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Friday, 23 June 2017

Converted gas holders round the world


Brisbane. A  water-sealed gas holder remains on the site of Newstead Gasworks. The remnants of the holder and guide framing are listed and is now a feature in a new park. See article

Vienna - Simmering - This is in four large gasholder houses which were built in 1896-1899 and used until 1986.  They could be described as four Albert Halls in a row! A competition was held in 1995 and four architects were chosen and each of them was given a gasholder building to adapt. Thus they are flats, offices and leisure uses. There are shops on the ground floors. Vienna holders and  the review of their reuse as a shopping mall, each with a different designer and the web site


Rabot, Ghent. There are two listed guide frames of water sealed gasholders. See article


Ostrava, North Moravia. At the Vitkovice steelworks a gas holder which held blast furnace gas has been converted into a multifunctional auditorium called the Gong – it is a place where education, cultural events, conferences, congresses and all kinds of exhibitions are held.  It has excellent acoustics. Built 1922-24, this holder went out of use in 1998 and opened as a concert hall in 2012.  See article  and also see


Hobro Gasworks - a gas museum. This gasworks was built in 1898 and produced gas until 1967. The two gasholders were used for gas storage until 1986. It is now the Hobro is now the home of the Danish Gas Museum, which was started in 1995 by the employees of Hovedstadsregionens Naturgas, the company with the largest coal-gas works in the country..  Exhibition space has been created within the gas works buildings.  See

Denmark Oestre Gasveark Teater, Copenhagen  a renovated gasholder building houses the city theatre with facilities housed in a new extension, connected to the theatre by a tunnel.. Toilets, workshops and other support facilities are beneath the stage.  See


Suvilahti, Helsinki –there are nine buildings including , two large gasholders.. It is intended that a cultural centre will be formed as the buildings are renovated and tenants move in. Suvilahti is already an established venue for new circus and other performing arts. Helsinki City Museum has identified Suvilahti as an important site in terms of its architecture and significance for the city. See

Turku. a gasholder house here built in 1913 was saved by the local power company Turku Energia and it is now used as a thermal battery for the district heating network storing hot water. The gasholder house contains tanks which can hold several million litres of water at 100 oC.  Public spaces have also been created inside the building and it past it has been used for music events.  See


Augsburg. Gaswerks.  Part of this 1915 gasworks has been preserved and includes a museum. Coal gas production ended here in 1968 but natural gas was used by 1978 and the four gasholders remained in use until 2001. Three of them are still there as are most of the 1915 buildings. . Ausburg was the location of the company Maschinenfabrik Augburg-Nürnberg (M.A.N.) - hence the M.A.N. dry gasholder which they invented many of which were built around the world. The preserved example here is the oldest of this type - it is both the first dry gasholder and also the smallest. Gaswerksfreunde Augsburg e.V.' have a gas Museum inside this Gasworks

Berlin. This is a relic from the Second World War. It was originally a  gasholder building designed by civil engineer Johann Wilhelm Schwedler in 1874 with a brick shell 21 metres high and 56 metres in diameter. The holder was inside and used until the 1920s. It was later reinforced and used as a six-level air raid shelter - known as  the Fichte Bunker. It is Berlin's last remaining brick gasholder building and there are now flats under the dome.

DresdenA gas holder house here from 1879 - 80 is now an art gallery. This exhibits a panorama of Dresden in 1756 - as seen from the Katholische Hofkirche. This is called a 'Panometer', by artist Yadegar Asisi and it conflates 'panorama' and 'gasometer'. It is almost ten stories highand had over 500,000 visitors in it first two years. There is also a large reinforced concrete gas holder built in 1907 - 08. It is named after the Dresden local authority architect - the Erlwein Gasometer,

Duisberg  Tauchrevier Gasometer- indoor diving centre. This single-lift gasholder with a guide frame was built in the 1920s. The tank has been converted into an indoor diving centre with the original bell still in place which as a dome over the pool. This is said to be the largest such diving centre in Europe with a tank which holds 21 million litres of water. It is in Landscape Park Duisburg Nord which was once a steel works.

