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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Promoters of the City of London Gas Company

Who were the men who set up the City of London Gas Company? The following list is taken from the preamble to the Company’s first enabling Act of Parliament and describes those who were prepared to put their name to it.

This list does not include two famous names, which have been associated with the company. These are William Murdoch and James Ludovic Grant. The story rests on a report in the Monthly Magazine for 1814 which says that a gas company with headquarters in Water Lane was established by Messrs. Knight, Grant and Murdoch. Water Lane was adjacent to the company’s eventual site at Blackfriars, and Knight was certainly involved, however no other references to Grant or Murdoch have been found.

Most of those listed below appear to be City Traders - they are not financiers or ‘businessmen’ nor are most of them particularly prominent. Mostly they are men who would hope to use the gas made by the company on a daily basis. Among them are a number involved in tobacco and tea - and while this might just represent groups of people, who knew each other, it might also involve shipping connections with the West and India trades. A number of them were based in the area around Smithfield and Fleet Street - that is in the western part of the City

Thomas Hadland: Cheesemonger, 34 Holborn Hill.

Charles Hutchins: a cowkeeper with a business at Water Street, near Arundel Street off the Strand - although as a location for a cowshed this seems extremely unlikely - perhaps he had a dairy there.

James Lynn: Fleet Street, shell fishmonger.

William Pocknell: St.Martin’s Lane, fishmonger. Later, 1839, proprietor of a Thames Lighterage company.

Some were involved in the tobacco trade

Samuel Fish: Partner in a Clerkenwell snuff and tobacco "manufactory".

Timothy Stansfield: Tobacco Merchant, originally from Bristol. Lower Thames Street and New Cross. Lived Field House, New Cross. He was succeeded by his son Josias who was also responsible for introducing a mechanised saw mill in Limehouse, which led to anti machine riots.

Some were involved in the tea trade

Frederick Sparrow: Tea dealer, although he described himself as a grocer of Ludgate Hill and Oxford Street. He may have been the man who loved Graisley, nr Wolverhampton some years later. As a director he was prosecuted together with William Knight for nuisance in 1815 - in what was widely seen as a test against dumping of gas works waste in the Thames.

Henry Sparrow: Tea Dealer, 95 High Holborn and 26 Aylesbury Street, Clerkenwell.

Anthony Weatherhead: Grocer and tea dealer, 18 Coventry Street.

Other promotors may have had a professional interest in lighting

James Smethurst: Lamp Manufacturer & oil warehouseman, New Bond Street.

Some may have been involved in the manufacturing trades of east London

John Blacket: Also a subscriber to the Ratcliffe Co and the South London.Co. Described as "of the County of Surrey", he lived on Brixton Hill. He gave annual presents of "jacket and trowsers" to the gas company workmen. He is probably the ‘Mr. Blacket of Millwall mentioned in the Company Minute books, and who had a ship yard. A John Blacket is also listed as a ships’ biscuit baker of Wapping. His son-in-law was a Mr. John Gill, who became closely involved with the Ratcliffe Gas Co. (see below) of which Blackett himself became Deputy Chairman.

James Blacket: Woollen draper of West Smithfield (doubtless the source of the jackets and trowsers distributed by John Blacket and mentioned above). He lived at New Park Hill, Brixton and was also involved with the Brighton Gas Co. An archive reference to a letter from the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers might indicate an interest of James. James’s son was Edmund Blacket who, having worked as a surveyor for the Stockton and Darlington Railway Co., became a major architect in Australia. James died in 1858 .

Some other proprietors may have been City politicians:

Richard Ford: Treasurer and City Magistrate 1798. Superintendent of Aliens who dealt with political matters on London for the Home Office.

While some proprietors were professional men:

William Fortescue: Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, lived in St. John Street, Clerkenwell, 1839, and also 9 Smithfield Bars.

William Kimpton: Later, in 1839, surgeon in the Old Kent Road.

Timothy Tyrrell: Originally from Reading. City Gas Company solicitor - and later solicitor to some other Gas Companies as well as, for instance, the East India Dock Co. 1810 Remembrancer of the City of London. Master of the Worshipful Company of Upholders.

and there were also a useful group of local tradesmen among the proprietors:

Harbut Ward of Water Street, Bridewell (ie very nearby to the Gas Works) later lived in Carshalton, bricklayer.

Charles Cofield, lived Burrows Buildings, Christ Church, Surrey (ie near Blackfriars Road), plasterer.

William Pitcher: described as a carpenter and builder, 118 Dorset Street, Salisbury Square (adjacent to the City Co. Gas Works). A William Pitcher was an important shipbuilder at Northfleet and Canal Dock, Blackwall but it has not been possible to make any connections with him.

and one proprietor of whom little, or nothing, has been discovered is

James Sidney

In addition, on the original indenture document of 1817 is found the name of William Caslon, typefounder of Dorset Street - again almost adjacent to the gas works site. He will be discussed in a future chapter.

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