William Stears, a gas engineer from Leeds, was instrumental in bringing gas to the area. Although he first addressed a meeting in the town in 1839 which enthusiastically accepted the idea, Thornbury Gas Company was not set up until 1855. The principle adviser at the beginning was Ebenezer Breillat son of the famous John Breillat who introduced gas to Bristol. Click here to read about the introduction of gas
There was a meeting in the town to discuss the possibility of introducing gas and it was an occasion when feelings ran high. A poem about this meeting and its possible consequences was written by Sophia Lovegrove. Read the poem
Thornbury only ever had about 26 public gas lamps in the streets, although in the early days churches and private individuals had them both inside and outside some of the buildings. Click here to read about the gas lamps
Later the use of gas became more widespread in the town. The gas was manufactured at the Gas Works in Gas Works Lane which is now known as Park Road. Click here to read about the gas works and its various managers
The street lighting had to be suspended during the First World War. We have seen a letter dated 20th Dec 1920 which authorises the Company to light and maintain 25 gas lamps in Thornbury. This was to bring back lighting which had been restricted to maintain coal stocks.
Edmund Cullimore acquired interest in the Thornbury Gas Company and his son-in-law, Francis Henry Grace, became Secretary for the Thornbury Gas Light and Coke Company. When the demand for gas expanded and a new showroom was required, Edmund provided a suitable site in St John’s Street. Local builders, Walter William Pitcher & Sons, submitted plans for the building of a showroom on this site in 1932. A photograph of the showroom appears above. Read about this site in St John Street
The level of the supply of gas caused complaints from the beginning. There is a record of the United Reformed Church complaining in 1886. We have heard that the dissatisfaction continued and in the 1930s the demand for gas on Sundays was rather more than the Gas Works could cope with and Sunday lunches in Thornbury were often rather late.
The Bristol Mercury of January 5th 1881 highlights another problem with gas. It reports how two employees of W H Councell the grocer in the High Street were overcome by the fumes of gas in their lodging, which was owned by a Mr Carter. The two men were identified as Mr Little and Mr Spey. Apparently they were found insensible outside their door, trying to escape from the fumes and had to be revived by the doctor, Mr Salmon. Rather oddly, the article says that the gas pipe had burst during the night.
By 1944, according to “The Bristol Gas Industry” by Harold Nab, the clerk to the parish council was moved to write to Bristol Gas Company. He complained about the inadequate gas supply to Thornbury and asked whether the company would extend its service to the town. It was agreed that the company would consider it. The Dursley Gazette of January 20th in the following year reports the problem at length. In the article the Thornbury Gas Company defended its poor reputation; “we should like to point out that very often the trouble is owing to the consumer having too small pipes from our meter to their apparatus.” The statement points out that they have laid a large new main from the church to the top of Gloucester Road with a smaller main to the Council School. The Council decided to take no further action until a further report from Bristol Gas Company was received.
In February 17th 1945 Thornbury Parish Council had further negotiations with Bristol Gas Company in the hopes that the situation could be improved. Bristol Gas Company and the Thornbury Gas Company seemed unable to come to any agreement. The Council again felt unable to take further action. This might have been because at least one Council member was a director of the Thornbury Gas Company and because the Thornbury Gas Company was a cheap option. The situation might have continued indefinitely and the Sunday lunches in Thornbury would have taken even longer to cook, but National events resolved the problem. In the King’s speech of 1947 it was indicated that gas would be brought into public ownership.