Maldon Archive
Keeping the Past Alive

        Maldon by Gas Light  (1897 - 1971)               

Maldon’s gas street lighting originally consisted of only three lamps one outside what is now Boots the chemist, one outside of the Holy Trinity Church (All Saint’s Church) and one outside the police station in West Square.  All ran on town gas from further down the High Street, where it was produced. Other lamps appeared over time, but it was a hit and miss affair with some roads having one or two and some having none at all. With the introduction of North Sea gas Maldon’s street light was converted to electricity between 1969 and 1971. 

Some people may remember the bluey green fibreglass street lights placed in side streets and roads with main roads having a pre-cast concrete posts before the galvanised steel ones we have today. Early lighting fuels consisted of olive oil, beeswax, fish oil, whale oil, sesame oil, nut oil, and similar substances. These were the most commonly used fuels until the late 18th century. Chinese records dating back 1700 years note the use of natural gas in the home for light and heat via bamboo pipes to the dwellings. The first public street lighting with gas was demonstrated in Pall Mall, London on 28th January 1807 by Frederick Albert Winsor. 

 In 1812, Parliament granted a charter to the London and Westminster Gas Light and Coke Company, and the first gas company in the world came into being. Less than two years later, on 31st December 1813, the Westminster Bridge was lit by gas. As artificial lighting became more common, desire grew for it to become readily available to the public. This was in part because towns became much safer places to travel around after gas lamps were installed in the streets, reducing crime rates. 

In 1809 accordingly, the first application was made to Parliament to incorporate a company in order to accelerate the process, but failed to pass. In 1810, however, the application was renewed by the same parties, and though some opposition was encountered and considerable expense incurred, the bill passed, but not without great alterations; and the London and Westminster Chartered Gas-Light and Coke Company was established.  

The first place, outside of London in England to have gas lighting, was Preston, Lancashire in 1825, this was due to the Preston Gaslight Company run by revolutionary Joseph Dunn, who found the most improved way of brighter gas lighting.