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Norwich’s Victorian landmark faces demolition after nearly 140 years

PUBLISHED: 06:30 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:23 05 February 2018

The gas holder at Gas Hill. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The gas holder at Gas Hill. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

A landmark which has towered over Norwich for nearly 140 years looks likely to be torn down - with plans lodged to demolish the city’s final gas holders.

The gas holder at Gas Hill. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The gas holder at Gas Hill. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The huge, 16-sided Victorian gas holder, off Gas Hill, which dates back to 1880 and an underground one nearby are earmarked for dismantling by the National Grid.

But civic watchdog the Norwich Society intends to object to the demolition application lodged with City Hall, saying the city’s industrial heritage should be preserved.

If permission is granted for the structures to be taken down, it could take up to a year for the work to be done.

The Victorian gas holder is locally listed and Norwich City Council’s local plan - a blueprint for development in the city - had hoped consideration could be given to keeping it as part of a development of up to 15 homes at the site. But the National Grid says that is not possible.

The gas holder at Gas Hill, viewed from Riverside Road. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The gas holder at Gas Hill, viewed from Riverside Road. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A National Grid spokeswoman said: “The two gasholders at 
Gas Hill are redundant and have not been used to store gas for a long time because of changes in how gas is distributed and delivered to homes and businesses.”

She said dismantling the gas holders would allow the site to be brought back into use.

She added: “We will be liaising closely with our neighbours, stakeholders and anyone with an interest in what we are doing so that we can complete the dismantling safely, efficiently and with minimum disruption.”

She said if permission is granted, an information event for people living nearby would be held.

Patricia Harper believes the gas holder at Gas Hill Patricia Harper believes the gas holder at Gas Hill "must be saved" (Image: Patricia Harper)

The Norwich Society, which had previously explored whether the gas holder could be nationally listed with Historic England, is likely to oppose the demolition.

Vice chairman Paul Burall said: “It’s part of our history and we need to retain Norwich’s industrial heritage. This is the last gas holder in Norwich and I think we will be objecting.”

Tara Howell, who works at the nearby Lollards Pit pub, said the gas holder was “not the prettiest thing” but added: “If the construction work took a long time it would have an impact on business as it backs onto our garden.”

And Sandra Matthewson, who works at the Red Lion pub, over the river from the gas holder, said: “I’m not happy at all. It’s a Norwich landmark.”

When gas first came to Norwich

It was a raw winter’s day in Norwich when people gathered round a stall on the city’s market.

In 1814 people watched in amazement at Mr Harrison’s stall as a light flickered in the darkness and gas was used for the first time – produced by burning coal on a stove at the back of the premises.

Within four years Oxley’s textile factory on Gentleman’s Walk was lit by gas supplied from its own gas meter and by 1820 the Norwich Gas Light Company was set up and a plant developed in St Stephen’s parish.

The British Gas Light Company bought up the company and concentrated on developing Gas Hill and a large site in St Martin’s where the courts now stand, with demand for gas soaring.

But there is no longer a need to use large gas holders. Gas can now be stored in the pipe system itself.

In 2016, a gas holder in Cremorne Lane, between Thorpe St Andrew and Trowse, was demolished.

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