THE HAYLING ISLAND GAS COMPANY by John Horne (National Gas Museum)

In late Victorian times it was generally assumed that Hayling Island was about to become an important suburb of Portsmouth. The narrow but fast-flowing entrance to Langstone Harbour would, it was supposed, be bridged and land values on the Island would rise. There was speculation in land and a branch railway was constructed from Havant to Hayling, opening in 1867.

A gas company might well pay good dividends in a growth area such as this, but sadly the growth did not continue. The local population stood at about 2,500 when the Hayling Island Gas Company was formed in November 1876 but by 1884 it had fallen to 2,000, remaining at near that level until the 1930’s. For many years, therefore, the Hayling Island gasworks supplied a modest semi-rural community which enjoyed an influx of summer visitors.

Unfortunately, the early years of the Hayling Island Gas Company are not well documented and the Company’s minute book has not been found. The business started with a fairly high authorised capital, £5,000 in shares of £5 each (1). Directories (2) record a W.Brocklehurst as the original manager but by 1884 he had been replaced by Mr.H.R.Trigg as both owner and manager, so perhaps the original company failed.

The demand for gas grew very slowly and apparently suffered a setback in 1881 for in December that year the local Lighting Committee advertised for sale:-

“10 Iron Columns and 2 Brackets, with Lanterns and Gas-burners complete, as erected in the Parish of South Hayling, Hants. TENDERS required for same, to include the cost of removal”.

Since a community of this size probably needed only a few dozen public lamps at most, it seems possible that public lighting by gas had either been discontinued or much reduced, a serious matter for a small gas works.

Harry Richard Trigg was also in the coal trade and by 1899 was selling a thousand tons per annum. In that year he made 1.5 million cubic feet of gas to supply his 75 customers. Trigg was still running the whole business himself in 1894 but by 1899 he had handed over the day-to-day work to his son, Harry Frederick Trigg. Gas sales were growing slowly when H.R.Trigg died in 1903. The business was sold at auction by his executors.

A new ‘Hayling Island Gas Company Limited’ took over in 1904 and a Minute Book survives to record the progress of this company from June 1904 to November 1936 when the company was wound up, following the sale of its assets to the Portsmouth and Gosport Gas Company.

Despite an almost static permanent population, outsiders had recognised that the Hayling gas business was capable of expansion, while the retail coal business was an attraction in itself. It was not unusual for coal merchants and shippers to take a financial stake in gas undertakings. The supply of coal at good rates was an important part in the success of any gasworks in those days, while the tonnage processed by the gasworks would help to improve the economics of the business overall. So it was Portsmouth businessmen, already active in the coal trade, who registered the new Gas Company on 21st May 1904. One of their number, Abraham L.Emanuel of Southsea, had successfully bid £1,800 for the gas works, cottage and mains when the executors of H.R.Trigg put them up for auction at the Victoria Hall, South Hayling, the previous October. Emanuel conveyed the works to the new company on 7 July 1904, by which time he was Company Chairman.

The original allotment of £1 shares, from a total authorised capital of £3,000 was:

Abraham L.Emanuel, of St.Edward’s
Road, Southsea, Chairman 493 shares

Rudolph D.Woolmer White of Portsmouth, 500 shares

John E.Pink of 7,Hampshire Terrace,
Portsmouth, Director. 500 shares

C.B.Orme Clarke 375 shares
J.W.Neil 250 shares
F.H.Pilley 250 shares
A.J.Neil 125 shares

The first secretary of the new company was Mr G.F.Preston. The new company immediately began to improve and extend the gas making plant. A substantial price reduction was made, from six shillings per thousand cubic feet to five shillings with effect from 29th September 1904.

In November 1904 the Directors wisely decided to apply for a Provisional Order to protect their growing investment. The greatest advantage of such an Order was that it gave them the right to open the roads to lay mains, rather than being at the mercy of the Highway Authority. An Extra-Ordinary General Meeting was held at the company’s Registered Office at 7, Hampshire Terrace, Portsmouth on 11th November 1904 to give the necessary authority, when it was also decided to apply for an increase in capital to £6,000.

Three Local Authorities were effected by the proposed Order and all lodged objections with the Board of Trade. The objections of the Highway Authority, the Havant Rural District Council, were met without difficulty but the South Hayling Parish Council decided at a special meeting that they wanted 16 candle power gas with a maximum price of five shillings per thousand cubic feet, instead of 12 candles and six shillings as proposed. At North Hayling a special parish meeting was particularly hostile to the proposals. A Mr.Kelly who chaired the meeting failed to obtain a seconder for his resolution in favour of approving the Draft Order. Mr.Kepplewhite thereupon proposed another resolution – “That we do not want the gas, nor approve of the Order, and do not wish our roads torn up to lay the main”. This was carried, the only dissentient being the Chairman!

The Board of Trade had the power to disregard such objections and the Gas Company now called upon the Board to do so. The Board accordingly held an enquiry at their London Office and invited all concerned to attend; only Havant RDC (The Highway Authority) and the Gas Company turned up, so the Inspector went through the written submissions from the two Parish Councils and decided in favour of the promoters, granting the statutory powers asked for and reporting the matter to Parliament as required by the Gas and Waterworks Facilities Act 1870. The ‘Hayling Island Gas Order 1905’ became law on 4th August that year.

As the business grew there was an increase in the length of mains from 5 miles in 1904 to about 7 miles in 1909  (3). The number of customers rose from 80 to 130 in the same period, growing to 213 by December 1914. The annual make of about 1.5 million cubic feet when the new company took over rose to 2.3 in 1909 and 4.3 in 1914. Although their Order prescribed 14 candle power gas, the company in fact supplied 16, while the price to ordinary customers was kept down to 5 shillings well into the 1914-18 war. Slot customers paid more, as usual, at 6 shillings per thousand but that included the “free” meter, pipework, one pendant and one bracket lamp.

When the permanent population of Hayling began its rapid growth in the early 1930’s the resources of the local gas company were soon overtaken, but the area was by now attractive to the much larger Portsmouth gas company, which was in a period of growth by acquisition. It was agreed, therefore, to sell the Hayling Island concern to the Portsmouth and Gosport Gas Company with effect from 1st April 1937. Soon afterwards the production of gas at Hayling Island ceased in favour of a bulk supply from the Portsmouth distribution system. Gas holders remained for many years at the former gasworks site in Station Road, however, and “Gas Works Cottage” can still be seen.

Natural gas was first supplied to Hayling Island on 15th June 1970, since when the demand for gas has increased even more rapidly. An additional supply main was soon needed; in part it follows the track of the now-abandoned railway line, for the railway was closed just as Hayling Island entered another period of growth in the 1960s.
J.B.Horne Hayling rev.4-2-96


  1. Journal of Gas Lighting, 5th December 1876.
  2. Kellys and the Gas Engineer’s Handbook 1884.
  3. Gas World Directory.


 Many thanks to John and the National Gas Museum for providing the information.

 Link to the National Gas Museum Website >

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