All change at town’s historic gas works

Warwick’s old gas works at Saltisford hit the headlines recently when Waterloo Housing submitted plans for houses and flats on the site.

Now Warwick district councillor Elizabeth Higgins, whose ward includes the gas works site, has submitted this aerial photograph of the gas works in the 1930s.

Cllr Higgins said the original gas holders (the octagonal brick buildings on the left of the photo) are Grade II listed. The exisiting building they are part of has been used as offices but will now be converted into flats for rent. The ‘affordable’ houses at the back will be on the site of the former fire station.

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She said: “The original octagonal gas holders which had a stone base are rare in Britain. In a 19th century explosion the stone shattered so they were replaced for safety reasons. Health and safety applied then too!

“The replacement gas holders (in the picture) had no stone around them. The gas works closed in late 20th century. Does anyone remember when?”

The gas works, one of the oldest and best preserved in the world, was built in 1822 next to the Saltisford Canal Basin. Coal was transported to the works along the canal.

Expansion of the gas works took place by 1851. By 1900 three large gasometers had been built, but by the late 20th century only the early octagonal gas holders remained.

The works made town gas from coal. Apart from serving Warwick, the works ‘exported’ gas to Leamington to light the town and in 1823 the Warwick Gas Company erected 18 lamps along Union Parade, supplied from their Saltisford works by a three-mile main along the Myton and Old Warwick roads.

In 1830 the oil lamps in Leamington’s parish church, were replaced by 19 gas lamps. A few year later Leamington got its own gas works on Tachbrook Road, providing gas to light the town from 1835.

Warwick residents have fond meories of the gas works.

In her Memories of Warwick, June Rees of Hampton Magna describes trips to the gas works as a child: “In winter we used to go across to the gas works across the common top get coke for our fires. We would take wooden trucks that our dads had made, prams, pushchairs, anything that we could carry coke in. If we were late for school we would say: ‘Sorry Miss, we had to go to the coke house,’ and she understood.”

Linda Barnes of Woodloes Park, Warwick, remembers going to the gasworks during the Big Freeze of 1963. She said: “My sledge doubled up as a carrier, going to the gasworks on Birmingham Road to buy coke.