Victorian London - Lighting - Gas 


    At a meeting of the principal thieves in the vicinity of Kensington, a discussion arose on the loss the fraternity must sustain by the introduction of gas on the road they had been in the habit of frequenting. It was, however, suggested in the course of the proceedings that the new arrangement would not materially injure the trade, as a field was still open to them on the other side of Hammersmith Gate, where the road was still unlighted, and to which point it was unanimously resolved to emigrate. We have no doubt that a report of some of the proceedings consequent on this determination will soon be found in the metropolis.

Punch, Jan.-Jun. 1845

LIGHTING OF THE STREETS. The first street in London lighted with gas was Pall Mall in 1807, and the last street lighted with oil was Grosvenor-square in 1842.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

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Gas.—The names of the London Gas Companies, with the addresses of their chief offices, are as follows: 
The Gas Light and Coke Company, Horseferry-road, S.W.
The London, 26, Southampton-street, Strand.
The South Metropolitan, 589, Old Kent-road.
The Phoenix, 70, Bankside.
The Commercial, Harford-st, Stepney.
The gas delivered by the various companies is of such an illuminating power, that when consumed at the ordinary pressure, at the rate of 5 cubic feet per hour in a No.1 Sugg’s Standard Argand burner, it gives a light equal to 15 sperm candles. The definition of a “candle” is the light given by a pure sperm candle, consuming 120 grains of sperm per hour. The price charged for gas varies from 3s. to 3s. 6d. per 1,000 cubic feet.
THE SERVICE PIPE is the pipe which conducts gas from the company’s main in the street to the consumer’s meter. It is generally laid to just within the precincts of the consumer’s premises, and maintained at the Company’s expense When a new service pipe, or an alteration in the size of an existing one is required, notice must be sent to the gas company’s office, stating the number of gas burners for lighting, gas stoves for cooking, and gas fires for heating it is proposed to use. On taking possession of a house the service pipe is generally found disconnected and capped off in the area. Before making use of it notice must be sent to the gas company, who then send their inspector with a printed form of contract for signature; and this contract is to the effect that the consumer will hold himself responsible for all gas consumed on the premises, and will permit access to the meter by any one of their authorised servants at all reasonable hours.
When an outgoing tenant quits a house leaving a quarter’s gas unpaid, the company cannot make the incoming tenant responsible for such default, or refuse on this account to supply him with gas.
When a stoppage occurs in the service-pipe from the deposit of napthalin, by writing to the gas company’s office men are sent to remove it without any charge being made to the consumer.
THE GAS METER.—In all dwelling houses it is better to employ a “dry” than a “wet’ meter, and better to rent it from the gas company, who will be responsible for its proper working and maintenance, than to buy one. When a 5-light meter is spoken of, it means a meter of sufficient capacity to supply gas for 5 argand burners, each consuming, say from 6 to 8 cubic feet per hour, so that a 5-light meter will be quite sufficient for 8 or 9 ordinary fish-tail burners. The idea that the gas company can force the meter round, or in any way influence its registration in an improper way, is absurd.
Under the “Sale of Gas Acts,” gas consumers have the privilege of having their meters tested should their correctness be doubted at the offices of the Metropolitan Board of Works. These offices are for the northern and eastern divisions at White Lion-street, Shoreditch; for south eastern division at Castle-street, Southwark; and for western division, St. Ann-street, Westminster.
The charge for testing meters is as follows: 1 to 5 light meter inclusive, 6d. each; 10 to 40 light meter inclusive, 1s. each; 50 to 60 light meter inclusive, 2s. each; 80 to 100 light meter inclusive, 3s. each, and so on. Should the Gas Company be proved to be in the wrong they have to pay the expense of testing, which otherwise falls on the consumer.
Gas pipes laid throughout a building should in all cases be of wrought iron and painted with two coats of oil paint. No pipe less than ½ inch internal bore should be permitted. To burn gas as supplied in London economically, the rule is large pipes and low pressure. 
The pressure of gas to a house is best regulated by a wet governor —it is an exceedingly simple, durable, and efficient instrument. The mercurial governor is objectionable owing to the contracted gas ways, and the liability of the mercury to get into and destroy the meter. There are innumerable patent regulators, but none work better than the wet governor.
GAS BURNERS.—The argand and fishtail burners, made by Sugg, of Westminster, and supplied by all respectable gasfitters, are on questionably the best. It is often supposed that if a good fishtail or flat flame burner is employed, it burns equally well whatever shape of globe be used; this is not the case, the best form of globe is spherical, with a large opening, say 3 ¼  in. at the bottom, and 3 ½  in. at thc top. Melon or pine shaped globes are bad, saucer shaped are still worse. For reception and bedrooms the opal Christiania shade or globe, with a No: 4 or 5 flat flame stentite burner, gives the best and most agreeable result with the least consumption of gas. The Bronner burner is economical, but must not he used in places exposed to much draught. For basement offices the No. 4 flat flame burner will answer every purpose. The constant complaint of consumers about the “bad gas” either means that the supply of gas is deficient or that it is improperly consumed: with deficient supply it must rest either with the gas company, whose service pipe may be stopped, or with the consumer, whose fittings may be choked up or too small: in the case of bad burners the remedy is an easy one. The comparison on the same chandelier of a No. 5 flat flame burner with 7 ½ .in. Christiania shade, will at once show whether the old burners and globes are or are not of the right kind. And when a good, burner and globe are obtained it is necessary to keep them free from dust, by using a soft duster for the former, and by washing the latter twice a week. It should always be remembered that what the consumer wants and pays for is so much light rather than so many cubic feet of gas. And while the quality of the gas supplied in London does not appreciably vary, it is only by using the best burners, fitted in the best and most intelligent manner that satisfactory results can be obtained. 

