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The Gas Light and Coke Company that morphed into the Home Office

gas lightOn the wall of the Home Office on the Great Peter Street side, just round the corner from the Adam Smith Institute, is a plaque marking the site of the Gas Light and Coke Company which once operated a plant there providing gas to light some of London’s streets.  It started making gas in 1813, using coal brought in via Millbank to make coal gas and coke.  It was the world’s first public gas works and must have made Westminster stink to high heaven! Over the course of its lifetime the company took over or amalgamated with many smaller gas companies. When electricity became available for lighting the company rapidly advanced into providing gas for domestic cooking, sending round “lady demonstrators” to show households the merits of cooking with gas. During both world wars many of the company’s coal ships were sunk by mines, submarines or enemy aircraft. In 1949 the company was incorporated into the nationalized UK gas industry, later privatized into British Gas. A vestige of it remains in the few gas street lights still operating in the Great College Street area. I have seen episodes of Sherlock Holmes being filmed there for the gaslit atmosphere, with chestnut sellers conveniently concealing the parking meters. And the site itself, stretching between Great Peter Street and Horseferry Road, is now mostly the Home Office.

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