Stafford Road Gas Works

The location of the works.


The Wolverhampton Gas Light Company built Wolverhampton’s first gas works at Horseley Fields. It opened on 17th September, 1821 to supply gas for street lighting. A description of the works can be found in Part 5.


Read about Horseley Fields Gas Works


Within a few years more street lights were added, as the gas supply was extended to outlying areas. Houses and factories were also lit by gas, and by 1849 pipes had been laid in Penn Road and Tettenhall Road.

In the late 1840s Horseley Fields works struggled to cope with the rising demand, and so a piece of land was acquired for the building of a new, larger, gas works in Stafford Road, along the western side of the canal.

In 1849 when the new gas works was built, the canal played an essential role. Coal arrived by narrow boat, and by-products such as coal gas tar were transported by narrow boats to local manufacturers such as Midland Tar Distillers Limited at Monmore Green, already covered in Part 1.

Read about Midland Tar Distillers Ltd.
In the mid 1860s Wolverhampton Corporation decided to purchase the gas company, but the asking price was far too high. In the early 1860s John Annan from Perth, became second engineer to Mr. Proud at the Stafford Road works. When Proud resigned in June 1864, Annan became Chief Engineer and Manager, and economised the production of gas. As a result Wolverhampton became the lowest gas-rated town in Britain.

Mr. Annan was elected to the Town Council as one of the representatives of St. Mark's Ward in November 1883 and was Mayor of Wolverhampton from 1884 to 1885.

In 1869 the Corporation came into conflict with the gas company. Councillor R. Sidney informed the council that he understood that the gas company had been using some of its profits to extend Stafford Road works. According to the Act of Parliament the company could only distribute a 10 percent dividend amongst the shareholders, and must have a reserve fund of £5,000.

Mr. John Annan, J.P. in his mayoral robes.

After this, the balance of the profits had to go towards reducing charges to the customers. As the Corporation was the largest customer, it thought that it should be charged less. The company’s directors challenged the Corporation to prove its claims. The Act of Parliament under which the gas company operated, stated that any case of dispute between the company and its customers should be referred to the Court of Quarter Sessions at Stafford. Their decision on the matter would be final.

The case came up for hearing, and the verdict was that although there were irregularities in the keeping of the accounts, the Corporation had failed in its contention. The gas company was ordered to deduct income tax from any future dividend paid to its shareholders, and to keep the accounts in better form. At the next meeting of the Town Council the committee reported that the cost of the appeal to the Quarter Sessions was £215 and the result would be a gain for the Corporation. The directors of the gas company were very disappointed at the result.

Several balloon flights began at the gas works, the most famous taking place on 5th September 1862 when Glaisher and Coxwell reached an altitude of 37,000 feet, around 7 miles. A world record at the time.

Read about Glaisher and Coxwell's flight
In 1880 a new gas showroom was built in Darlington Street, on the corner of Waterloo Road. It remained in use until 1938 when it was replaced by the building that is there today.
The new showroom, designed by local architects Lavender and Twentyman opened in 1940 and became known as Clock Chambers. It survives today as a shop and offices, and is locally listed.

The gas showroom and offices.

In 1900 Stafford Road gas works was extended along the opposite side of the canal, and Horseley Fields gas works closed. The new gas works had its own canal basin in between locks 14 and 15. The gas works also had its own railway system and industrial locomotives, with a direct link to the main lines of the London & North Western Railway, and the Great Western Railway. Both sides of the works were linked by a small bridge between locks 14 and 15 which carried the internal railway over the canal.

In the early 1900s the directors were A. B. Hanbury Sparrow (chairman), J. W. Tilley (vice chairman), Sam Loveridge, Sir G. H. Holcroft, L. T. Smith, and A. Jones. The engineer and manager was P. G. Winstanley;  A. G. Williams was company secretary.

A view of the gas works from the canal. The bridge on the  right is the railway bridge that linked both halves of the site. Courtesy of the late Alex Chatwin.

By 1938 the company supplied 1,250,000,000 cubic feet of gas to 46,000 clients, including a large number of local factories.

The Wolverhampton Gas Company survived until nationalisation on 1st May, 1949 when it became part of the West Midlands Gas Board, serving Wolverhampton, Tettenhall, Wednesfield, Codsall, Lower Penn, and Wrottesley. 

Another view of the gas works.

An advert from 1938.

An advert from 1936.


An advert from 1938.

An advert from 1930.


An advert from 1942.

An advert from 1951.

Stafford Road Works continued in use until 1967.

The late 1960s saw a great change in the industry due to the conversion from town gas to natural gas, which enabled gas users to comply with the 1956 Clean Air Act.

In 1966 the decision was taken to convert the whole of the United Kingdom from town gas to natural gas, and in 1967 the first natural gas arrived from the North Sea.

The area covered by the former gas works has now been redeveloped after years of dereliction, and a large-scale clean-up and decontamination of the site.

The eastern side is now occupied by Wolverhampton Science Park, and the western side is an industrial estate.

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