'The Rise and Demise of the Emsworth Gasholder.  A Riveting Exhibition.'


 Museum Steward Bob Duncan showing finer points of the Gas Holder to visitor Anthony Parvin

I suspect that most people, myself included, regard museums as places where you go to see beautiful, unusual, exciting objects, sometimes hundreds and thousands of years old. So Emsworth Museum's latest exhibition was not at the top of my "must-see" list; what could be beautiful, unusual or exciting about a steel tank 150' in diameter?

I found that the exhibition is not just about a steel tank. It is also about the development of Emsworth and links it to the present day. The large colourful display panels on the walls of the David Rudkin Room take us from the mid-1800s to this year, when the dismantling of the gasholder began.

When the Emsworth Gas and Coke Company was formed in 1852, Emsworth's population was 1,514. Gas from its manufacturing plant came to be in great demand for small businesses, shops and street-lighting; there were plenty of photographs of Emsworth in the early 1900s to show this. But new gas mains were laid from Portsmouth to Havant and Emsworth, which led to the closure of the gas manufacturing plant in 1927.

The exhibition features photographs of the construction of the gasholder in 1933/4. By that time Emsworth's gas consumption had risen by 130%! Then came the discovery of gas in the North Sea in the 1960s, and gasholders became redundant. According to SGN, the company which owns over 30 of them, Emsworth's holder is the first to be demolished; it had a capacity of 17,000 tonnes, 16,000 of which was water which had to be drained before demolition could start.

The steel tank is consigned to the past - Emsworth must look to the future. Exhibitions like this one, sponsored by SGN, help to remind us how we come to be where we are today.


       Howard Jacobs, (who had created the exhibition)

Libby Wilding.