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Minutes of evidence taken before the Committee to whom the bill to incorporate certain persons for procuring coke, oil, tar, pitch, ammoniacal liquor, essential oil, and inflammable air, from coal; and for other purposes; was committed.
London, 19th May, 1809

This is the earliest parliamentary paper relating to gas-lighting. In 1808, a bill to authorize the incorporation of the National Light & Heat Co, the first public gas company in the world was presented to Parliament.

Following the visionary concept of Frederic Albert Winsor, the company proposed piping gas to customers from central generating stations via radiating gas mains. Its bill was strongly opposed by William Murdoch, who was in the process of establishing a business for Boulton & Watt whereby they would supply individual gas generators for private firms or individuals. Murdoch lodged a petition against the bill, precipitating an enquiry before a House of Commons committee, when evidence was heard from both sides.

Central to the enquiry was the evidence of Frederick Accum, the major spokesman for the National Light & Heat Co. He was grilled unmercifully by Murdoch’s counsel, the brilliant whig barrister, Henry Brougham, later Lord Chancellor. Giving evidence in favour of Murdoch’s system was George Lee of the Lancashire firm of Phillips and Lee, whose house and cotton mills had been provided with gas lighting by Murdoch as early as 1804, the first large-scale application of gas for lighting. Other witnesses included G.B.Bridges who worked for Winsor himself, delivering coke made in his patent stove to a number of japanners and ironmakers, some of whom were also examined, as were Humphrey Davy and James Watt Jnr.

Although Murdoch succeeded in holding up the bill, Winsor’s far-sighted vision nevertheless prevailed, though not until 1812, when the National Light & Heat Co. was finally incorporated in 1812 as the Chartered Gas Light & Coke Co.


Small folio. 62 + (2)pp (incl. docket title). Seemly modern boards.



Catalogue No: 3033