Murdochs HouseMurdoch‘s Cottage
Redruth Cornwall
MemorialBoulton & Murdoch Memorial

The Pioneers of the Gas Industry

While a number of people had experimented with lighting using the vapours produced from heating coal, the key date for the start of the gas industry is 1792 when William Murdoch (1754-1839) lit his house at Redruth, Cornwall with gas.

He was employed by Boulton & Watt as their resident engineer in Cornwall. In 1796 Murdoch returned to the Soho Foundry at Birmingham to develop gas lighting commercially. In 1801 Samuel Clegg (1781-1861) became Murdoch's assistant.

The first commercial plants were installed in 1805. Clegg, who had left Boulton & Watt, erected a plant at the cotton mill of Henry Lodge in Hebden Bridge which commenced operation two weeks before that erected by Murdoch at Phillips & Lee's mill in Salford. Over the next few years Murdoch and Clegg installed individual gas plants at industrial and commercial premises.

Fredrick Albert Winsor (1763-1830) had witnessed gas lighting experiments by Philippe Lebon (d 1804) in Paris and in 1804 gave lectures on gas lighting at the Lyceum Theatre. More a promoter than innovator Winsor, with demonstrations of gas lighting in Pall Mall and Carlton House Terrace in 1807, tried to promote a national company to produce gas at central stations and pipe the gas to the user.

Murdoch opposed this; he was concerned with supplying individual gas plants. After one failed attempt, an Act to form the Gas Light and Coke Company was obtained in 1810.

By 1812, the required capital had been raised and the first gas company in the world commenced operations.