Gas Stations of the Past - Part One

Evaluating mortuary structures as low-tech gas harvesting and dispensing stations resolves their enigmas and better explains curious physical characteristics. Thu 02 December 2021

"Skulls. Like an avalanche". Source: A Study of Post-Depositional Funerary Practices In Medieval England, p236

The image shows the 1955 discovery of bones under St Brides church in the City of London.

Wikipedia's entry for St Brides church claims the bones were found in coffins.

The image disagrees.

More agreeable are the useful properties of decomposition gasses.

They include methane, putrescine, cadaverine and approximately 27 others. Many of them are lighter than air.

The gasses rise to the top of vaulted crypts like St Brides'. And not only St Brides.

From The very evil custom of interring the dead in towns, The Penny Magazine, 1834-08-02:

In [other churches], the vents of the vaults are actually within the church. Thus in various ways, pestilential effluvia are sent through the building. A candle will not always burn in the vaults beneath, and it is sometimes necessary to leave the entrance to them open for several hours before it is safe to enter.

That's because the crypts' lighter-than-air gasses rose to where they were used (prior to the Reformation), leaving heavier than air gasses - primarily carbon dioxide - to settle undisturbed in church crypts.

Lighter than air gas production is as simple as gathering bodies during the three days between death and the onset of putrescent gas production.

Complex gas production equipment is unnecessary. So traces of it are rarely found.

But evidence of gas production can sometimes be found as poorly-explained old buildings. And as poorly-explained architectural features in old buildings.

Such as at Holy Trinity church, Rothwell, Northamptonshire:

Holy Trinity church crypt, Rothwell. Source: A Study of Post-Depositional Funerary Practices In Medieval England

Holy Trinity's bone-crypt (ossuary) is one of three publicly known English ossuaries.

Holy Trinity is England's longest church and one of England's largest. Seems an odd record for a village church to hold. It takes several images to show off Holy Trinity's well-stocked bone-crypt:

Before restacking in 1911. Source: A Study of Post-Depositional Funerary Practices In Medieval England


And wherever you point a camera... Source: A Study of Post-Depositional Funerary Practices In Medieval England

Holy Trinity church contains another 'enigma'. A slotted vent in the floor in front of what is now the altar:

The slot links the chancel and ossuary.

The slot enters the crypt at the high point of a vaulted arch.

Seen from below:

It's the dark rectangular area. Source: A Study of Post-Depositional Funerary Practices In Medieval England

Convention claims the slot was created to allow bodies in the crypt to listen to sermons.

Built into the lower side of the crypt are what appear to have been carcass delivery chutes:

Slot to left; two delivery chutes to right.

There are many more clues about Holy Trinity church - and Rothwell's hidden history - in Rothwell's Wikipedia page. A former market town that once dominated nearby Kettering are two obvious IHASFEMR clues. But there are plenty more.

Similarly, more clues about how St Brides church helped souls take flight are visible in Wikipedia's images of its architecture.

St Brides and Holy Trinity churches are surviving examples of earlier lighter than air gas production plants. From before the industrial revolution.

From around 1730 onward, gas production plants became larger and were sited on country estates outside of towns. Their locations tally with the effects of enclosure and emparkation. The size suggests they were filling larger gas canopies.

We know these structures as mausoleums and follies:

Constable Mausoleum, Halsham, East Yorkshire. Source: The Folly Flaneuse

The Constable Mausoleum was built on top of a 'Saxon' burial mound. Its foundation stone work looks very similar to canal architecture. This gives us a rough build date. Second half of the 18th century.

In Cumbria:

The Temple, Holme Island, Cumbria. Source: Cumbria Archive Service

We're told The Temple was a folly built around 1845. Like the Constable Mausoleum, it also shows signs of having been built on the remains of a burial mound. As shown in this 1860 image:

The Temple. Around 1860. Source: The Folly Flaneuse

However, the publicly-available narrative of the 1845 'construction' of The Temple only accounts for its 16 external columns.

Picture the Temple without the columns and the roof they support. It would be a masonry drum with a dome vault. There is a flat circular opening in the top of the dome and slots around its upper sides. We're going to see this shape again. But it won't be called a folly.

In Lincolnshire:

Brocklesby Mausoleum, Great Limber, Lincolnshire. Source: How The Past Was Hidden

Sketches from 1797-1798 show a hilltop position suitable for docking, with young trees growing at the base:

1797-1798 Turner sketch of Brocklesby. Source

As with The Temple in Cumbria, the land around the Brocklesby structure had been entirely landscaped. The point is that these structures look entirely separate from the earlier village or town but they were not. They were a new type of gas plant built on top of earlier gas production facilities.

We get our first obvious clue to this from Spalding in south Lincolnshire. There, the Johnson Mausoleum in Spalding cemetery was originally built by Theophilus Fairfax Johnson shortly before 1843.

From Lincolnshire Heritage Explorer:

originally located in Johnson's garden at Holland House ... it was initially intended that the mausoleum would be moved to the parish churchyard. This proved impractical, however, and it was instead moved to its present location in Spalding Cemetery in 1894. It was agreed at the time that the mausoleum would be used as a mortuary for bodies awaiting burial

We will see more clues when we look at the body-collecting activities of Victorian balloonist Claude Champion de Crespigny.

Large airships on transatlantic flights would have topped up at larger filling stations:

Fluid drainage hole at Dawson (Dartrey) Mausoleum, Black Island, Co. Monghan, Ireland. Source: The Irish Asthete

From Mausolea & Monuments Trust - Dartrey:

The building originally carried a dome with central oculus (sic) however this was replaced in the 19th century with a shallow pyramidal slate roof – a Zinc clad dome, has been reinstated as part of recent works.

Sample of gas stations in Britain and Ireland

We can see clues in the 'vanilla skies' phenomenon. And in the stories we are asked to believe. Such as this story of the shipment up a mountainside of a high-precision optical telescope:

Source: Australian Telescope (Russian), English translation

Ludicrously small wheels under the 'special' gas-electric truck. The narrative claims the truck carried this enormous precision optical telescope up Mount Wilson to the newly-built observatory.

Source: Australian Telescope (Russian), English translation

After they added mules, its carrying capacity increased to five tons.

And a freight airship:

A problem dodged. Source: Australian Telescope (Russian), English translation

Not quite vanilla skies. This print from the Carnegie Institute's collection documenting the building of Mount Wilson observatory hints how the telescope was really brought to its 1,740 m (5,710 ft) observatory.

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