architecture and construction photography

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Holders

The Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company was established in 1821. Between 1870 to 1873, the company developed what was to be their largest gasworks on a 170 acre site on Bow Creek, off the River Lea in East London. Nine were built, with seven surviving to this day (no.3 and 5 were demolished) and all are grade 2 listed by Historic England.

Gasholders No 1 and No 2 were completed in 1872, and Gasholder No 3 also built at about that time; these were all designed by Joseph Clark and Thomas Kirkham.

Gasholders No 4 and No 5 were completed in 1877 with the gasholder bells ‘constructed on the girder principle’ pioneered by the engineer Vitruvius Wyatt at a new gasworks at Redheugh, Tyne and Wear.

Gasholders No 6 and No 7 were built in 1879 to 1882, and Gasholders No 8 and No 9 were built in 1880 to 1882. The gasholder tanks of Nos 6, 7, 8, and 9 are thought to have been built of mass concrete faced with brickwork and with walls buttressed on the inside under arcades, following railway practice and as used by Wyatt at Beckton.

All the guide frames other than No 1 have only two tiers of columns, as originally built. They have lost the separately-cast cornices from their upper tier of columns (removed subsequent to listing). In 1925 to 1927, Gasholder No 1 (and the now demolished No 3) was raised in height by adding a third tier and diagonal-bracing to the guide frame and, unusually, spiral-guided flying lifts to the gas bell. This increased capacity from two to five million cubic feet.

During the Second World War, the gasworks suffered damage due to a bombing raid on 15 September 1940, which subsequently resulted in the dismantling of one gasholder.

The Bromley-by-Bow gasworks closed in 1976 but the gasholders continued to be used for gas storage and were listed at Grade II in 1984 before later being decommissioned of gas. They are now thought to be the largest group of Victorian gasholders in Britain, and probably the world.

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