Sydenham Gas Holders

The Sydenham Gas Holders stood at Bell Green between 1882/1890 and their completed demolition in 2020, originally at the gasworks owned by the Crystal Palace District Gas Company, which later became the South Suburban Gas Company. Chaired by Sir George Livesey, the company adopted a pioneering model of profit sharing amongst employees.

The gas holders were located just behind another structure, The Livesey Memorial Hall, a grade 2 listed building constructed in 1911, to commemorate the life of Sir George, after his death. The hall, along with the perimeter wall, was built with bricks manufactured in the gasworks itself, as were the other buildings originally on the site. This was a unique feature of the gasworks, according to a 1932 article in the Gas Journal. For nearly 110 years, the two large gasholders formed the backdrop of the hall, the last connection to the gasworks from which it was created.

In 2017, SGN submitted an application to remove the gas holders and build an Aldi supermarket, which was rejected by the council, due to concerns about further development away from the high street, traffic and pollution. The gas holders were also locally listed by Lewisham Council, around the same time. Aldi simply took over an empty Toys R Us warehouse unit right next to the gas holder site, securing planning approval for a change of use and opening up there instead.

The following year the developers submitted another application to simply remove the gas holders, which the council seemed unwilling or unable to prevent.

Within the initial planning application, was a document containing some background and history of the gas holders and the gasworks. It points out a few facts about the Sydenham gas holders. They were built using T-shaped standards (the vertical supports), which at one point were an innovative new design in gas holders. Earlier examples, were found at Poplar and Hove, but both had been demolished.

The only other example that is regularly mentioned in documentation is the gas holder at Kennington, famous amongst cricket fans attending The Oval, which was built a few years earlier than gas holder 7 at Bell Green (the shorter one). This one was listed a year earlier, in 2016, which worked against the slightly later holders at Sydenham.

However, whilst the standards of Sydenham taper, becoming gradually narrower towards the top, the standards of gas holder 1 at Kennington no longer do so, as the entire holder was enlarged, with straight sections placed between the upper and lower portions. So it tappers, then carries on straight, before continuing the taper on the upper section. Despite this, the long term association with the listed Livesey Hall and the fact that there was a surviving pair of unaltered frames of T-standard holders, Historic England refused to list them and then granted a certificate of immunity from listing. Their fate was sealed.