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History

In the beginning.

Find out about the Geology of Haltwhistle Burn here....

Riches from the earth.

Discover Haltwhistle’s long history of mining for coal here...

Threads of History.

Unravel the tangled history of the woollen industry of Haltwhistle  here...

Tiles, Bricks and Pipes

Discover Haltwhistle’s  history of  brick and pipe making here...

The Gasworks

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The Gas Works stood beside Haltwhistle Burn for over a hundred years, from its construction in the 1850s until the conversion of the town to natural gas in the 1960s.

 “The Haltwhistle Gas Light Company Limited” began with a capital of £1,800 raised in £5 shares and lit the town for the first time on 2nd January 1852. The works were enlarged in 1881 by the addition of a new holder. The gas sold at 4s.2d. per 1,000 cubic feet and each lighting jet was said to be equal in illuminating power to 17 ½ candles (the incandescent mantle was not yet invented – imagine having a naked gas jet the equivalent of 17 candle flames in your room!).

This artists impression by Vic Fleming was created from a photograph and maps of period. It  shows the retort house to the right, the gas manager’s house on the left. with the South Tyne Colliery roley way in the foreground. It represents the likely appearance of the gasworks circa 1900.

 

Coal would have been brought from the South Tyne pit and shovelled by hand into the retorts - iron ovens in which the coal could be heated. The gas which was driven off by the heat would have been stored in the gasholder, the large gas tank visible in the picture beside the manager’s house. It rested on water, trapping the gas and pressurizing it before it was pumped down into the town. Tar, another product of the process, was run off into barrels and sold for road making. Vic’s picture shows barrels of tar ready for sale standing beside the retort house. Once all the volatile materials were driven off, the residue, coke, could be raked out and used to heat the retorts or sold as a domestic fuel.

By the start of the 20th century the town’s increased need for gas required the construction of a new retort house and larger storage facilities.

 

 

Vic has drawn the new retort house from a contemporary plan which shows a very elaborate brick building.

This retort house stood until Haltwhistle’ gas supply  was converted to natural gas in the 1960s.

 

 

 

 

If you would like to visit the site of the Old Gasworks, go down Mill Lane and walk up-stream along the path parallel to the Burn. The two surviving buildings are the manager’s house and, beside it, the small yellow-brick pump house.

 

 

 

Old Gasworks Artist's recreation
New Retort House artist's recreation
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Mulsters, Sute and Soken

Haltwhistle’s corn mills.

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