Gas Stations of the Past - Part Two

Mausolea as low-tech gas harvesting and dispensing stations. Photographic evidence. Fri 03 December 2021

The unique Dennis Mausoleum. Source: The Mausolea & Monuments Trust

Built - or, actually, welded - in 1865, the Dennis Mausoleum is the only cast-iron 'mausoleum' in Ireland and the British Isles.

Does it remind you of anything?

Try this:

Bottled gas - a 20th century innovation. Source

In the early 1960s, balloonist Ed Yost re-invented the hot air balloon. On April 13, 1963, Yost's bottled gas and lightweight burners enabled him to become the first man to cross the English Channel in a hot air balloon.

On April 13, 1963, bottled gas plus lightweight burners enabled Ed Yost to become the first man to cross the English Channel in a hot air balloon.

Hot air balloons making high-risk, long-distance flights over the sea need the high density power of bottled inflammable gas. So Yost burned propane. Propane had been discovered just 50 years earlier. A few years before the invention of the steel gas canister.

It's odd then that the first manned balloon crossing of the English Channel is credited to Colonel Burnaby - who took off from Dover town gasworks on 23 March 1882.

Similarly, the first manned balloon flight over the North Sea is credited to Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny in 1883.

From The Mausolea & Monuments Trust:

Built in 1910 by Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny, 4th Baronet (b.1847-d.1935)...

The 4th Baronet served in both the navy and army and was a well known sportsman and athlete, (riding steeplechase, hunting big game, swimming, diving, sculling). Sir Claude was also the first to cross the North Sea in a balloon in 1883.

Like Burnaby, Crespigny also took off from a gasworks: Maldon gasworks in Essex.

Given that Yost was only able to balloon across the English Channel in 1963 on modern fabrics, gas and burner technology, it is unlikely Burnaby crossed the English Channel in a hot air balloon 81 years earlier. It is also highly unlikely that de Crespigny crossed the North Sea in a hot air balloon.

They must have used another gas. Hydrogen, helium, perhaps methane. Or a blend of gasses.

There are many clues about where and how they were making lighter than air gas. De Crespigny planned to take off for his North Sea flight from his home. He commissioned the Champion de Crespigny mausoleum in the grounds of his home - Champion Lodge near Maldon, Essex.

De Crespigny also had an 'eccentric' interest in making and collecting corpses.

From Champion de Crespigny Baronets:

He was eccentric enough to bribe hangman James Berry into accepting him as assistant executioner on the occasion of a triple hanging in Carlisle on 8 February 1886.

Another - unverified - account suggests de Crespigny shipped 17 corpses from Europe to put in his mausoleum.

What follows are a selection of home gas plants, starting with de Crespigny's now-demolished plant.

Mausoleum Name Roof Shape Occulus 1 Notes Location
Champion de Crespigny Dome on drum High above door 1910. Now destroyed. CM9 8NU (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Constable Dome on drum Top 1792 Halsham, East Yorkshire (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Dennis Cone on drum Not visible 1865 in cast iron Old Clonberne Graveyard, Co Galway (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Fraser Dome on drum Not visible 1808 Cluny Old Kirkyard, AB51 7RS (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Freeman Dome on drum Not visible 1750 Fawley Green, Buckinghamshire, OX12 9YW (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Hamilton Dome on drum Not visible 1842 Hamilton, Scotland (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Huskisson Dome on drum Not visible 1834 (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Raikes Dome? on drum Not visible 1818 Mausoleum Plantation, Welton Dale (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)

All data from The Mausolea & Monuments Trust

Where are they?

The blue icons on the map below.

Blue icon: drum-shaped gas stations

There are two ways to disguise a generator plant.

One is to call it a folly. Like The Temple 'folly' on Holme Island, Cumbria?:

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

The other is to tack columns to the outside and call it a mausoleum in the neo-classical style.

But these 'Greek' and 'Roman' styule mausoleums are no different to the drum 'mausoleums' shown above. They simply boast an external balcony supported on columns. Perhaps the balcony helped workers handle bigger airships when they refuelled.

Here's a selection of neo-classical gas plants:

Mausoleum Name Roof Shape Orifice Notes Location
Duchess of Kent Dome on drum Not visible 1859 (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Howard Dome on drum Not visible 1729 (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Pelham Dome on drum Open at top 1787 Brocklesby (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Philipson Dome on drum Not visible 1914. Contains central funnel. (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Rothschild Dome on drum Not visible 1866 (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Thompson Dome on drum Not visible 1743 (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)
Walston Cone on drum Not visible 1922 (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (NLS), (Flickr images)

Domed drum mausoleums with balconies Source

Where are they?

The red icons on the map below.

Red icon: drum-shaped gas station with balcony or columns.

More clues to the function of these structures follow in later pieces.

© All rights reserved. The original author retains ownership and rights.

  1. The 'occulus' is the circular hole usually found on top of a mausoleum or high above the main door. Here it is interpreted as meaning: 'flanged seating for the refill hose'. 

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