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Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Phoenix Gas Company

This is a list of promotors of the Phoenix Gas Company - given for general interest.

In its company history ‘A Century of Gas Lighting' the South Metropolitan Gas Company described the original Phoenix Company as having ‘a philanthropic, if not a Whiggish, tinge’ - and this is certainly true. The original Phoenix subscribers list, given below, includes many of the great and good of the era - Whigs, Quakers, Anti-Slavers - together with a strong element of local Southwark business men, and many of them would fit into several of these categories. It is a deeply impressive list - it is also, in contrast to some others, a list, which contains some highly principled politicians. There are also a number who can be identified as family and connections of the prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry. Even Derek Matthews in ‘Rogues, Speculators and Competing Monopolies’ was unable to find evidence of corruption - except in the dishonesty of a ompany secretary in the early 1830s.

The Politicians:

Lord Holland: Henry Richard Vassall: nephew of Charles James Fox and the man who made Holland House a famous centre of political and artistic influence. A Whig, Lord Privy Seal and active in the abolition of slavery. His interest in the gas company may have been influenced by a development project in Camberwell, to be known as ‘Holland Town’.

Rt. Hon Sir James Abercromby, RA: MP, Judge, was to become Speaker in 1835. A "Reform" member who became Baron Dunfermline. Address at 7 Carlton Gardens.

John Key: "Don Key", City Alderman. Lord Mayor 1831-2, from Denmark Hill. Wholesale stationer and Master of the Stationers Co. MP for City of London 1832.

John KeyMatthew Wood: City politician, eventually to become Lord Mayor who had begun as a pharmacist and chemist from Exeter. He was responsible for a street lighting demonstration in Beech Street from the Golden Lane Gasworks. A supporter of Queen Caroline. Brewing and copper mining interests.

Henry Hunt - ‘Orator’ Hunt. Although Hunt was neither rich nor a Londoner, the connection his connections with some of the other political figures involved in the Phoenix makes this a possible identification. Hunt was a farmer from Wiltshire and, latterly, East Grinstead, who became involved in radical politics. By 1830, he was in the House of Commons as MP for Preston

James Scarlett, Tory MP for Cockermouth and then Norwich and ‘the most successful advocate in England’ said to be due to ‘an abundance of clever artifice’. Became first Baron Abinger. In 1827 he was Attorney General. Lived at Abinger in Surrey.


Mathias Attwood A banker of Gracechurch Street and Birmingham 1746-1836. Made his fortune from a monopoly in Swedish iron. He also had Chartist links and was a currency reformer who worked with William Cobbett. He became MP for Whitehaven. He lived at Muswell Hill and later 27 Grosvenor Street as well as Leasownes, Shropshire and, 1846, Streatham Park. Mathias was treasurer to the London and Greenwich Railway in 1824. He had been treasurer to the projected London & Birmingham, Birmingham & Liverpool and Grand Junction Railways. He was also to invest in the British Gas Co. The Attwood family is an extremely interesting and important grouping. They promoted many of the activities, which are described as the ‘industrial revolution’. Their roots seem to lie in the Corngreaves Estate outside Dudley where they promoted a number of industries from an original base, which was probably an ironworks. A younger generation went around the country to set up their industrial empires - chemicals, iron and steel, glass, railways and so on. Among the family was Thomas Attwood the radical member of Parliament and some other politicians. Matthias lived at Leasowes near Halesown – classical elegance and enlightened taste'

David Barclay: Quaker, Banker and Merchant, Liberal MP for Sunderland. Lived 8 Belgrave Square and Eastwick Park, Surrey.

William Fry: Banker. Joseph Fry's brother. He was involved with Mesmer and animal magnetism. In some ways, he was responsible for the downfall of the Gurney bank which sparked the biggest banking crisis ever until 2009.

Joseph Fry: Quaker banker and husband of Elizabeth Fry. Lived Plashet House, Stratford.

William Heygate: Sheriff of the City in 1812. Became Lord Mayor and an MP. Originally based in Leicester where his father was a banker. He lived at Roecliffe. He was treasurer of the Leicester and Swannington Railway and from 1836 Pares’ Leicester Banking Company. Also had addresses at Blackfriars and Holwood, Kent.

James Heygate, father of William Heygate and founder of the Leicester Bank of Heygate and Hodgson.


Charles Barclay: MP for Southwark. Connection of the Gurneys. Lived, 43 Grosvenor Place; Inherited Bury Hill, Surrey; from his father, Richard Barclay. Also lived Horstead Place, Norfolk. Bought the Anchor Brewery, Southwark, from Perkins.

John Calvert Clark: Merchant: Peacock brewhouse and Purfleet lime burner. Lived Teddington Place, Teddington.

