Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2216
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
Title: NATIONAL LIGHT AND HEAT COMPANY
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 0.05 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Winsor | Frederick Albert | 1763-1830 | gas engineer
Frederick Albert Winsor, born Friedrich Albrecht Winzler in Moravia, came to London in 1803 to exploit his ideas for the provision of public and domestic lighting from gas. When Winsor arrived in London he had much public scepticism to contend with. He established himself in Cheapside and in May 1804 obtained a patent for gas-making apparatus. Over the next five years he was to be awarded three further patents for gas generation. He began his campaign in 1804 with a series of public lectures at the Lyceum Theatre, and included a demonstration of an ornate chandelier and an explanation of how gas could be conveyed to different rooms in a house. He acquired premises for gas manufacture in Mayfair. In 1806 he relocated at 97 Pall Mall, and in 1807 he staged spectacular public demonstrations of gas lighting on the walls of Carlton House and in Pall Mall. All this was accompanied by a volley of colourful pamphlets and advertisements, some in other languages.
In 1807 Winsor issued a prospectus for the grandiose New Patriotic Imperial and National Light and Heat Company. He claimed that annual profits would amount to £229 million, of which nine-tenths would go towards redeeming the national debt. Individuals subscribing £50 could expect an annual return of £6000 and an eventual capital appreciation of £120,000. Few were taken in by this (though Winsor is said to have raised nearly £50,000 by subscription) and he was publicly ridiculed by such well-known public figures as Walter Scott and Humphry Davy. Nevertheless, hard-headed businessmen began to feel that there might be money in gas. An important consideration was that Winsor had recognized that the future of gas lay not in local generation but in central generation, and in distribution to a large number of customers through a network of mains and pipes.
In the same year a group of influential backers, led by James Ludovic Grant, met at the Crown and Anchor in the Strand to try to launch some sort of public venture. At that time any company raising capital by selling shares was deemed a partnership: if it failed, all its members were held personally liable for losses. It was therefore decided to seek a charter by act of Parliament. An initial application in 1809 seeking to raise £1 million failed, largely through opposition by rivals such as Murdock and the younger James Watt. However, a more modest application for £200,000 was successful in 1810, though stringent conditions were attached. By 1810 these had been fulfilled and on 9 June the Gas Light and Coke Company-commonly known as the chartered company-was formally established, with Grant as its first governor.
Source: Trevor I. Williams, 'Winsor, Frederick Albert (1763-1830)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004
Scope and content/abstract:
Records of the National Light and Heat Company, comprising mounted facsimile of programme for admission to meeting at 97 Pall Mall to establish the National Light and Heat Company, to exploit F A Winsor's hydrocarbonic lights. Facsimile undated, original item 1807.
ACCESS AND USE
Language/scripts of material: English
System of arrangement:
Conditions governing access:
Available for general access.
Conditions governing reproduction:
Copyright rests with the depositor.
Please see online catalogues at: http://search.lma.gov.uk/opac_lma/index.htm
Immediate source of acquisition:
Document donated December 1985.
Existence and location of originals:
Original in the possession of Mr W H Bennett, Minst Gas E, of Castle Gate, Reigate.
For the records of the Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company see B/GLCC.
Stirling Everard, "History of the Gas, Light and Coke Company" (Guildhall Library reference 24.41 EVE).
Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.
Date(s) of descriptions: July to October 2009