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King's Cross gasometer

The skeleton of a gasholder

Goods Way

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A relic of an industrial past
The skeleton of a gasholder

The cage from a cluster of gas holders is all that now remains to remind us of the days when London's streets and homes were lit by gas. Standing behind St Pancras station it towers over the Camley Street nature park. Though made of cast iron the uprights have the form of classical columns.

A technological miracle
In the nineteenth century street and domestic lighting were provided by gas made from coal.
King's Cross gasometer from barrierAt the start of the century visitors to London were astonished by the brightness of gas lighting in the streets. Not until 1820 was gas in common use to light most busy side streets.
By the 1860s more gas holders were needed as gas became widely used in homes in London. The Gas, Light and Coke Company built this set of gasholders between 1879 and 1881 replacing an earlier group built by the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company in the 1860s.
The tank inside each cage rose and fell to even out the uneven supply of fuel from the gas works and to respond to the varying demand for gas.
Making way for a new railway
The gasholders behind St Pancras were still in use as recently as 1999 as a reservoir for natural gas from the North Sea. Now most of them have been dismantled to make way for the regeneration of the Kings Cross area and the arrival of the high-speed channel tunnel rail link.

Submitted by: Andrew Hunt, 23 March 2002

See the entry about the Beckton Alps for more about the manufacture and use of gas from coal.

See also: Fuels and energy

Project sponsors:

City sponsors:
ASE London Region
Nuffiled Curriculum Centre