These drum-shaped structures can be seen from many vantage points across Birmingham. The rings of steel girders are about 25 metres across and are the supports and last vestiges of gasholders at the Windsor Street Gas Works in Nechells. They date back to the 1850s when they were built by Birmingham Gas, Light & Coke Co, Ltd as their business out-grew its original Gas Street home. The gas works at Nechells and the neighbouring works at Saltley made gas from coal to light the city’s streets. The distillation process had been invented by William Murdoch at Soho. Coal was heated to release gas and leave behind coke. The gas was stored in gasholders, metal tanks that changed in height as the stored volume of gas changed to keep it under constant pressure. The pressure fed pipes that distributed gas to the city streets.
Trivia fact 1: the correct name for these storage tanks is gasholder or even gas holder, not the more familiar term gasometer which was adapted from the French word gazomètre. The anglicised version was unpopular with those who said these constructions did not measure as other “meters” did, for instance voltmeters or lightmeters. But they did hold the gas.
Trivia fact 2: the maroon and blue colours of the gasholders will be recognised by Brummie football fans.