Leipzig. The gasholders here relate to Leipzig's 1885 gasworks in Richard-Lehmann-Straße. . There were once four gasholders here but only two survive built in 1885 and 1909-10. They were used until 1977. The later holder is now an exhibition centre and has a long running special exhibition - the Asisi panometers. These are 360 degree panoramas by Yadegar Asisi on subjects like Mount Everest, Ancient Rome, or the Great Barrier Reef. attraction.

Germany Oberhausen - This is a MAN type holder 120 metres high and is now an important cultural centre. Built 1927-29 it is the largest of its kind in Europe. It was decommissioned in 1988. Described as 'the landmark of the city of Oberhausen' - it has become 'an entire region's identification sign that cannot be overlooked'.  Web site  - and its size  - and tourism potential  and even more  and its history

Schöneberg. This is a large water sealed gasholder built 1908-10 with a capacity of 160,000 cubic metres and it is local landmark. A structure which is like the German Reichstag dome was built at the bottom of the tank in 2009 and inaugurated by Chancellor Angela Merkel and is used as an event space. A TV political talk show is broadcast from it.. For 30 Euros customers can climb 78 metres to the top of the gasholder frame via 456 steps. See here  and also see here  and also see here and also here  and here and here  and here  and here  and, at last, here


Technopolis – Athens. The Athens Gasworks was built in 1857 by the French Gas Light Company.It is near the city centre and Acropolis and was redeveloped in the 1980s impressively restored as an industrial museum and cultural centre – the Technopolis. This is a Museum which aims to highlight both the work’s history and the industrial development of Athens over the last two centuries. It is dedicated to the memory of the Greek composer Manos Hatzidakis and is also known as 'Gazi Technopolis Manos Hatzidakis'. Exhibitions, seminars, music concerts and other cultural activities take place here. Eight of the buildings have been named after Greek poets and there is a museum dedicated to the opera singer Maria Callas.

See and See


Dublin. A water sealed holder is now used for flats. The holder, called the Alliance, was built here in 1884 by S Cutler and Sons of London; the guide frame has been fully restored and repainted, within which has been built a circular nine-storey 240 apartment residential building with a central light well.  See 


Turin – Vanchigilia. 'Societa anonima per l`illuminazione della città di Torino a Gaz' was founded in 1837 and Turin became the first Italian city to be lit by gas. Two water sealed gasholders survive in Vanchiglia from the third gasworks here.  One is a three-lift telescopic gasholder from 1911 built */here to the designs of Samuel Cutler & Sons of London. It’s the water tank is partly underground and there are surrounding earth banks. The other gasholder was to a German patent design by August Klönne of Dortmund built in 1930.  and had a capacity of 50,000 cubic metres. Next to the gasholders is the new university 'Campo Luigi Einaudi' which has lecture rooms with spectacular views of both gasholders. The gasholders are on land belonging to the local power supply company and are overlooked by the university. See

Milan - Bovisa.  two complete water-sealed gasholders are preserved nere.: One to a Samuel Cutler of London design dates from 1905 and the other is a Klönne-dating from 1930 and both have four lifts.

Trieste – Broletto. There is a gasholder building here which dates from 1901 with, it is thought, its underground water tank inside the building.. The outside is now protected as a cultural monument. a proposal for conversion into a planetarium and museum of astronomy has not proceeded. See and also see  and also see

Venice – San Francesco della Vigna. This is close to the walls of the Arsenal amd was the first gasworks in Venice. There are two water sealed gasholders here. One dates from 1882 and is listed as a monument. The other dates from 1928.Demolition was proposed but did not take place owing to local protest. 

Bologna – Porta Mascarella. There is a MAN gasholder next to the railway: It dates from 1930 and went out of use in 1960,. It is and is now an industrial monument owned by the City. See

Florence – San Frediano. Only one historic gasholder remains here, an original bell-type holder built in 1882 by 'V-Ve-Moussy-Constructeur-Lyon'. The the guide frame has columns have a circular cross section and at the top terminate in an ornamental 'flame' decoration. Today a public park surrounds this gasholder, which is now part of a social centre. See

Rome – San Paolo. There are four water sealed gasholders whose guide frames and water tanks have survived By the Tiber in zona San Paolo In 1908 two telescopic gasholders were built here under a patent of Samuel Cutler & Sons of London. Both had a capacity of 25,000 cubic metres.  A third Cutler-type followed in 1912 with a capacity of 60,000 cubic metres. All of them have water tanks which are partially underground. One is the tallest holder in Italy and now called 'luxometro', it is an art installation, it is illuminated at night and described by a film maker as a wonderful industrial Coliseum. The other gasholders have been repaired and re-used by their owner 'ITALGAS' for warehousing, parking, etc. the guide frames are seen as an important part of the cityscape. See  and also see and also see

