The Gas Light and Coke Company in Westminster

Gas Light and Coke Company green plaque: Great Peter Street, almost directly opposite the entrance to St Ann’s Street

Officially founded in 1812, the Gas Light and Coke Company were responsible for the first operational works to supply gas for public use. The chief offices were in Horseferry Road, whilst their first gas works was located in Great Peter Street.

As our Ordnance Survey map shows, both these locations are only a stone’s throw from Westminster City Archives (shown as the public baths and wash house on the map).

Map showing location of Horseferry Road offices and Great Peter Street works, 1915. Image property of Westminster City Archives

Map showing location of Horseferry Road offices and Great Peter Street works, 1915. Image property of Westminster City Archives

According to Stirling Everard’s history of the company from 1812-1949, the drive behind the creation of the company began with Frederick Albert Winsor, formerly known as Friedrich Albrecht Winzler; a native of Moravia. Everard describes Winsor as ‘more of a promoter than innovator’, with Winsor advocating use of gas for public lighting in London from 1803.

Frederick Albert Winsor. Image from ‘The Gas Light and Coke Company: An Account of the progress of the Company from its incorporation by Royal Charter in the year 1812 to the present time’ (1912)

Frederick Albert Winsor. Image from ‘The Gas Light and Coke Company: An Account of the progress of the Company from its incorporation by Royal Charter in the year 1812 to the present time’ (1912)

The company first met in July 1807 at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand. After a lengthy process the group obtained a charter from the Prince Regent on behalf of King George III. Granted in 1812, the charter gave the Gas Light and Coke Company powers for 21 years to supply gas in the Cities of London and Westminster and the Borough of Southwark. Unfortunately, Winsor’s input had dwindled and from this point his ‘vague and ill-defined schemes, supported by calculations in which he himself immediately found serious errors’, meant he became more of a hindrance to the company than any practical use. The appointment of the enthusiastic and skilled engineer Samuel Clegg was of much more use to the company.

Samuel Clegg. Image from ‘The Gas Light and Coke Company: An Account of the progress of the Company from its incorporation by Royal Charter in the year 1812 to the present time’ (1912)

Samuel Clegg. Image from ‘The Gas Light and Coke Company: An Account of the progress of the Company from its incorporation by Royal Charter in the year 1812 to the present time’ (1912)

Providence Court on Great Peter Street, although not ideal due to its distance from the river, was deemed by Clegg as a much more suitably sized location than the previously planned site of Cannon Row. With demands for Westminster public lighting increasing, the acquisition and building of the Great Peter Street Works created the first permanent gasworks ever to be erected for public supply. Despite some objections (Clegg had to light the lamps on Westminster Bridge for the first few nights due to the stubborn refusal of the lamp lighters to do so) and other issues, the company declared its first dividend to investors by 1817.

The Great Peter Street gas works brought lighting to Westminster. The growth of the company can be further demonstrated through the number of showrooms and works in London. North Kensington had the Kensal works (shown below) and a showroom just off the Kensington High Street, whose high arched windows can still be seen today – I often wait for a bus outside.

Gas Light and Coke Company - Kensal Green Works 1909. Image property of Westminster City Archives

Gas Light and Coke Company – Kensal Green Works 1909. Image property of Westminster City Archives

The Gas Light and Coke Company continued to reward its shareholders without break for the next 123 years. The gas works at Beckton, which opened in 1870, became the largest in Europe – the company went on to form the basis for North Thames Gas.

Gas Light and Coke Company: Employees' Handbook 1947. Image property of Westminster City Archives   Gas Light and Coke Company - Employees' Benefit and Hospital Society 1937. Image property of Westminster City Archives

Westminster Archives holds historic images of this revolutionary company. Feel free to visit us to delve deeper into the varied businesses of our borough through images, newspaper cuttings, and many more resources.
Please note: although the Gas Light and Coke Company was situated so close to Westminster Archives, the full company records are actually held at the London Metropolitan Archives.

*Keep an eye open for the Gas Light and Coke Company’s ‘GLCC’ on local street gas markers*.


It’s not over ’til it’s over

Back to school list – uniform all sorted, check. School bag all packed, check. Summer Reading Challenge medal to show everyone – hold on, no!!

Summer Reading Challenge 2015: Making musical instruments with Giles at Queen's Park LibraryDon’t worry, there is still time to get your medal for reading 6 books over the summer. The Challenge is not over at the end of August – most libraries are running Record Breakers until 12 September, so you can visit at weekends or after school during the week to collect your medal and complete the Challenge!

As well as children getting their rewards and stickers for reading their books, there have been even more fun events happening in our libraries:

Musician Giles (above) came to Queen’s Park Library to make instruments with children. He brought along materials that he helped children recycle into stringed instruments, drums and even trumpets! It was really great fun.

