Europe's largest gasworks
During most of its history much of Beckton was flat, low-lying marshland. In the 19th century, when the east of London was used to serve the needs of the west, the Gas Light and Coke Company bought 218 hectares (540 acres) in the area. In 1868 they started work on what eventually became Europe's largest gasworks.
|Lighters next to the jetty of Beckton gasworks. © NMM|
|Beckton gasworks under construction in 1869. © NMM|
The works were built to serve the whole of London. This picture shows the part-built works during a visit by members of the Society of Engineers in September 1869. The construction of the gasworks was one of London's largest engineering projects.
|The civil engineers who designed and built Beckton gasworks. © NMM|
To celebrate the building of the works, the whole area around the site was named after Simon Adams Beck, the Governor of the Company.
The actual construction project was under the direction of the civil engineers F. J. Evans, J. Orwell Phillips and V. Wyatt. They are shown here from left to right.
The company decided to build the works just to the west of Barking Creek because it was close to the new docks. The Victoria Dock had opened in 1855 and the Albert Dock in 1880. The huge scale of the plant is evident from this photograph.
|Beckton gasworks. © NMM|
Over the years, the Beckton works continued to grow, with new plant and machinery being added all the time. When fully developed, the works covered an area greater than the City of London!
|The visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1926. © NMM|
This photograph shows a carriage carrying King George V and Queen Mary, arriving at the gasworks in 1926. They were opening a new coal handling plant.
Decline and closure
|The derelict remains of Beckton gasworks, c. 1984. © NMM|
Beckton stopped making coal gas in the late 1960s after the discovery of natural reserves in the North Sea.
This meant that manufactured gas became uneconomical. The Beckton works finally closed in 1967.
Although British Gas had an operational office on the site until the early 1990s, all that remains of the Beckton works today is a grass-covered mound of industrial waste known as the 'Beckton Alps' and one of the old gasometers.
|Beckton Alps in the summer of 2002. © NMM|