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What are gasholders?

Gasholders, also called gasometers, are enormous metal containers that store vast amounts of natural gas at near atmospheric pressure. Initially, gasholders were solid spherical containers supported by sturdy legs. In 1824, a new type of gasholder emerged – the telescopic gas holder. It featured lifts within a steel frame that rose and fell as capacity was reached, allowing gas to flow out through the main pipe based on demand. In 1980, spirally guided gasholders were introduced, eliminating the need for external columns or guide frames. Despite this advancement, they still had a tremendous storage capacity of up to two million cubic feet. As a result, they continued to be widely built across the country in the early 20th century.

Gasholders in the past

During the Victorian era, when industrialization and urban expansion were in full swing, gasometers played a pivotal role. They satisfied the growing energy demand for heating, lighting, and street illumination. Gas played a significant role in shaping our modern cities.

Gasholders today

By the 1980s, the discovery of new sources of natural gas in the North Sea led to improved energy infrastructure and a decline in the use of gasometers. These empty metal structures remained as reminders of the past. In the late 1980s and 1990s, some London gasometers found new, albeit obscure, purposes as venues for underground music scenes and illicit raves. However, this scene was short-lived. In 1999, the National Grid made the decision to permanently remove these massive structures from our skylines, resulting in their demolition.

Since the turn of the century, numerous decommissioned gasholders have vanished from our landscapes, with the land often sold for redevelopment. Some older gasholders, appreciated for their architectural beauty and historical significance, have acquired listed status. These structures serve as reminders of our industrial heritage. Successful projects combine preservation and revitalization. For instance, at King’s Cross, three Grade II Victorian cast-iron gasholders, formerly part of Pancras Gasworks, underwent meticulous dismantling, restoration in Yorkshire, and reassembly to encase 145 newly built luxury apartments. Another Pancras gasholder, no.8, was also dismantled, restored, and reassembled on the canal banks, creating Gasholder Park, featuring a sculpted canopy and circular lawn.

Most gasholders have been dismantled or retired, and the remaining few serve the purpose of balancing gas pressure within pipelines to ensure safety. However, natural gas continues to play a vital role in meeting global energy demands. Especially as the world shifts toward more environmentally friendly energy sources, moving away from coal and fossil fuels.

Looking ahead, Stark Works will continue to be a major exponent of natural gas and aims to provide our expertise, knowledge and accredited services to existing and new customers in the UK for the construction, delivery and installation of new gas infrastructure and primary metering services.

Do you think gasholders should be preserved for posterity, or redeveloped?

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Home » Gasholders: A history