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

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GAS.-The names of the London Gas Companies, with their addresses, are as follows- 
    GAS-LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY (THE).-Chief offices, Horseferry-rd Westminster, S.W., and district branches at the following addresses
    146, Goswell-rd, E.C.
    182 and 184, Edgware-rd.
    72, Stoke Newington-rd, N.
    129 to 133, Mare-st, Hackney, N.E.
    59 and 61, Kensington High-st, W.
    5A, 7 and 9, Camden-rd, NW.
    195, High-rd, Kilburn, N.W. 
    16 and 18, High-st, Harlesden, NW.
    18, Tidal Basin-rd, Victoria-docks, E.
    COMMERCIAL GAS COMPANY, Harford-st, Stepney, E.
    .....  The use of incandescent mantles with special burners has become so general that the question of their advantages is scarcely necessary to be mentioned. There is no doubt that their invention has checked the progress of the electric light as a domestic means of illumination. The new inverted lights seem now to be gradually but surely taking the place of all others, and Blauds Patent to be a very brilliant illuminator in that form. The gas cooker has undoubtedly come to stay (at least until, in this age of inventions, some other brand new-discovery steps in to upset it). Its advantages in the ordinary middle-class home as a time-saver and as a quick preparer of meals are quite recognised nowadays. It saves dirt and fires, too, in the summer time. The gas companies are trying to induce the use of a combined stove for the kitchen to give heat as well as being used for cooking, and the time seems to be coming when the builders, instead of putting in the ordinary kitchen range, will be called upon to place the gas range instead. One thing to cause this is that either in the fixing or construction of the flue or something else, the coal range oven does not get heat enough for cooking, or the bath water will not get hot. Whether gas fires in the living rooms are likely to come into general use is perhaps doubtful, the expense being an important question; but for occasional use in rooms little used or bedrooms in winter time they unquestionably have their advantages.

Charles Dickens Jr. et al, Dickens Dictionary of London, c.1908 edition
(no date; based on internal evidence)

... the yellow gas-lamps peering through the low-lying, foggy air ... 

Mrs. J.E. Panton, Leaves from a Life, 1908