The cut throat world of the Victorian Gas providers.

June 1, 2020 4:13 pm

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Before it was nationalised, and then privatised again, British Gas started off as a limited corporation. Set up by Arthur Windsor and called the Gas light and Coke Company they promised to provide light and heat to everyone who could afford it. They were yet to add a Gas Meter box like those available from https://www.meterbox.co.uk/gas-meter-boxes until later. There were some concerns at the time. It was understood that Gas could be flammable and explosive. Therefore, if it was going to be piped into homes and then burnt to give light it would need to be well controlled.

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Windsor dismissed this as nonsense. He argued that if the gas escaped into a room even if you walked into it with a lit candle it wouldn’t explode as the gas will have mixed with the air in the room already present. He also said that natural gas was good for the lungs.

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The Victorian era was one of the first to see real competition. As soon as other corporations saw there was money in Gaslight they began to offer the same services. Unfortunately this led to price wars and a drop in the installation service quality. It was not uncommon for rival companies to damage a competitor’s pipes. As a result a lot of shoddy work was done. Fires and sudden explosions were not uncommon at the time.