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Saturday, 8 August 2009

What did 19th London gas companies charge for waste ammonia

The gas company minute books clearly describe sales of liquor and not removal of it for dumping. Prices are given, sometimes with special financial arrangements for individual customers. For example, in one week of April 1817; the Chartered Company minuted that cash received for liquor was £2 17s. 6d. This is a lot less than the £187 12s 3d. which they received for coke in the same week but more than the £2. 14s. 3d. which they took for tar. Contractors paid money to the gas companies - something they would not done were they going to cart it away and dump it.

Prices and conditions of sale were negotiated. For instance in June 1831 Wilkinson was asked by the Ratcliffe Gas Co to provide the name of someone who would act as a guarantor for his payment of bills. The guarantor he provided was 'Wilkinson late of Ludgate Hill'. This was almost certainly H.Wilkinson who took over the gun making company that later became known as Wilkinson Sword. Another example of negotiations is when Ratcliffe Gas Co. gave a percentage discount on liquor to Mr. Crane of Stratford.10

These financial arrangements would not have been necessary if payment was not being made. Clearly gas companies did not want stocks of liquor to remain on their premises but the people who removed it had to pay for it.

At first the Chartered Company sold its liquor on an ad hoc basis. In 1818 the system was regularised. The superintendents of the three works at Westminster, Brick Lane and Curtain Road, were asked to prepare lists of all liquor purchasers together with the price being paid. In 1820, as a result of their findings from this survey, they set a standard price for liquor at 12s a butt. ‘A butt’ usually meant 108 gallons but sometimes this amount was qualified - as ‘Imperial measure’, 'beer measure', or 'wine measure'.

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