When an iconic gas holder in Bury St Edmunds was dismantled at the start of the year, the last major physical link to the town’s gas works was consigned to memory.
But National Grid have ensured the heritage of the site burns bright like the furnace which once stood there after collating a treasure trove of stories about the gas works.
During a community event last December, residents shared a treasure trove of memories and photographs of the site which have been recorded in a heritage booklet and short film. Together they paint a fascinating historical canvas of the colourful characters and activities at the Tayfen Road site during its operation from 1834 to 1964.
“We had a lodger, an ex-army chappie, who worked part-time at the gas works cleaning cookers with caustic soda,” recalled Peter Dove, a nearby resident to the gas works. “He also had a tattoo, being an army man which he didn’t like. And having access to caustic soda, he decided that one day he would use the caustic soda to ride himself of the tattoo. Well, he spent an awful long time in hospital.”
Terrance John Pettitt, who worked at the gas works, remembered a Frank Stiff, who perspired ‘that much’ he was allowed unofficially to walk across to the back gate of the gas works into Ipswich Street to the Britannia Pub where he would have two or three pints of beer, three or four times during his shift.
The gas works were constructed in 1834 with expansion and reorganisation in 1926. The gas holder which was dismantled this year, was built in 1952 to cope with demand as gas appliances became more popular.
The cost to produce gas through heating coal became too expensive and in 1964 the site closed. The gas holder remained to store imported gas.
Beverly Newman’s father Ron Powell worked for the Bury Gas Board for nearly 46 years and he received an award from Eastern Gas for his ‘highly commendable work’ during the floods in the town in 1968.
“Part of my father’s job was to get into the houses that were affected and turn off the gas supply, and he would tell tales of swimming, because it was the only way as the water was so deep, into the houses, turn off the gas and help the residents to boats or whatever else was required,” she said.
The gas holder has been dismantled to pave the way for development in the Tayfen Road area. For a copy of the booklet, call the National Grid community relations team on 0800 840 2750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org