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Gasworkers produced gas that was used to light homes, streets and businesses.

Gasworkers' emblemGas was produced by burning coal in a furnace connected to long cylinders called retorts. The gas given off by the coal was then collected and moved to condensing vessels to create gas.

In early gas works the furnaces were stoked by hand, but in the later 19th Century this process was mechanized. The temperature by the furnaces would be very hot at about 43°C.

There were many different jobs at a gas works including:
  • Firemen - tended to the furnaces
  • Stokers - added coal to the furnaces
  • Wheeler - carried the coal to the furnaces by barrow
  • Pipe cleaners - kept the pipes clear
  • Bricklayers, joiners and smiths - rebuilt retorts and machinery

Gas was needed more in the winter, so many of the unskilled workers at the gas works had to find different jobs in the summer such as agricultural work, mill sawing or working in brickfields.

For more information about gasworkers' unions, click here


Resources about gas workers in the library collection

Return of rates of wages paid by local authorities and private companies to police, and to workpeople employed on roads, etc., and at gas and water works, with report thereon (1892) - Shelfmark: X16

John Garrard, The great Salford gas scandal of 1887 (1987) - Shelfmark: AG Salford Box 2

Fabian Society, The municipalisation of the gas supply (1893) - Shelfmark: J18/5