Actor and storyteller John Kirk toured Paddington, Maida Vale and St John’s Wood libraries to tell his adaptation of Terry Deary’s the Sea Monsters. He told tales of ocean voyages, involving the audiences in singing sea shanties and helping to act out the story. Very entertaining – here he is in action as some of the characters!

John Kirk performs Terry Deary’s 'The Sea Monsters' in Westminster Libraries, August 2015     John Kirk performs Terry Deary’s 'The Sea Monsters' in Westminster Libraries, August 2015


Guide to whoville*

Who's Who 2015What links Carlos Acosta, Gillian Anderson, Damon Albarn and Bianca Jagger?

The answer unfortunately is not that they have all been seen popping into Marylebone Library on the way to dine at the Chiltern Firehouse. In fact they are four of the 869 new entries to be found in the 2015 edition of Who’s Who, having been selected and invited by the publishers to compile their entry for the directory.

Who’s Who can be consulted in the familiar red printed volumes at Westminster Reference Library or Marylebone Information Service. Alternatively make use of your library membership to access it from the 24/7 Library: Who’s Who

This online resource incorporates the entries from Who Was Who to produce a biographical record of over 133,000 individuals starting from the 1897 edition. The Who Was Who entry is simply taken from the individual’s last Who’s Who entry.

Individuals are not confined to residents within the British Isles. Heads of states are included and it was rather a shock to discover the Adolf Hitler entry which included his Bavarian and Berlin addresses should you have wished to send him a letter in 1940.

Unlike the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the entries are purely factual… or more accurately facts that the individual concerned has supplied, such as education, honours, memberships, publications details, hobbies etc. The last category I suspect are sometimes fanciful joke entries.
With the onus upon the individual to supply details there is nothing to stop them from omitting specific details such as the name of their first spouse or perhaps the embarrassing fact that at some point in their life they had served a prison sentence, naming no names Mr Fry. Not surprisingly, Sir Anthony Blunt, the former Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures and Soviet agent did not include that in his CV. His entry and that of the vanished Lord Lucan must be rare examples in which the editors have amended the entries. In the case of Blunt there is reference of his knighthood being cancelled and annulled following his exposure as a Russian spy.

Despite this caveat, Who’s Who is a useful resource to check up on details of a person’s life and achievements. In addition, should you wish to contact an individual the entry usually includes a contact address, even if it usually that of their agent, employer or publisher. You might get a reply as I did. Having found from Who’s Who (pre internet days) his agent’s details, I wrote to the author Terry Pratchett. To my surprise he replied within a month discussing the points I had made in my letter.


* Apologies to Dr Seuss fans for the perhaps unexpected subject of this post. We hope you find it useful anyway :-)


Christina Broom: the first female press photographer

This gallery contains 15 photos.

Originally posted on LBHF Libraries:
Christina Broom lived most of her life in Fulham, from about 1904 until the death of her husband in 1912 at 38 Burnfoot Avenue and then she and her daughter, Winifred, moved to 92 Munster…

Record Breaking Volunteers

Record Breakers logoThe Summer Reading Challenge update this week focuses on the work of our volunteers. With lots of children and families using our libraries to join in Record Breakers over the summer, we have a great team of ‘reading mentors’ who volunteer over the holiday to help us deliver the Challenge.

We have some fabulous helpers who have been talking to children about their books, handing out stickers and rewards and assisting with events. Children have loved taking to them and telling them about their books.

There have been 90 summer volunteers this year across our 10 libraries, so far giving over 950 hours between them. That’s a lot of stickers given out! In turn our volunteers have enjoyed their time with us and have gained some valuable work experience.

Zahra, Summer reading Challenge Volunteer 2015

Pictured is Zahra, one of the summer volunteers at Maida Vale Library, who says:

“It’s a blessing to work with a scheme that helps to maintain and enhance the kids’ reading over the summer, so that when they’re back in school they don’t lose that confidence or excitement in reading… It’s a privilege to help get all involved in the fun, to see the various creative activities happening in the library and to work alongside such a great team. Absolutely recommend everyone to volunteer and to get involved in any way possible, whichever borough you’re in and whenever you can. It’s worth it – lovely people and a lovely initiative!”

A big THANK YOU to all our volunteers!


Comic Club update

There have been two recent special events, as well as the regular meetings:

Breaking into Comics 3. Image: Theo Mabayoje for Industry in the Streets (IITS)

Breaking into Comics vol 3

After two successful editions of Breaking into Comics our third and final volume for 2015 had to be something extra special.

