No 1 gasholder, Kennington Lane Gasholder Station


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Kennington Lane Holder Station, Off Kennington Oval, London, SE11


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Statutory Address:
Kennington Lane Holder Station, Off Kennington Oval, London, SE11

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Lambeth (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Gasholder. Built in 1877-9 by Corbet Woodall for the Phoenix Gas Light and Coke Company and enlarged in 1891-2 for the South Metropolitan Gas Company by Frank Livesey.

Reasons for Designation

Gasholder No. 1 at the Kennington Gasholder Station, built in 1877-9 by Corbet Woodall on the site of an earlier holder and enlarged by Frank Livesey in 1891-2, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historical and architectural interest: the world’s largest gasholder when built, it is an early example of the use of wrought-iron in the construction of the guide frame, which enabled ever larger and stronger gas holders to be built; * Technical interest: the design allowed the holder to be doubled in capacity by a modification involving a minimum of intervention to the guide frame; * Historical association: involvement of three of the most eminent Victorian gas engineers in Corbet Woodall and Frank and George Livesey; * Landscape interest: the gasholder provides a landmark background to The Oval cricket ground thus giving it particular urban landscape value as well as international recognition.


The Kennington Lane Gasholder Station was developed by the Phoenix Gas Light and Coke Company, established in 1824, which was for many years the largest gas company in South London. In 1847 they opened a gasworks next to Vauxhall Bridge (closed in 1958). In January of that year the site at Kennington, just to the north of the Oval cricket ground which had opened in 1845, was purchased from the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Works Company to act as a holder station for the gasworks. The Vauxhall Waterworks included two brick-lined circular reservoirs which were adapted for gasholder tanks and, in February 1847, a tender of £8,700 was accepted from Westwood and Wrights of the Black Country for a gasholder (No. 1 Gasholder) using the smaller of the tanks. The guide frame comprised 18 giant Tuscan columns in a single order about 36 ft tall, supporting cast iron girders in the form of a balustrade. With a capacity of 600,000 cubic ft, it was the largest telescopic gasholder then existing. It was completed in October 1847 but later demolished to make way for the present No. 1 Gasholder in 1877.

Designed by Corbet Woodall, the successor to William Innes as the company's engineer for its London operation, the replacement No. 1 gasholder involved the construction, by John Aird and Sons, of a new tank 218ft in diameter and 44ft 6ins deep, at a cost of £21,446. The two-lift holder of 3 million cubic ft (then a world record) was built by Samuel Cutler and Sons at a final cost of £26,398 and completed in the autumn of 1879. In 1889, after the Phoenix Gas Light and Coke Company had merged with the South Metropolitan Gas Company in 1880, it was decided to double the capacity of No. 1 Gasholder to 6 million cubic ft. This was carried out by Frank Livesey, chief engineer of the South Metropolitan, and involved the insertion of a central section into each of the guide standards to increase its height by 50% and adding two more lifts, one of them rising above the guide frame (a so-called ‘flying lift’, pioneered by Livesey and his brother George at Rotherhithe in 1887-8). The work was carried out by Ashmore, Benson, Pease and Co for £18,500 and completed in 1891 or 1892.

No. 2 Gasholder was constructed with a new tank on the site of the second reservoir in 1854-5. Its design was attributed to William Innes with ironwork by the Horseley Iron Company of Tipton. At about 1,250,000 cubic ft it was another record breaker, and it was distinguished by giant single-order guide columns made of wrought-iron riveted tubes, with cast-iron bases and capitals, rising nearly to 70 ft. The bell was reconstructed in 1897 and a spiral-guided holder was built in the original tank in 1950.

No. 3 Gasholder was erected by Horton's of Smethwick to the design of William Innes and completed in November 1869. It had a giant single-order, double-tier guide frame and a capacity of 600,000 cubic ft. It was demolished around 1975.

Gasholders Nos. 4 and 5 were built following a report in November 1872 by Corbet Woodall that an increase in the gasholder capacity at Kennington was urgently required. The tanks were completed by Aird and Sons in October 1873 and Gasholder No. 4, Woodall's first in the role of Engineer and built by Samuel Cutler at a cost of £13,379, was complete by May 1874. The second of this ‘Siamese twin’ pair of holders (since they share one column), gasholder No. 5, again designed by Woodall and built by Cutler’s for £10,490, was completed in February 1876. Each of the effectively identical holders is of two lifts with double-tier guide frames modelled on those of the Imperial Gas Company.

Following conversion to natural gas storage in the 1970s, the holder station was decommissioned in 2014.


Gasholder. Built in 1877-9 by Corbet Woodall for the Phoenix Gas Light and Coke Company and enlarged in 1891-2 for the South Metropolitan Gas Company by Frank Livesey. Originally of two lifts it was later increased to four, including a flying lift.

The guide frame of Gasholder No. 1 is approximately 135 ft (41 m) high to the tops of the guide rails (originally 90 ft), while the crown of the flying lift rose to over 180 ft (55 m) when fully inflated. The frame is of wrought iron, with 24 T-section lattice standards. The standards originally had a uniform taper but when the guide frame was extended an extra, middle section was inserted without a taper, giving a distinctive three-stage profile. The standards are fabricated from flat bars, with plates and angle irons for the flanges, and the webs are divided into St Andrew's cross panels which diminish in height towards the top so as to maintain their proportions. Semi-circular gusset plates at the ends of the bars strengthen the riveted connections. The standards are bolted down to the tank through compact, hollow cast-iron base plates with the bolts arranged in a line down each side. The tops of the standards are rounded to a quadrant and stays were added in 1890 to support extensions of the guide rails, which have open, flared tops to catch the flying lift as it descends. The guide rails themselves are of channel section instead of the original flat-bottomed rails, a change probably made in 1890.

The standards are connected by three rows of horizontal girders, of which the top and bottom are original. The webs have bracing of shallow-sloped round bars forming elongated St Andrew's crosses, two in the length of each girder, and vertical spacer bars of cast-iron. These bars are of a baluster shape, with embossed miniature Phoenix emblems. The middle girder, added in 1890, has a simplified version in lattice work.

The holder has diagonal bracing of flat bars, with two tiers of bracing in each panel of the frame. The bars are riveted at their ends to gusset plates and they are clipped together where they cross each other.

The tank is surrounded by the original railings of 1879. They have circular cast-iron standards and square rails.

The bell, of four lifts including the upper 'flying lift' which extended above the top of the guide frame, has side sheeting in long sections of mid-C20 date and the roller carriages are also modern. It is unclear, therefore, if any earlier fabric of the bell survives.

The tank is of traditional brickwork, but on mass concrete footings. It is 44 ft 6ins (13.6 m) deep overall and 218 ft (66.5 m) in diameter.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that both the bell (including the flying lift) and tank (excluding the railings) are not of special architectural or historic interest.


Books and journals
Smith, D, Civil Engineering Heritage: London and the Thames Valley, (2001), 204-5
English Heritage Monument Protection Programme Step Report on the Gas Industry
Malcolm Tucker, The development of the gasholder in London in the 19th century (2000, part amended 2014)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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