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Sunday, 26 January 2020

South Met. under Thomas Livesey


South Met under Thomas Livesey


Things had to change at South Met.  George Livesey, The hero of this story had first entered the world in Islington and was 5 years old when he came to Old Kent Road which were to be his base for the rest of his life. He came because his father had got a job there.

In 1839 South Met. appointed Thomas Livesey as Chief Clerk at the Old Kent Road.  They had advertised, interviewed two people and then got a letter from Thomas Livesey who was then employed at Brick Lane Gas Works.  He took the job, and came with his wife and two children to live in the company house in Canal Grove. He was to be paid £200 a year and get the house rent free. [1]

Things began to change quite quickly. Soon there was also a new Company Chairman. In 1841 George Holgate Foster retired and was succeeded by Thomas Farnconbe. He was a City politician as a member of Common Council and later Alderman for Bassishaw Ward. He was also a leading member of the Worshipful Company of Tallow Chandlers– tallow was then being superseded as a fuel for street lighting by gas, hence the interest.  His business seems to have been concerned with tube brokerage of chemicals – he was also involved with a Cleveland alum works and riverside Farmcombe Street is named for him. He already had a lively political career behind him when he had stood as would be MP for Southwark in 1830 – It was said “Tommy felt his money melt like so much boiling tallow’ while he was described as “Dolly Farncombe - a Tory Quean”.  [2]

Thomas Livesey was not trusted at the start to manage the works - he was a clerk, not an engineer, and remaimed as such.  Eight months later Mr. Kirkham said that he thought the works would be safe in the hands of Mr. Livesey and a foreman and Blakesley resigned.[3]

One of Thomas Livesey‘s first acts was to put South Met on a proper legal footing.  Their parliamentary bill was passed in 1840 and they thus became a statutory gas company.  Around this time Richard Foster also became prominent in the company, a younger member of the foster family and a banker head of Knowles and Foster, a philanthropist he built many churches.[4]

This then was the team, which was to direct South Met for The next 30 years.  As George Livesey grew up and worked with his father in the offices at Old Kent Road, it was their ideas about managing the gasworks – and contributing to society – which influenced him.


[1] South Met. Director’s Minutes, May 1839
[2] Garton
[3] Layton
[4] See Wikipedia Richard Foster (philanthropist)

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