Between Westminster’s Business Information Points, Westminster Reference Library and Marylebone Graphic Novel Club, we were able to gather a panel of industry experts specifically selected for their success at diversifying their skills in graphic novel production to engage new audiences:

  • Lewis Peake is an illustrator and filmmaker based in London who shared his experience both as an illustrator creating film storyboards and visuals as well as film production.
  • Adam Vian – illustrator, animator and Flash Games designer of SFB Games, he is also the man behind the delightful all-ages fantasy Long Lost Lempi.
    Tom Vian – As the programming half of SFB Games, Tom has been making games with the artistic half – his brother Adam – for over 13 years.
  • Nigel Twumasi – founder of Mayamada, a company that blends the best of Looney Tunes, Japanese TV and British streetwear. Nigel shared his experience as a a founding member of a startup developing a brand as both retailers and story-tellers. Mayamada produces their own line of clothing, comic books and even uniquely flavoured chocolate bars all bearing the faces of their own characters.

Comic book fans, budding writers, artists and those interested in creative literature were present to meet them and take part in our presentation and Q&A.

The Essence of Comic Book Storytelling. Image: Theo Mabayoje for Industry in the Streets (IITS)

The Essence of Comic Book Storytelling

Hosted by artist Shangomola Edunjobi and writer Emanuel Adelekun, this interactive workshop was aimed at anyone wanting to improve their written and artistic story telling skills.

Selling out with a week to spare, attendees were keen to see what new skills could be acquired in the art of storytelling and Shango and Manny delivered in full. The session was broken up into two main parts: The first half focused on certain principles and concepts that aided good storytelling, the second half focused on applying these concepts and producing a story that can be further developed.

Shango and Manny worked seamlessly together, and showed the creative processes behind both past and future short-story projects.
Keep an eye out for more workshops coming in the near future.

All above images: Theo Mabayoje for Industry in the Streets (IITS)

DMZThe next Marylebone Library Graphic Novel Club meeting is on Wednesday 2 September, on War in Comics. We’ll be discussing anything from Battlefield Action or Fightin’ Marines to DMZ or MCU’s Civil War.

We’ll also be reviewing previous meeting topics on race in comics, banned comics and as ever, discussions will be varied and relaxed so please join us for a conversation, some snacks and some good reads.



Joint Force Singers set to hit the right notes

JFS logoThanks to generous funding from the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme, Westminster Music Library has recently launched Joint Force Singers – a brand new choir which will unite members of the armed forces who are local to south Westminster with civilians from our resident population.

The inspiration for Joint Force Singers came from our work in Westminster Music Library; for a number of years we have organised a wide variety of musical activities for our residents and local community groups, and musicians from Westminster’s Wellington Barracks are amongst some of our most regular visitors, either borrowing music or performing in our popular free concert series. Joint Force Singers gives us the perfect opportunity to bring everyone together.

It has been well documented that singing in a choir is not only a relaxing and enjoyable activity, but also has great health benefits and promotes long lasting friendships.

Ruairi Glasheen (Joint Force Singers Musical Director) with Westminster's Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Councillor Judith Warner

Ruairi Glasheen (Joint Force Singers Musical Director) with Westminster’s Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Councillor Judith Warner

Westminster Music Library will be working in partnership with Westminster’s Armed Forces and local community organisations to bring people across Westminster together in song, and through their involvement in Joint Force Singers serving personnel and their families will have a unique opportunity to promote the incredible work that they do.

We are encouraging singers of all abilities to get involved, with no audition or specialist music skills needed – Joint Force Singers is about getting together with your community.

Colonel Hugh Bodington (Wellington Barracks) with Westminster's Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Councillor Judith Warner

Colonel Hugh Bodington (Wellington Barracks) with Westminster’s Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Councillor Judith Warner

Joint Force Singers have an exciting year ahead with plans to take part in a number of high profile events at well-known Westminster venues, with a grand finale performance in 2016 at The Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks. Continuing the relationship with the local military community, concerts will be accompanied by musicians from the Corps of Army Music and will feature specially created works based on the music associated with the British military.

Recent choir recruit Rowena Heale is from a family of serving personnel at the barracks:

“I’m really excited about being part of Joint Force Singers; it’s not a “stuffy” choir, it’s all about singing great songs and meeting new people in Westminster.

I think Joint Force Singers will help us build a stronger community; my husband, who serves in the army, agrees that the choir will be an enjoyable and fun activity for those posted to Westminster, and will also help to improve a service person’s life, including their families. Even my 17 year old son has become a member of Joint Force Singers!”

The Choir will number up to 50 adult members. Rehearsals take place on Saturday mornings at Wellington Barracks and are due to commence in early September 2015. There is no cost to join and rehearsal sessions are free, why not “enlist” today?

To find out more or to register, email, or call Westminster Music Library on 020 7641 6200.