The Society’s last meeting before Christmas was an illustrated talk by Mick Hills who gave a very interesting and “illuminating” talk – “Not Just a Load of Gas” – on the history of gas lighting and production in Herne Bay.
He explained that he had had access to the complete collection of handwritten ledgers and books held at Kent Archives Maidstone of the Herne Bay Gas Company which started its operations in 1853 . He explained the background to early research on the production of coal gas which was intially purely for lighting of streets for better personal safety purposes and with the advent of the Industrial Revolution intended to extend the working hours in factories.
The Gas Light and Coke company was formed in London in 1812 and was granted a Charter by Act of Parliament. Initially there were 2 Gas Works in London in 1814 and by 1829 there were 200. By mid 19th century most towns over 10,000 population had their own privately owned gas companies. In 1853 the Herne Bay Gas Company, based in Salts Lane (now Kings Road opposite Beach House) managed by William Morley Staers produced enough gas for 30 lights – except for five nights around the New moon!
The proximity of coal from the newly opened Kent coal mines the nearest being Chislet was useful but much coal from the Northern mines was brought down by ship transport and off-loaded at the beach opposite the clock tower. In 1878 a new retort was built and in 1883 they purchased Beach House for £300 and built a new gasholder.
By 1900 Herne Bay Gas & Coke Company had 919 consumers and there were 177 public lamps installed in the town. In October 1910 a new Gas Works site was built at Sea Street together with its own railway siding and a new holder was erected. In 1948 the Gas industry was nationalised and in 1957 the Sea Street retorts were closed and all production was taken over by the Dover works. The western end of this site including Georgina Cottages was sold off in 1961 and is now occupied by factory units.
The Christmas Fair in the Central Bandstand proved a very successful venue to sell copies of the Society’s 2012 Calendar and publicise future activities and thanks to all who helped with this.
The Society would also like to pay tribute to Dr Tony Bendry who passed away suddenly in November 2012.
Tony joined the Herne Bay Historical Records Society and became a Trustee of the Society following the resignation of Elgar Bennett in 2010. In addition to being a Trustee, ‘Tone’ (as he liked to be called) also undertook the important roles of both Treasurer and Membership Secretary. He played a major part in redrafting the Society’s Constitution to conform to the Charities Commission’s requirements and was also largely instrumental in resurrecting Society trips to local venues of historical interest such as Godinton House (Ashford) and Belmont House (Faversham) in recent years.
In addition to his interest in local history, Tony also participated in such diverse pastimes as bowling and hand-bell ringing. He was also a great family man and liked nothing better than being surrounded by his children and grandchildren and preparing barbecues for them at any opportunity – a culinary achievement at which he excelled. We shall all miss his enthusiastic and practical down-to-earth approach in dealing with the Society’s affairs and send our sincere condolences to his widow Libby and his family.
The Society has appointed Mrs Colleen Ashwin-Kean Committee Member as a Trustee and Acting Treasurer and Phil Rose Society Secretary has agreed to take on the Membership Secretary’s role for the time being.
Our next meeting will be on Thursday February 7th when Mike Bundock Society’s Honorary Curator and Archivist will be giving the Annual Harold Gough Memorial Lecture entitled “Wish You Were Here” when he will be exploring the publicising of holidays in” Healthy Herne Bay” over past decades. We meet at United Church Hall High Street Herne Bay starting at 7pm.- doors open from 6.30pm. Raffle and Refreshments are available.Visitors very welcome £2 Members free. For any more information ring 01227 362666.