Some of the first backers may have had business interests in the promotion of gas lighting through the raw materials which might, or might not, be used. There are also intriguing connections with the American continent and exploitation of Atlantic interests. There is a close connection with fishing and fish oils – before gas the main source of the raw material used for street lighting.
Edmund Cobb Hurry
Another banker (1762-1808) Hurry came from a family of shipowners and Yarmouth merchants. The Hurrys were involved with the whalers of the Southern Oceans. Hurry had many interests beyond this – for instance he was chairman of the Portsmouth Railway. He died in Clifton, Bristol where the family also had interests. Fishing interests supplied oil for street lighting and it was recognised at a very early stage that gas lighting would be a threat to this industry - hence it would make sense for someone who had made money out fish oils to invest in gas.
Garland was said by Winsor to be a Merchant. Although there is nothing to suggest that he was other than another London based businessman there is a suspicion that he might have been based in Newfoundland. Internet genealogies describe a Joseph Garland of Trinity, Newfoundland, born in 1750 and the son of a 'substantial yeoman of East Chaldon, Dorset'. Garland was also a director of the Imperial Co. from which post he was later disqualified Two directors of the Imperial Co. were a Marmeduke Hart and a George Richard Robinson – both of whom appear in the Canadian genealogy as Garland's sons in law. The family based in Trinity is known to have had considerable connections with Poole in Dorset and the Atlantic fishing industry.
Paxton was an industrialist, but described by Winsor as ‘a banker’ – the bank of Paxton, Cockerell and Train appears in the Gas Light and Coke Co. Minutes. He had begun by going to sea as a boy, made a fortune in India and returned to buy Middleton Hall, near Carmarthen in 1787, and then improved it – with gardens inspired by his time in India. The house was built by Samuel Pepys Cockerell (whose brother was another Gas Light and Coke proprietor and another of the Cockerell family was presumably Paxton’s banking partner). Paxton's connections with the Gas Light and Coke Company were considerable - his mines near Middleton Hall supplied coal to early gas companies and a chalybeate well at Middleton Hall was analysed for him by Frederick Christian Accum. Paxton aspired to a political career in Carmarthenshire and stood as a Whig in the 1802 election, but despite lavish spending he was outdistanced by 139 votes. With the money he had promised to build a much needed bridge over the Towy but instead he built Paxton`s Tower – a 'folly` dedicated to Nelson after the Battle of Trafalgar, visible throughout the area. Middleton Hall is now the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Paxton is not remembered in Wales with much affection, more as an exploiter of Welsh resources. Perhaps it should also be noted that, like Shugborough, Middleton Hall had a specially constructed heated fruit growing area.
John William Henry White
A Magistrate who sold the lease on Providence Court to the Gas Light and Coke Co. for the Westminster Gas Works His address is given in the company records as Parliament Place, Westminster.
‘A Merchant’. Worked with Accum to find the Norton Folgate gas works site. He is reported as having made a chance visit to the new gas works and reported on slackness there. His address is given in the Charter document as Bishopsgate Street and Clapham.
There are a number about whom very little is known beyond the details given by Winsor in his Notice Historique. They are:
Francis Cloust: A Barrister.
Leyon Levy: A Merchant. A later Leon Levi became a well-known gas engineer – but he was not born until 1821 and no connection between them has been traced.
Joseph Ricci: A Merchant.
George Cooper Ridge: A Merchant. Lived Morden Park, Lower Mitcham.
Thomas Saunders: Solicitor and member of the City of London’s ruling Court of Common Council.
John Thompson: A Merchant.
John Ambrose Tickell: A Merchant
Baron Wolffe: Baron of the Holy Roman Empire and ex-British Consul for trade in Russia. In later years lived Woodbine Cottage, Tunbridge Wells.
Two further names appear on the Charter document of 1812 – neither have been traced:
William Holmes, Grafton Street
William Belcher Parfitt of Eversley ‘in the County of Southampton’.
Finally there are two who don’t fit the pattern of wealthy industrialists and people of great influence - they seem to have been enthusiasts.
James White Barlow
A merchant with offices at 8 Tokenhouse Yard, Lothbury, City. It seems reasonable to assume that he was one of the Barlow family of gas works constructors – but it has not been possible to make a connection between them. Perhaps he was the James Barlow whose death notice appears in Journal of Gas Lighting for January 1858. This states that ‘James Barlow’ had died in Australia at the age of 77 of 'induration of the liver' and was 'brother of T.G.Barlow'. The dates given make it very unlikely that this man could have been a brother of T.G. Barlow, being of entirely older generation. Perhaps Journal of Gas Lighting got it wrong – unlikely since it was owned and edited by members of the Barlow family - and he was T.G.Barlow’s uncle and thus brother to John Barlow who had come from Sheffield to found the family ironmongery business. Whether or not this was so, James Barlow was nevertheless clearly interested in the practical side of gas manufacture, since he volunteered ideas for equipment and set up experimental plant in 1811 at Westminster for the Gas Light and Coke Company. In the Charter document Barlow’s name is given without the middle name ‘White’ and his address is given as ‘Bowes near Chipping Ongar’. Bowes House and Bowes Road are addresses in Chipping Ongar at this period.
A stationer with a business selling ledgers, etc. to offices in the City. He does not appear to have been a particularly rich man and he must also have fairly young in 1809. For the next thirty years he was to agitate and write promoting the use of subways for underground services. His mission was hopeless, and he eventually died ignored by the new Metropolitan Board of Works while subways on his pattern were built by others.] Perhaps the really interesting thing about Williams is that on the evidence of his later life he does not seem to have been either rich or well connected - but undoubtedly someone with an idea he was determined to push at all costs.