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.
The gasholder or gasometer was a tank used for storage of the gas and maintain even pressure in distribution pipes.
The Gasworks site in Brisbane Australia has been a stalwart of the river’s edge since its development in 1863. By 1890, the Works were supplying gas to Brisbane streets from Toowong to Hamilton (Hackner, D. Ed. (1996) p. 7) and over the next 100 years, it would grow to supply Brisbane city with the latest in gas technology until it was decommissioned in 1996.
In March 1866, the Queensland Defense Force placed an official request for town gas connection, evidence of the vital role the Gasworks played in the economic development of colonial Brisbane (Lambert, J.T 1996. p9). In fact, the Gasworks were considered to be of such importance, that during World War II, genuine fears of attack from Japanese air raids motivated the installation of anti aircraft guns which vigilantly watched over the plant and its employees throughout the war (Lambert, J.T 1996. p10).
The site itself has been synonymous with economic growth and benefit to Brisbane and Queensland with the success of the Gasworks facilitating further development of the Newstead/Teneriffe area to include the James Hardie fibro-cement manufacturing plant, Shell Oil plant, Brisbane Water and Sewerage Depot and even the “Brisbane Gas Company Cookery School” which operated in the 1940’s. In 1954, a carbonizing plant was built, giving Brisbane the “most modern gas producing plant in Australia” (Lambert, J.T 1996. p10), consuming 100 tonnes of coal every eight hours.
During its golden years in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the site also played a vital role in providing employment to Aboriginal Australians and many migrant workers arriving here from Europe after the second World War.
The fine tradition of the Brisbane Gasworks economic and employment-based successes will not be lost nor forgotten with the Teneriffe Gasworks Village Development paying homage to the sites history and integrity in its pending urban development.
The Gasholder structure at this site is set to become a hub of a new property development on the site – keeping the structural integrity of the pig iron structure. It will be a true reflection of urban renewal embracing its industrial past.
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 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.
Gas was used for many years to illuminate the interior of railway carriages. The New South Wales Government Railways manufactured its own oil-gas for this purpose, together with reticulated coal-gas to railway stations and associated infrastructure. Such works were established at the Macdonaldtown Carriage Sheds [also known as the Eveleigh plant], Newcastle, Bathurst, Junee and Werris Creek. These plants followed on from the works of a private supplier which the railway took over in 1884.
Gas was also transported in special travelling gas reservoir wagons from the gasworks to stationary reservoirs located at a number of country stations where carriage reservoirs were replenished.
With the spreading conversion to electric power for lighting buildings and carriages during ther 1920s and 1930s, the railway gasworks were progressively decommissioned.