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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Whitbread of Chiswell Street

As mentioned above, the early gas making plant at the Golden Lane Brewery has often been confused with the nearby Whitbread plant. It is quite clear that there was an oil gas making plant at the Whitbread Chiswell Street Brewery. However there is apparently no reference to it in the Whitbread archives.

The evidence in the Oil Gas Enquiry is quite clear. First, a Samuel Lay, who worked for the Gas Light and Coke Co. described a visit to the brewery in search of a gas escape. Another witnesses, one of the Martineau family, described the efficiency of the works.

Whitbread Brewery in Chiswell Street in the 1790s.There is another dimension to this story. As an oil gas works it would undoubtedly have been set up by John Taylor and John Martineau whose original White Cross Lane works was very close to the Whitbread Brewery - this point has already been taken up in respect of the London Portable Gas Company’s works, since all of these works were in relatively small area north of the City of London. It was in fact even closer than that because since 1812 John and Joseph Martineau had been partners in the Whitbread Brewery and since 1815 had been the managing partners while the Whitbread family pursued their careers in politics. Although there was more than one John Martineau alive at this time, neverthless, there were close family links.

The Oil Gas Enquiry had been set up to decide whether an oil gas plant should be allowed in Westminster although in effect it became a sort of trial between the relative merits of gas made from oil as against coal. In such circumstances it is interesting to note that the Chairman of Enquiry was one Samuel Whitbread. This was Samuel Charles Whitbread, who was Member of Parliament for Middlesex from 1820 and who had joined the Brewery in 1819. It should also be noted that John Martineau eventually died in the great Porter Tun Room at Chiswell Street in 1834. Having ‘suffered an apoplexy’ he had fallen into the porter vat.

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