar works was probably somewhere near the Limehouse Cut which runs diagonally across this map.Maps show Bow Common Lane to have numerous chemical and tar works along it. It is not easy to disentangle the ownership of these since the area was covered by five local authorities, none of which list ratepayers in any particular order. It could of course be argued that Bow Common is not Limehouse - but some sites at the south end are in the Limehouse Parish and many chemical works, along the Limehouse Cut, could be described as ‘Limehouse’ as much as anything else in that area.

All of this is guess work and Stewart could as easily have been right in attributing this mysterious works to Hugh Mackintosh, the contractor.

No comments:

Post a Comment