History of the Gasworks

The gasworks and railway in the 1920s courtesy of English heritage aerofilms

The St Albans gas works were set up in 1826, more than 30 years before the coming of the railway. Until the coming of the railway, coal had to be transported into the city on barges along the canal from Boxmoor and then by horse and cart. The gasworks were built on a strip of land in the middle of two parcels of land called Woad Mead. By the beginning of the twentieth century the gas works occupied a very large site with some very substantial industrial buildings, railway sidings, cranes and gasometers running alongside the railway and behind a short row of cottages on Holywell Hill. This is roughly where Sainsbury’s and the Abbey View Retail Park are today. The proximity of the railway meant that coal could easily be transported to the gasworks for processing into gas as well as coke and creosote.

The works closed in 1971 and the buildings were blown up on November 5th 1975. For years the land was considered to be contaminated and not used. Eventually it was considered safe enough to build the retail park. Two gasometers remained until 2014, when they were dismantled. The land is now occupied by a retail park (B&Q, ALDI etc).


  1. Julian Randall

    Most interesting to hear about the gas works. As young boys, mother often used to take us to visit relatives in St Julians Road. We quickly became fascinated with the gas works and also the signal box mentioned. We befriended the signalman and spent many happy times in the signal box, eventually given permission to give / receive the single line token from passsing trains. Very exciting! Another fascination was the locomotive(s) owned by the gas works. They were very elusive and I think we saw activity from this engine only once. There was a small engine shed alongside the line, outside the perimeter of the gas works. Does anyone remember this locomotive? I shall be most interested to have comments / memories from local residents

    • Bill

      I was an apprentice fitter there in 1960, I remember working on the loco, in that loco shed, with my fitter, Bill Brunston!

  2. Michael Knee

    I think my father worked here in the late 60’s – I don’t suppose anyone knows which company ran the gas works?

  3. Diane Fitton

    My late husband’s ancestor, Henry Pearson’ occupation in the 1900 US Census (61 Elizabeth Street VT Franklin County, St. Albans City), is listed as RR fireman.

    In the 1910 census St Albans Ward 6 Franklin, VT, Henry’s occupation is listed as gas worker.
    I want to learn more about what each of those jobs entailed. Did he change jobs for more pay? What was a typical work day?

    My goal is to share this with my teenage grandchildren, to instill a sense of appreciation, and, yes, respect for how hard their ancestors worked.


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