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It's 1892, and the future's bright for gas lighting

Updated Thursday, 26 January 2017
The new electric lighting will never be more than a luxury product, stockholders in the Gas Light & Coke Company are reassured at the company's 1892 meeting.

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Plaque remembering the Gas Light & Coke Company's gasworks

The half-yearly meeting of this company [the Gas Light & Coke Company] was held yesterday at their offices in Horseferry Road, Westminster, under the presidency of Colonel Makins, MP. The report of the directors showed a net profit of £206,876, and recommended a dividend of 12 per cent.


If it had not been for the heavy fall in the price of coke and residuals it would not have been necessary to raise the price of gas at all, and he was sorry to say that, so far as the directors could see, there did not appear to be any prospect of an immediate revival in the coke and residual market.

But otherwise their prospects were good. They might hope for cheaper coal; and the increase in their business  was steady, and was going on at the usual average of the past twelve years.

During the last twelve years the average increase was 3.43 and for the past year it was 3.76.

As to the question of electric light, the directors had gone very carefully into the effect of it upon the consumption of gas, and he proceeded to give the results.

The most important electric lighting district was the Bond Street quadrilateral - Bond Street, Regent Street, Oxford Street, Piccadilly, Pall Mall and the Strand. The gas rental of that district for 1889 was £77,679, when the electric light was more than beginning.

In 1890 it fell to £74,947 and last year it was £73,538.

These figures were taken upon the low prices of gas, and they showed that the company had lost in that district, where there was more electric lighting than in any place in the world, just £4000 in three years; while the increase of rental in the company's district last year alone was £92,000.

As the the distribution of the electric light, there were 2600 consumers who used it, and of these 2151 were in the western district.

These facts proved as conclusively as figures could prove that the electric light was light of luxury used by people who did not much care about the cost.

The 2600 consumers who used the electric light were less than 1 and one quarter per cent of the company's customers.

The company's increase in meters for the September quarter of 1891 over that of 1890 was 3490, so that they had more new consumers in one quarter than there were electric light consumers in the whole of their district.

There was plenty of room both for the gas company and the electric lighting companies. He thought the gas company's outlook was satisfactory.

Originally published by the Liverpool Mercury, Saturday, February 6, 1892

What happened next?

Although - clearly - gas lighting was rapidly made obsolete by the rise of electricity as a domestic product, the company adpated its business and continued trading until 1949. It was then nationalised, and became part of the North Thames Gas Board and, eventually, part of British Gas.


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