More about Settle Gas Works and Stumps

Mike Howarth
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Following the article on the Settle Coal Gas Supply in the 2016 Journal more information has come to light, courtesy of the contributions of Mike Howarth, Richard Hoyle and the late Phil Hudson.

The disposal of liquid effluent into the river was not a good idea

Reported in The Craven Herald 25 April 1924

What an excitement there must have been in Settle when John Tatham and other friends formed a company to illuminate the town with fish oil gas in the ‘forties ((1840s). It proved so expensive that they were glad to install the then new process from coal, and a gasometer was erected in the yard near the Victoria Hall, which was a fine amusement for us as we could get into a neighbouring garden and throw heavy sods on to it, which resounded terrifically and brought out Tommy Gas to find the culprit. But we sat under a wall until all was quiet and then gave another salute, so he never caught us. Now, Tommy lived near Mr. Brennand’s and had many curtain lectures from Madame on his bibulous habits, which one night ended in a fearful harangue, and a neighbour felt bound to settle the dispute in a novel way.

The upper portion of the bedroom window turned on a swivel and there was a pump trough below, so he loaded a horse pistol with powder and paper; then, standing on the trough, pushed the pistol in at the open window and fired it off. The effect was electric; silence reigned, and night ended in peace, perfect peace; but in the morning the battle was renewed and only finished when Tommy seized her Dutch clock, Wag-by-t’wa, and dollied it in the tub she had filled for the weekly wash. Friends had then to come in and arrange an armistice on mutual give and take.

When the gas works were removed to Upper Settle the tar water was turned into a drain which discharged it into the river, with the result that all the fish were poisoned. Jacky Moorby was fishing at the time and, having a net, raked in the stupefied trout, by the dozen. These were tastefully decked out in a basket, and, as there was to be a dinner party at Beck House that night, several pounds were purchased. But when the guests attacked the luscious looking fish, one after another they deposited their forks and stared at each other with wonder at what extraordinary flavour the cook had evolved. Luckily no serious results followed, but Jacky had to face the music next day for his wickedness.

Coal in Coffin Wood

There is a coal seam nearby, above the golf course, (in Coffin Wood, alias Cave Hole or Cave Ha’ Wood presumably). When I was at Catteral Hall, the cross-country course was around Coffin Wood and it was the wood up behind K.W.Wood’s (Giggleswick teacher) chalet-type house on the left of the A65 when driving up Buckhaw Brow. We understood that the wood was simply coffin-shaped, but there may be more to it?

Thomas Dickinson, 1827-1908, Director of Settle Gas Company

Great Great Grand Uncle, of Mike Howarth

According to the 1841 Census Thomas Dickinson, of Langcliffe, age 13 was a Cotton Piecer. The 1851 Census shows him unmarried as a Cotton Spinner. By 1861 he was married and a Railway porter living in Langcliffe. By 1881 he was an Assurance Agent becoming District Manager Life Assurance. In the 1901 Census he is recorded as in Settle at Castle Hill, Retired Assurance Manager. He is also one of the Managers of Craven Savings Bank, Settle and one of the Directors of Settle Gas Company, Limited (Lambert’s Settle Almanac 1905).

The monumental inscription in the Church of the Holy Ascension in Settle records

Thomas Dickinson, died June 27th 1908, aged 80 years.

A photograph of the Directors in 1906.

Richard Hoyle

Thomas Brayshaw, well-known local historian, joined Giggleswick School in 1867. In later life he reminisced that he was ‘initiated on the bumming post which stands in the footpath near the old school’. The stump is also referred to in a short-lived school magazine, the Giggleswick School Olio, in July 1845. The Olio office is described as being ‘next door to the cast iron stump, school yard’. It would therefore seem that the stump presumably came from an attempt made in 1824 to supply gas to about ten public lights, or from the Vegetable Gas Light Company set up in 1830, or in the 1840s from works set up by John Tatham (see article in this Journal).

But why was the stump placed on the path from near the Hartshead through the Giggleswick Church graveyard? Was it just for initiating schoolboys? (Eds.)

Phil Hudson , North Craven Historical Research Group archive

The Settle Gas Company was incorporated in 1896 and assets of the Settle Gas Joint Stock Company were transferred to the new company. The works were modernized in 1900 with three beds of Messrs. Drake’s through retorts with regenerator furnaces. The retorts were 21 feet long and 19 inches by 9 inches, placed horizontally. One bed held eight retorts, the others six. In 1922 Messrs. Drake of Halifax installed a Carburetted Water Gas plant. The plant closed in 1960 and the plant was dismantled. These dimensions of the retorts only roughly correspond to those of the remaining stumps so this source is questionable.