Charles Allen Young. A brewer who, in 1831, bought an ailing Wandsworth brewery and turned it into Young's Ram Brewery.

Thomas Fowell Buxton: Had married a Hanbury and was an active director of the Brick Lane Brewery. Involved with John Taylor in South American mines. Whig MP for Weymouth and presented the London petition against slavery. A Philanthropist and a Baronet, he lived in Hampstead. He also lived at Cromer Hall, Norfolk - described as a 'respectable old mansion, the woods are particularly delightful'.

William Miller Christy: A hat manufacturer who had first begun in Gracechurch Street with a factory in Bermondsey. From a base in Droylesden near Manchester he made a fortune from a looped Turkish style towel. He was also director of South Metropolitan Gas Co. He died in 1858.

Abel Chapman: shipowner, Director of Hudson's Bay Company and East India Company. Chapman lived at Low Stakesby near Whitby and was involved in Whitby shipping. In London he lived in Woodford. He was later to become a partner in the Gateshead shipping company.

William Frampton: Saddler, Bermondsey. Lived in Peckham.

Isaac Lyon Goldsmit: Involved with University College, Royal Institution, etc. Committee Penny Magazine. Early Statistical Society member. Bullion broker to Bank of England. Associated with philosophy, radicals and social reform. Diffusion Society and close to Ricardo. In 1827 lived at Champion Hill but by 1846 in St. John's Lodge, Regents Park and The Wick, Brighton. Also a proprietor of the Imperial Continental Co.

Richard Heale: Colonial broker, Mincing Lane. Lived Peckham Lodge, Peckham.

John Petty Muspratt: Director of the East India Company. Lived Russell Square and Dulwich.

Charles Pott: Vinegar maker in Southwark Bridge Road where the house was one of the earliest to be lit by gas. Pott actually lived at Plaistow, Nr. Bromley, Kent, giving his London address as The Foundling Hospital. A later address was Freelands – also on the outskirts of Bromley.

and those whose business interests have not yet been traced....

Joshua Blackburn: Owned Brockwell Park, which he sold cheaply to the local authorities.

Benjamin Currey: Lived Eltham Park; Member, House of Lords with a London address at Old Palace Yard.

Francis Cresswell (the younger): Judge. Married to Rachel, one of the daughters of Joseph and Elizabeth Fry.

Emmanuel Goodhart: - Sugar refiner of Horseferry, Limehouse; later 4 Ratcliffe Highway. Lived Langley Park, Beckenham. Also an investor in the Whitechapel Road scheme.

Charles Perkins: possibly one of the brewing family. 1846 lived 1 Upper Harley Street.

Frederick Perkins: perhaps one of the brewing family. Lived Chipstead Place, Nr. Sevenoaks and, later, The Manor House, Lee.

Thomas Wilson: One candidate might be the encloser of Hampstead Heath, who also owned much of Charlton in south east London or the clergyman friend of John Wilkes. This Wilson was treasurer of Highbury College and financed the building of several chapels in the Islington area.

John Garratt, Lord Mayor of London 1825, in the year Rennie’s London Bridge was built. He was a dealer who eventually lived at Bishops’ House, Clyst Sackville, Near Exeter.

Arthur Holdsworth, eldest son of Arthur Holdsworth, Governor of Dartmouth Castle with connections to the Newfoundland fisheries. His company was involved in West Indies and American trade. The son lived in Kingsbridge, Devon, was a Commissioner of Woods and Forests and left a collection of American Indian artefacts to a museum foundation.

George Bridges, Lord Mayor of London 1820. Lived Aston Lodge, Tog Hill, near Bath.

Jacob Foster Reynolds, son of a linen bleacher from east London. His son married a daughter of Sir John Pelly, of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Joseph & Elizabeth Fry’s daugher, Richenda, married one of his family.

John Adophus Young a solicitor with a practice in the City and Great Ormond Street. Lived Hare Heath, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

Charles Hampden Turner - brother in law to Huddart (see above) a partner in the rope works and a director of the East India Company. Lived Rooks Nest, Godstone Green, Surrey.

Rev. John Vane. Vicar at Wrington, Devon - had previously been Chaplain at the House of Commons.

and several as yet unidentified:

John Plummer,
Charles Bevan – a Bevan family was within the Fry’s circle of friends.
Jonathan Chapman - in 1842 a John Chapman was owner and manager of the Harrow Gas Works.
Richard Fell, lived Belmont House, Uxbridge. Fell is the surname of a family of Southwark Quaker leather merchants.
John Fell the Younger,
Haden Turner,
Archibald Corbett - lived Marsh Street, Walthamstow and was a ‘salter’ - John Corbett was the salt king; of Bromsgrove – no connection of the property developers or the Chief Scout.
Horatio Ripley
Thomas Perkins
George Thacrah
Thomas Allan Shuter

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