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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Tottenham Court Road

Another mysterious early gas works - the only information about it being a chance remark by someone known to be deceitful! If it existed it was in a slightly more residential area at the bottom end of Tottenham Court Road - but opposite a massive brewery complex.

This is a mystery unlikely to be solved. In copies of Mechanics Magazine from the 1830s a certain Clovis recalled how one Stephen Hutchinson. had worked with Frederick Albert Winsor in his first experiments at Green Street. He said that Hutchinson had also been involved in the building of a gas works ‘for a West India Merchant ..... opposite the Meux Brewhouse in Tottenham Court Road’.

The Meux Brewhouse was the vast Horseshoe Brewery on the corner of Tottenham Court Road - the site now partly covered by the Dominion Theatre. As a very large building sited on a corner, this brewery was ‘opposite’ numerous small works and businesses - and any one of them could have been a ‘West India Merchant’. However there was no large works in the area which would be an obvious candidate and which could account for Hutchinson's statement.

Soon after this item was published Clovis was unmasked by Mechanics Magazine. Many of his letters had been about Stephen Hutchinson and had pointed out that Hutchinson was responsible for almost every invention of significance in gas manufacture and that he, Clovis, had personally witnessed them all. At the same time Hutchinson was applying for patents on all of these inventions. Mechanics Magazine was able to report that they had discovered that ‘Clovis’ was the non de plume of Stephen’s father, Joseph Hutchinson, former manager of the Liverpool Gas Works.

We are left to make up our own minds on the truth about the Tottenham Court Road installation.

Stephen Hutchinson was to continue with a varied and interesting career, working for the London Gas Company which lost a lot of money under him, 'a worse arranged works never came to our notice' and a number of others, eventually dying as the result of a bite from his pet eagle.

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