Gaythorn Gas Works

This site, beside the railway viaduct and adjacent to Medlock Street, was used for more than 100 years for the production of gas.  In 1825 The Provincial Portable Gas Company of London constructed a works for the production of gas that was compressed into copper cylinders for distribution to its customers. In 1837 the company was bought out by a Mr. James Fernley, and with the purchase of the plant came the right to supply gas throughout Chorlton-upon-Medlock.  Fernley converted the plant from one selling gas in cylinders to a conventional gas works.  Fernley sold his interest in the Gaythorn Gas Works in 1937 to the Manchester Gas Directors. 

The map below shows the site in the 1840s.

Gas production continued until 1929, by which time the plant was regarded as "out dated" and an alternative site was created in Partington.  The Gaythorn site was converted into a gas distribution point with a number of storage gasometers.  (shown in the aerial photograph at the top of the page)

During the years in which this was a gas works, it is estimated that 6,601,252 tons of coal were carbonised to produce 70,604 million cubic feet of gas.

As you might imagine, when the gas works were finally closed and demolished the site required significant remediation before it was suitable for redevelopment. Areas of concern were: five infilled gas-holders; two tar wells and contaminated deposits in the River Medlock.  In all 60,000m3 of soil were excavated and material contaminated with bitumen and asbestos was disposed of off-site. After the soil levels were stabilized, a 60mm site wide cover was constructed.

Apparently, at some point there were some suggestions that the site might be home to the new BBC studios in the city but as we now know they went to the Salford Quays. The site was used initially for parking but later a building was erected for the British Council which they occupied in 1992. They stayed for about 3 years. In 1997 BT leased the building but they have also moved on and in the 2010 Manchester City Council relocated 1,400 members of their staff into the building, as a temporary measure while the Town Hall Extension is being refurbished. The old Gaythorn Gasworks site is the location for a masterplan that will see this gateway into the city centre transformed into a complex of mixed-use buildings around what is now known as First Street. As of January 2013 that plan appears to be on hold.  Below are three images of the site today.

About the only evidence that the gas works ever existed is the information display tucked away in the viaduct arches at the edge of the site.