Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cookham by Coal Gas Light.

Cookham by Coal Gas Light.
There are very few of my generation left living in the village that would remember the village lighting being mainly gas. Electricity in those early years was a luxury that only the more affluent villagers could afford. In the early 1930's I can remember the only village street light was gas and was located at the top of the High Street where the Tarrystone was once placed. Holy Trinity School was all gas lighting. I grew up with gas light and gas cooking with the old 1/- gas meter in the cupboard. Yes even in those days it was pay as you go.
Now where did all this gas come from? In the photo above is the Taplow Gas Works site where all our local gas originated, built in Victorian times it served both Cookham, Maidenhead, Taplow and Burnham to my recollection. The Gas Office was in Maidenhead opposite the Bear Hotel next to Norman Greville the photographer.
Every three months or so Len Fenner from Black Butts who use to work for the Gas Company would come along and empty the gas meter coin box, read the meter and count the shillings, he would calculate gas used and replace money for gas that had not been used. Also based on the consumption my mother would also collect a rebate from the amount used. During the winter months water use to get into the gas lines and the result would be that our gaslight would flicker. My father would inform the office in Maidenhead and Len Fenner would bring a stirrup pump and remove the water from the line up by the road close to the bridge over the Widbrook stream

Very often when I use to accompany my father to the shop at 95 High Street in Maidenhead on a Saturday morning around first light one could see the glow of the retorts being opened at the end of a gas making cycle. Quite often my father would ask me to go to the Taplow Gasworks and by a couple of gallons of creosote, with which he use to paint all his wood outbuildings and chicken houses. We bought it for 6d a gallon.
I am not sure the routing of the gas lines from Taplow to the two Gasometers or referred to by some as gasholders. I have no idea when they were erected, but my guess would be in the late 1800's. The design was universal right throughout the country. I remember seeing quite a number of these as you passed by in the train to Paddington at Southall.

Now with the structures removed the village is left with two sour ground areas, which I am sure will contain quite a large trace of coal gas elements. A Hawker Hart biplane almost hit one as it crash landed in the Alfred Major field. The story of which I have told already.

Here today is the gateway that is all that is left of the entrance into the old site off Whyte Ladyes Lane. For how many years this brown area will remain dormant is pure speculation and cost to render the site safe to build on. Something like the cost involved to clear up the asbestos problem at the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital at Cliveden.

No comments: