This is a follow-on blog post from the previous one about the Netherton lamp post.
Wrigley Mills, Netherton, also known as Cocking Steps Mill, had had its own gas supply as early as the 1850s and discussions had begun by December 1852 amongst some of the wealthier inhabitants of Netherton with Messrs. John Wrigley & Sons for the mill to share its supply with the village.1 Unlike natural gas today, the mill would have most likely created its own gas supply by burning coal.
The intention was to form a company, issue shares and then use the money to lay mains from the mill up to the village. The gas would then be sold for a higher price to end customers than the company was paying the Wrigleys in order to recoup the costs and to hopefully pay an annual dividend.
The shareholders met again on the evening of 14 March 1853 to discuss the planned route of the gas main up the hill to the village.2 At a meeting a week later at the Rose and Crown Inn, they examined several estimates for the laying of the pipes and they selected that of Mr. Boothroyd, a plumber of glazier of Lockwood.
This was presumably 29-year-old Joseph Boothroyd (born Fartown) of Buxton Road, Lockwood, listed in the 1851 Census as a “master plumber and glazier employing 2 labourers”. He had married Elizabeth Thompson on 14 December 1845 at the parish church in Huddersfield and they had at least 7 children.
The work was scheduled to be completed by 1 September, which was a significant date, as the shareholders had already agreed the supply terms with the mill. From the first day of September until the very last day of April, the Wrigleys would supply gas to the village at a cost 4s. 3d. per thousand cubic feet.
By September 1853, the Huddersfield Chronicle was able to report:3
The Gas Works.
These works have now been completed, and pnt into operation, and the inhabitants of Netherton are rejoicing in the light which has been happily shed upon them. The gas is of good quality, and most, if not all, the principal innkeepers, grocers, and other public dealers, as well as many principal families have gas in their rooms, and have their burning apparatus in the first style of the day. We are informed that a subscription is on foot to have one or more gas lamps in the streets for the use of the public.
A further report appeared in the Huddersfield Chronicle (12/Nov/1853):
The Gas Company.
The public-spirited gentlemen in this little village have now enlightened the place outwardly as well as inwardly. Gas lamps are being put up at the corners of the streets, in front of some of the inns and the larger shops, and again at the entrance gates to gentlemen’s houses. Thus the inhabitants will have no difficulty in going to any part of the village in the night time, and many accidents will be thereby prevented.
The first year evidently went well, as the Chronicle (16/Sep/1854) reported gave an update the following year:
The first annual meeting of the Netherton gas company was held on Wednesday night, at the Rose and Crown Inn, and the result of the year has richly rewarded the shareholders, and shows that their enterprising spirit has been appreciated. James Wrigley, Esq., occupied the chair, sad the report of the secretary, Mr. Samuel Pontefract, showed that the affairs of the company are in a very prosperous position. In the first year’s operations of such an undertakings the expenditure was, of course, heavier than may be anticipated in future years. Near ten per cent interest was declared, and the shareholders were paid seven and a half per cent on their shares, and the residue was left to meet future incidental expenses. The report gave great satisfaction, and after a vote of thanks to the worthy chairman the meeting closed.
This success caused other villages to consider setting up a similar scheme, and the Chronicle (04/Nov/1854) reported that a second meeting had taken place at the Town Hall in Honley, chaired by Mr. Joseph Midwood, for the purpose of “forming a gas company”.
The gas supply for Huddersfield was supplied the town’s Gas Works and, in November 1860, it was announced that the company was to be dissolved in order to form a new company (the Huddersfield Gas Company) which would supply the town centre as well as many of the outlying districts.
In mid-June 1884, the Netherton Gas Company found themselves on the wrong side of the law when Sergeant Shuttleworth and Police Constable Chapman, who were patrolling Netherton at night, nearly fell into a trench that had been dug by the side of the road by Joseph Taylor for the purposes of laying new gas pipes. Taylor had requested that the company provide a warning light but “was told that there was no necessity for one”. Hopefully the company covered Taylor’s fine of £1 and 6s. 6d. costs!
At some point, a separate South Crosland Gas Company was established, although this seems to have been an offshoot of the Netherton Gas Company.
Before long, most of the villages surrounding Huddersfield had their own gas supply companies, which led to a wide variation in prices being charged. The supplies could also be temperamental and in December 1872, the supply to Meltham was cut off, leaving the village in darkness. Several of the local mills were running overtime shifts that evening but they had to be closed and the staff sent home in the dark.4
Further newspaper references to the Netherton Gas Company are summarised below and are from the Huddersfield Chronicle unless specified (the dates given are those of the article):
- 10/Mar/1893 — At a meeting of the South Crosland Local Board, assurances were given that the gas company would, in future, ensure that the Board’s surveyor was notified in advance of any road works. It was also noted that the company was unable to reduce the price of the gas used for public lamps in the village.
- 24/Jun/1893 — A public meeting was held at the Netherton Liberal Club to consider “the advisability of asking the Huddersfield Corporation to bring the gas to Netherton”, as the price of the gas supplied by the Netherton Gas Company was nearly double that paid by those in Huddersfield. A small committee was elected to progress this matter.
- 21/Jul/1893 — A meeting was held by the ratepayers of South Crosland and Netherton at the Oddfellows’ Hall in Netherton to discuss the pricing of the gas supply. The price of gas in neighbouring areas was read out: 2s. 9d. in Huddersfield, 3s. 4d. in Meltham, 3s. 9d. in Honley, Slaithwaite and Linthwaite, 5s. 10d. in Netherton and 6s. 6d. in South Crosland. John Radcliffe5, of the Netherton Gas Company, attended and stated that the rumours of the company’s profit margins were much exaggerated and had never been more than 10 percent per annum. The meeting ended with the proposition (which was carried by a large majority) that “we request the Huddersfield Corporation to treat with the Netherton Gas Company, with a view to the purchase of their plant”.
- 21/Dec/1893 — The Huddersfield County Borough Council meeting discussed a letter sent by the Netherton Gas Company asking if the Corporation would be willing to “take over the pipes and apparatus put down by the company”. The Corporation agreed that it would be willing to “meet the company in a fair and amicable spirit, and to take over such of the pipes and apparatus as might be found to be of use” to them.
- 08/Mar/1894 — The South Crosland Local Board reported that the Huddersfield Corporation Gasworks had written to the Board to inform them that they would be digging up the road to inspect the gas mains which belonged to the Netherton Gas Company and that they would also be laying new gas mains to the area.
- 17/May/1894 — Following the inspection of the Netherton Gas Company’s mains, it was reported to the Huddersfield County Borough Council that leaks were found that would amount to around 500,000 feet per annum and they entire mains would need to be dug up to locate and repair the leaks.
- 19/Jul/1894 — The Huddersfield County Borough Council considered a request by the Netherton Gas Company that they purchase the existing mains for £300. It was agreed to offer the company £266 instead.
- 16/Aug/1894 — It was reported that provisional terms had been agreed for the takeover of the Netherton Gas Company’s mains.
- Leeds Times (22/Sep/1894) — At the meeting of the Huddersfield County Borough Council it was reported that the mains had been purchased for £266 and the Huddersfield Gas Works was now supplying the area. Over 200 applications for the new gas supply had been received from the “inhabitants of Netherton”.
And with that, the 41 year history of the Netherton Gas Company came to an end!