William Sugg & Co

The first experiment of the public use of gas lights in 1807.

This is a transcript of the account of the first experiment of the public use of gas lighting for which William Sugg stated his grandfather Thomas Sugg had “made the first gas pipes and fitted Carlton House”. It also explains in the second paragraph the difference in the date of 21st January 1807 stated by William and the ‘official’ ‘first public exhibition’ date of 4th June 1807 to coincide with the birthday of His Majesty George III. It details the pipe sizes and lengths and describes the burners and lights and ‘transparencies’ including the ‘ode’ to the King! The account is written as a letter to be published in the Monthly Magazine.

On Thursday evening the 4th of June 1807, the first public exhibition of Mr Winsor’s Gas Lights took place in honour of his Majesty’s birth day, in the lighting of a great length of lamps, similar to the side of a street, at a considerable distance from the carbonizing furnace. This experiment was made on the wall which separates the Mall in St James’s Park from Carlton House Gardens.

The works had been for some time in preparation, and private trials had previously been made, to prove the air-tightness of the tubes of communication: which were of tinned iron, with soldered joints, except at certain distances where they are otherwise cemented together for the convenience of removal. The diameter of the long pipe is 1.1/2”; it commences in the two close carbonizing iron furnaces in Mr Winsor’s house in Pall Mall, one capable of containing and cokeing four pecks, and the other two pecks of common pit or sea coal; and by means of stop cocks, one or both of these furnaces can be made to send its gas into the pipes above mentioned; which first proceed south, about ten yards underground, until they enter the Prince of Wale’s Gardens belonging to Carlton house.

From hence the pipe proceeds W. for about one hundred and forty yards, rising gradually against the garden wall, to which it is affixed, until it arrives at the NW. corners of the garden; whence it is conducted one hundred and fifty-three yards S., on the top of the wall which separates the Prince’s from Marlborough-house Garden, to the door at the SW. corner of Carlton Gardens. Here the first light or illumination was produced by a thin and broad stream of gas from a small tube or branch from the pipe; which gave a very brilliant light in the open air without a glass cover.

From this point the communicating pipe proceeded along the top of the wall for two hundred and fifty yards in an east direction, to the private door in the wall opening into the Mall, having on it thirty-two tubes or burners, inclosed in glasses of different shapes and constructions, and some naked burners without glass covers. On one of the piers of this private door a four branch gas burner with reflectors, in imitation of the Prince’s feathers had a very pleasing and appropriate effect. From this private door, the tube proceeded fifty yards further, withinside of the wall, to the back gates of Carlton Gardens, and there terminated in a grand transparency erected over the gate-way, consisting on one side of a number of cut-glass stars and other devices, with gas-lights behind each, besetting the crown and letters G.R. The transparency after a while was turned round and exhibited on the other side in illuminated letters, the following ode:

Sing praise to that power celestial,
Whom wisdom and goodness adorn!
On this Day – in regions terrestrial,
Great George, our lov’d Sov’reign was born.
Rejoice,- rejoice, ‘tis George’s natal day.

Oh, hail this glad Day so propitious,
When George our dread Monarch appear’d,
Remembrance to Briton’s delicious,
Of a King, as a parent rever’d.
Rejoice, &c.

Vouchsafe, then, ye pow’rs celestial
Long health to a life so endear’d;
The greatest of blessings terrestrial
God send to our King so rever’d!
Rejoice, &c.

The inflammable gas, which is quite transparent or invisible, began to flow in the pipes soon after 8 o’clock, and a lamp-lighter, or person with a small wax taper (the evening being quite serene), appeared and lighted the gas issuing from each burner in succession: some time after, a very large burner or assemblage of small streams of gas was lighted on the top of the transparency, which was not however illuminated for a long time afterwards.

The light produced by these gas lamps, was clear, bright, and colourless, and from the success of this considerable experiment, in point of the number of lights, the distance and length of pipe, hopes may at length be entertained, that this long-talked of mode of lighting our streets may at length be realised. The Mall continued crowded with spectators until near twelve o’clock, and they seemed much amused and delighted by this novel exhibition.
Yours, &c.

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Site Background & Header

The background to the site is a modern picture of Westminster, the ‘home’ of William Sugg for so many years. It was taken from the roof of The House of Lords during a visit by the Heritage Group of CIBSE in 2004 and centres on Westminster Abbey. The header carries a woodcut of ‘Vincent Works’, the Sugg factory, which might well have been visible from this vantage point. William used this on one of his letter heads. The first and oldest logo also shows the intimate connection with Westminster as it carries the Westminster portcullis with the inscription ‘en avant’ – ‘in advance’. The second logo replaced the earlier one around 1920 and was used right the way through the century until the ‘modern’ era when the ‘flame’ logo was applied to the new era of gas heating equipment with the new factory in Crawley.

2 Responses

  1. hi Mr Sugg I stumbeled across your web site and was surpriced that is there so much interest in gas light in U K I have an Ascot gas water heater which I like to use for efficiency and economy but do not if it works . I want to use L P G
    Please can you help me locate a company in the U k that manufacture gas lamps for indoors , and help me to get Ascot water heater in working order .
    Respctfully Yours Frank galea

    1. Hello Frank. Of course it is a specialist interest but gas street lighting continued much later than often thought and there are still many places with some gas lighting. In London there are some 1500 gas lamps but many people do not recognise them. The lamps round Buckingham Palace and along the front of the House of Lords are typical of two important buildings but there are gas lamps in many Royal Parks and they are still used in some street lighting situations such as in Malvern. I have sent you an email as I am concerned about the dangers of Ascot water heaters especially on LPG and this is not something to play about with.

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