Southall Gas Works
Southall Gas Works is a site of around 83 acres (34 ha) in Southall, west London, formerly occupied by a plant for the manufacture of town gas. Today a much reduced site is used for the pressure reduction and storage of natural gas and the remainder of the site is the subject of planning proposals.
The site is roughly triangular, between a railway, a canal and residential development. It lies along the south bank of the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal, close to its junction with the main line of the canal to the Thames at Brentford. It is on the north side of the Great Western Main Line between Southall and Hayes stations, close to the junction with the branch line which originally ran to Brentford Dock. Across the canal is the recently established Minet Country Park.
The gas works was originally constructed by the Brentford Gas Company, opening in 1869. It was required to meet rapidly increasing demand in Middlesex, which outstripped the capacity of the company's original works on the Thames at Brentford.
The gas works was originally established at the western end of the full site, and progressively expanded to the east over sites originally used for brickyards and chemical works. It initially consisted of a retort house and a 480,000 cubic feet (14,000 m3) gas holder. In 1881 a second retort house was built and in 1885 an ammonium sulphate plant.
In 1878 no. 2 holder was built with a capacity of 1,130,000 cubic feet (32,000 m3). In 1885 a Hurd holder was built with a capacity of 2,100,000 cubic feet (59,000 m3). In 1892 holder no. 4 was erected, to take 3,950,000 cubic feet (112,000 m3) of gas. In 1899 a carburetted water gas (CWG) plant was added with a capacity of 3,000,000 cubic feet (85,000 m3) per day, and in 1903 another retort house with 200 retorts.
In 1926 the Brentford Gas Company was taken over by the Gas Light and Coke Company (GLCC). In the early 1930s a 7,500,000 cubic feet (210,000 m3) waterless holder was constructed. This holder, which is over 300 feet high, remains as a major local landmark.
By 1935 the chemical works had closed and had been replaced by a smaller works further east. Whilst not as large as the GLCC's Beckton Products Works, this made a significant contribution to the Company’s production, particularly of creosote and road tar. The works was situated on the opposite side of London to Beckton, which facilitated the company’s road tar spraying operations on that side of the metropolis. Southall Products Works continued to manufacture ammonium sulphate until 1946.
Following nationalisation of the gas industry in 1949 the plant came under the control of the North Thames Gas Board. Construction of oil gasification plant began and by 1951 up to 300,000 cubic feet (8,500 m3) of gas a day was being produced in this way, primarily at times of peak demand.
In 1953-4 a further 12,000,000 cubic feet (340,000 m3) CWG plant was built on the site of the original retort house from the 1860s, together with tower purifiers.
In the early 1960s coal was replaced as a feedstock by liquid petroleum. The first major oil storage tank, of 544,000 imperial gallons (2,470,000 l), was installed in 1960. In 1963, catalytic reforming plants with a capacity of 60,000,000 cubic feet (1,700,000 m3) per day were installed. Catalytic rich gas plant was installed in 1966 with a capacity of 30,000,000 cubic feet (850,000 m3) per day.
The Products Works ceased distilling tar and was closed down in 1968. With the move to North Sea gas the gas works closed in 1973, leaving gas distribution and storage as the main on site functions. The site passed into the hands of British Gas Plc in 1973 and subsequently to National Grid plc.
At the time of a site survey in connection with the proposed biofuel power station in 2007 three of the site's five gas holders (Nos 3 to 5) remained in use, one (No 1 from the 1860s) was disused and one (No 2 from 1878) had been demolished.
Parts of the site remain in use for gas pressure reduction and storage, and the remainder for parking for Heathrow Airport. In 2010 planning permission was approved by the Mayor of London for a mixed-use development of 3750 homes, leisure, health and education buildings, over-ruling refusal by the local authority. A proposal for a biofuel power station has been turned down.
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