Riga. The first gasworks in Latvia opened here in 1862 and was designed by the technical director of the Berlin gasworks. It had two castellated gasholder buildings which were admired and shown on postcards but they were demolished in 1934. The rest of the complex survives and  is the offices of Riga’s water supply company . A second gasworks opened in 1875.amd a gasholder building designed by the A Hartmann dates from 1882 and a larger older designed by K Felsko dates from 1901.  Both of these gasholder buildings are protected as cultural monuments. And the larger one was refurbished in 1997.


Dunedin, South Island. Here the guide frame of a water sealed gasholder is listed. This It is part of t Dunedin Gasworks Museum with a preserved engine house, a working boiler house and fitting shop. There are five stationary steam engines and also displays of domestic and industrial gas appliances.  See 


Lisbon Matinha Gasworks. The remains of four water sealed gasholders built in 1940 survive. They went out of use in 1967. The area is to be a wildlife garden inside a gasholder with landscape features. See and see and see and see and see and see


Gdansk.  The guide frame of a water sealed gasholder survives here.
Warsaw Two gasholders from 1888 and 1890 survive next to a gasworks museum here. They were damaged by in the Second World War and rebuilt in 1945. Gas production ended in 1978 and it is intended to refurbish them. See and see and see


St Petersburg - a site with several holders is under consideration. These date from 1858 and are near the Obvodny Canal.  See and see and see and see and see

Moscow. There are gasholder buildings near the Kursky railway terminus. This is an arts complex with night clubs, offices known as the Arma gasworks and a row of four brick gasholder buildings survive here. At least one gasholder building in Moscow has been fully converted. See and see


Oviedo. A water sealed gasholder built 1958-61 survives in the centre of the city close to the cathedral, which is  a World Heritage Site. The gasholder frame was listed in 2001 and is now a cultural feature.

Barcelona. The guide frame of a water sealed gasholder designed by Claudi Gil Serra in 1868 remains in Barceloneta Park. The gas works itself was demolished in 1989. See  and see


Värtan Stockholm. at Norra Djurgårdsstaden an old dockland area is being redeveloped - The Royal Seaport development. Central to this is a gas works, Värtagasverket, which is tobe turned into a cultural centre. There are four low pressure gasholders, two redbrick gasholder houses, , a steel multi-lift holder built in 1912 and a large MAN piston-type holder dating from 1932.  Plus a spherical high pressure gasholder. the main stage of the Royal Swedish Opera will transform oe of te gasholder houses into a 950-seat auditorium.  Ballet, opera, art, a library and a museum are all planned for this area. There are also plans for a data storage centre inside a  1893 gasholder building. See and see and see and see and see and see and see

Gefle Gasverks,  a complete gas works here has two gasholder houses, now used for theatre performances. Support facilities are underground and in the surrounding buildings. They are used by independent theatre groups and organisers of fairs and similar events. See


Amsterdam. There are thirteen heritage buildings here in 'Westergasfabriek'. originally designed by the Amsterdam architect Isaac Gosschalk Westergasfabriek is now 'Culture park Westergasfabriek', with parkland, TV studios and a large circular gasholder which hosts trade fairs. See

Monday, 19 June 2017

Oil Gas

There were some curiosities in the great world of gas manufacture. We tend to think of ‘town gas’ as having been made from coal. This was really only because coal was cheap and easy to get in bulk. In the earliest day of the gas industry - when gas lighting was ‘invented’ by Lebon - wood was sometimes used as a raw material and after that a number of industrialists began to develop gas made from oil. Oil had been used for street lighting for many years and an infrastructure for getting it existed. Oil came from whales hunted in the Arctic and Antarctic seas but also from more mundane sources - tallow imported from Russia, for instance. It was thus seen as expedient to produce gas from oil and use a raw material which was readily available.

