A Secret Garden In Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works

Standing proud (if a little unloved) in Bromley-by-Bow are seven gasometers of the former Gas Works.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

You can see them from a good distance away, but I recently stumbled across a nearby secret garden; far less conspicuous, but an absolute delight!

Staying Local

During the national lockdown I’ve been enjoying exploring my local area, venturing off the beaten track in the hope of finding some historic gems.

On nice days a walk along Bow Creek and the Lea Valley is lovely, but last week I decided to have a closer look at the gas holders.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

Bromley Gas Works

Built between 1870-73, the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company occupied a huge area of land on Bow Creek.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

All that’s left now are seven gasometers (of the original eight) but from the maps below you can see the scale of their site, previously 65 hectares.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

Section of the Charles Booth Poverty Map (1886-1903) from layersoflondon.org. You can see the circles of the gasometers and then the expanse of the plant below.

And the site today, home to a business park.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

Current satellite view from Google Maps. You can still see the circular gas holders and the green space where the garden can be found is just below them. The rest of the area is now Prologis Business Park.

But back to the gas holders, the cast-iron framed gas holders were designed by Joseph Clark and engineered by Thomas Kirkham.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

A few years later these works were bought by the (confusingly similarly named) Gas Light and Coke Company who absorbed many smaller ones and are the descendants of today’s British Gas.

Gas continued to be produced here until the 1960s and today the gasometers still store natural gas.

The Memorial Garden

Beyond the gasometers is a small section of woodland and if you do go along a short path you’re in for a surprise.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

A recreational garden opened in 1897 for the staff of the gas works but in the mid-20th century a memorial garden was erected to remember the workers who had died in two World Wars.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

There’s an attractive little columned rotunda with lovely details.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden
Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden
Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

In the centre it contains a stone-backed memorial names of employees who died during The First and Second World War.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

Beside it there’s a further memorial listing the “comrades in these works who during the great war laid down their lives”. I thought this might refer to employees who were killed while at work.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

Although this memorial refers to the First World War, the gasometers were a key target for the Luftwaffe and suffered a hit on 15 September 1940 during the Second World War. One gas holder was completely destroyed.

On the far right is one of the largest gas lamps I’ve ever seen.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

It’s continuously burning which I found quite poignant.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

There’s also a statue of Sir Corbet Woodhall (1841-1916). He was an engineer and Governor of the Gas Light and Coke Company. The statue was previously at the Beckton Gasworks and moved here when they closed.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

According to Pevsner in London 5: East there were planned improvements in 2004 for Eger Architects with Ove Arup to design a ‘daring’ Woodlands Community Resource Centre. Nothing seems to have happened.

The only other historic reminders can be found a short walk away, one brick building rubbing shoulders with the fulfilment centres and depots.

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

From the map below it looks like the building reached by paths below;

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

Section of the OS Map (1893-96) from layersoflondon.org

A helpful Facebook user informed me this was the former control office and used to house the London Gas Museum. The museum closed in the late 1990s, merging its collection with the Leicester Gas Museum.

The building is currently for sale as an office with accommodation above – and a roof terrace! Find out more here.

Outside on the floor is what I assumed to be the Company’s initials, but I may be wrong, any guesses?

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

Today this little garden can very easily be overlooked. It just goes to show there’s history to be found everywhere, even in the most desolute-looking industrial estates!

Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works Garden

More London Inspiration

19 Comments

  • John

    Reply

    I eagerly await your blog each week. It’s excellent for this one-time Londoner (b. Acton 1936). Could have done with more pics of the steel of the gas holders. You should get yourself a drone, Katie. It’s a fascinating addition for a keen photographer.

    May 13, 2020 at 7:14 am
    • Jean Lumb

      Reply

      Thank you for enlightening us about this structure Katie. We often pondered about it on our way past on our narrowboat. Always intrigued by the hidden gardens and history you unveil of this fabulous city.

      May 15, 2020 at 4:43 am
  • Loving these Katie! Helps with the pining-for-London pangs I’m constantly getting. Waaah! 😩

    Keep yourself safe M’Dear

    May 13, 2020 at 8:04 am
  • chris savory

    Reply

    i was born in devons rd- never knew this existed.

    katie you might want to examine’barmy park’ off fairfied rd bow-fascinating pice of victorian history.

    May 13, 2020 at 8:06 am
  • Hannah Jameison

    Reply

    Thank you so much foe this Katie! I’ve seen many pictures of the gasworks but this garden is remarkable! At that building in the middle of all the modern ones is delightful ! Keep Safe and thank you again x

    May 13, 2020 at 10:13 am
  • Patricia Wilkey

    Reply

    Thank you Katie, I love these little surprise chunks of history.
    Pat

    May 13, 2020 at 10:15 am
  • Dawn charlton

    Reply

    Thank you Katie for once again giving us interesting information. Although I am in lockdown you bring these places to us. Keep up the good work

    May 13, 2020 at 3:22 pm
  • Wendy Johnson

    Reply

    I love this! I’m always looking for hidden/secret gardens and will definitely find this one sometime.

    May 13, 2020 at 5:03 pm
  • Adrian Butters

    Reply

    Yes, interesting about gasometers in London. Does anyone ( of a certain age 😌) remember the old gasometers just outside St Pancras station ? One of the first big structures visable when coming into London (apart from GPO tower)

    May 13, 2020 at 5:05 pm
  • Brenda Muston

    Reply

    Hi. Katie.
    As a child I lived in Kensal Rise. There was a gas works in Kensal Green. This was next to the canal and next to that was the famous Kensal Green Cemetery. Also nearby was the railway line, which ran into Willesden Junction station
    These were targets for the bombers during the war. If you go to the back wall of the cemetery, you will find a lot of damaged graves where bombs aiming for the works or the Juction hit the graves. My dad worked in the gasworks there during the war. They were never sure what they were going to find in the mornings after a raid. To put it neck it wasn’t very pleasant.

    May 13, 2020 at 7:25 pm
  • Georgia Coalso

    Reply

    This hidden gem is stunning. What a find and thank you for sharing. Makes me want to hop a plane!

    Georgia

    May 14, 2020 at 1:44 am
  • Phillip Hanton

    Reply

    Dear Katie
    Thankyou fro sharing this with us I found it fascinating and hope to go and take a look sometime.
    Philip

    May 14, 2020 at 10:56 am
  • Patrick Keep

    Reply

    Yes. You can see them in one of the cop shows of the time too.

    May 17, 2020 at 8:46 pm
  • Stephen Barker

    Reply

    Fascinating blog. The gasholders look like they could do with a lick of paint. Saying that I did wonder whether they and the ironwork in the garden were originally multi-coloured rather than being painted one colour as they are now. On the OS map you reproduced to show the location of the brick building, I noticed nearby a long narrow building with cross hatching, do you happen to know if that was a greenhouse or frames for use by the gardeners of the staff garden.

    June 15, 2020 at 12:19 pm

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