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This is a historical article. For current information see Syngas.

  A Gasworks or Gas house is a factory for the manufacture of gas. Coal gas (known in the USA as Town gas) was introduced to Great Britain in the 1790s as an Illuminating gas by the Scottish inventor William Murdoch.

Early gasworks were usually located beside a river or canal so that coal could be brought in by barge. Transport was later shifted to railways and many gasworks had internal railway systems with their own locomotives.

Early gasworks were built for factories in the Industrial Revolution from about 1805 as a light source and for industrial processes requiring gas, and for lighting in country houses from about 1845.



A gasworks was divided into several sections for the production, purification and storage of gas.

Retort house

This contained the retorts in which coal was heated to generate the gas. The crude gas passed on to the condenser. The residue left in the retort was coke.


This consisted of a bank of air-cooled pipes over a water-filled sump. Its purpose was to remove tar from the gas.


A tower, packed with coke, down which water was trickled. This removed ammonia and ammonium compounds.


This removed hydrogen sulphide from the gas by passing it over trays containing moist ferric oxide. The gas then passed on to the gasholder.


The gasholder or gasometer was a tank used for storage of the gas and maintain even pressure in distribution pipes.


The by-products of gas-making, such as coke, coal tar, ammonia and sulphur had many uses. For details, see coal gas.

British gasworks today

Coal gas is no longer made in the UK but many gasworks sites are still used for storage and metering of natural gas and some of the old gasometers are still in use. Fakenham gasworks dating from 1846 is the only complete, non-operational gasworks remaining in England. Other examples exist at Biggar in Scotland and Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland.

Gasworks in popular culture

Gasworks were noted for their foul smell and generally located in the poorest areas of metropolitan areas. Cultural remnants of gasworks include many streets named Gas Street or Gas Avenue and groups or gangs known as Gas House Gang, such as the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Gasworks". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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