Oil Gas has been mentioned several times before here - in particular about the gas works at Hawes soap works. It is a subject, which, if properly written up, would take much more space than the whole of this book times ten. Gas for lighting has been made from all sorts of materials - not just from coal. In the early 1820s, a number of public supply gas works used oil as a raw material. The process was patented by John Taylor in 1815. Taylor is one of those Georgian engineers/entrepreneurs who set out to exploit, and change, the world in a variety of ways. He has been described as 'the foremost mining engineer in Europe' but he sometimes described himself as 'manufacturing chemist of Stratford'.

I have never been able to track down John's Stratford chemical works and the actual inventor of the oil gas process was his brother Philip, who lived, before 1824, in Bromley by Bow and was a chemist who had taken out a string of patents. There were several other brothers, all in key positions. Members of the Taylor family - John and Philip in particular - turn up in many episodes of early nineteenth century industrial history.

Any oil could be used for gas production and it was thus useful for scrap from the soap and other oil based industries, including oils and fats replaced by coal as the raw material for street lighting. The oil was liquefied and trickled down a hot metal pipe. The resulting gas was cooled and collected. It then went through a red hot iron pipe to a gas holder. Oil gas lacked the sulphur compounds found in coal gas, it thus was not thought to need purification and it was promoted as both safer and cleaner.

John Taylor and his partner, John Martineau had an engineering works at Whitecross Street just north of the City, moving to Winsor Ironworks in the City Road. They made a range of equipment, including steam engines, printing, and sugar refining machinery - chapters could be written about all of these. Oil gas making equipment was produced and supplied on a franchise basis - mainly in whaling areas, Edinburgh, Hull, Bristol, Liverpool, and so on. London was, of course, also a major whaling centre.

It is clear by the mid-1820s that a war had developed between the oil gas and coal gas interests. The Parliamentary Enquiry into the London and Westminster Oil Gas Bill brought out a glittering array of contemporary scientific opinion and a propaganda campaign outside the courtroom.

The oil gas enquiry had been foreshadowed a few years previously by an insurance claim in respect of an explosion in the east London sugar works of Severn and King. This had involved equipment designed by a Daniel Wilson who worked for Aaron Manby. The equipment involved a technique, which was very similar to that used in preparing oil gas. Wilson and Manby were both better known for their gas making equipment and later went to France where they were involved in the Paris gas industry. The same scientists gave evidence to both enquiries.

Oil Gas was presented as cleaner and safer than coal gas but the sub-text was about the economic interests of the suppliers of the raw material - coal or oil.

Blue Billy

The foul effluent became known as 'blue billy', mention of which awakened in 'old engineers ..... recollections of troubles and prosecutions'. It was a waste product but could not be sold like tar and liquor. The available means of disposal were all undesirable and led to constant complaints. Attempts were made to use it as a source of useful products. As early as 1816 one of the Chartered Directors, Mr. Warren, collaborated with Clegg on sulphur reclamation from spent lime through a special kiln. This liaison with 'outsiders' continued - in 1842 the Imperial Company made a contract with Frank Hills to remove blue billy 'for the purposes of his trade'. Frank Hills was a resourceful industrial chemist who had once again found a means to make an economical product while not being prepared to make its details public.

In the early years 'blue billy' seems to have been stored in tanks on site. All three of the Chartered's works were land locked and everything had to be transferred in and out by road - coal, chemicals, blue billy. Before 1848 sewers in London were managed on an individual basis by special Boards of Commissioners that had been set up in Tudor times and who levied rates in the area which the sewer served. Commissioners of Sewers took action to prevent gas industry wastes using their systems without approval. Generally, such wastes were not allowed to enter the sewage system.

Prevented from using the sewers the Chartered Company decided to put liquid waste directly into the Thames. They had to get permission for this from the relevant Committee which oversaw Navigation on the Thames. In return for a fee, permission was given for a pipe to be laid into the Thames from the Peter Street, Westminster, works. The company also considered buying land from which a ditch ran to the Thames and where liquid waste could be dumped.

A number of complaints began to come from local businesses and residents. In 1817 the Chartered received a complaint from a Mr. Winter who had a japanned leather works in Peter Street. This was accompanied by another from a Mr. Cooper whose wife was enduring the smell while nursing a new baby. Michael Faraday was called in as a consultant to examine the seepage. Complaints continued for many years - in 1822 lime water was still getting into neighbouring premises, and Mr. Minton, a patent oil silk manufacturer complained about it.