Henry Banister 1814 – 1864

Henry Banister (?1814 – 1864), was an employee of the Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company, the first gas undertaking in the world,

Banister was a Steward at The Annual Festival in aid of the funds of the London Homeopathic Hospital in 1851,

The Annual Festival in aid of the funds of the Charity, and in commemoration of the opening of the London Homeopathic Hospital established in London, will be held at the Albion Tavern, Aldersgate street, on Thursday, the 10th of April 1851, the anniversary of the birth of Samuel Hahnemann:

Henry Charles FitzRoy Somerset 8th Duke of Beaufort in the chair.

STEWARDS: Henry William Paget Marquess of Anglesey, George Stanhope 6th Earl of Chesterfield, Arthur Algernon Capell 6th Earl of Essex, John Robert Townshend 1st Earl Sydney, John Gray 15th Lord Gray, Arthur de Vere Capell Viscount Malden, Francis Arthur Gordon, Lord Clarence Paget, Lord Alfred Paget, Culling Charles Smith, Marmaduke Blake Sampson, Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, Nathaniel Barton, J. Askew, H Banister, Henry Bateman 1806-1880, Capt. Branford, F Blake, Hugh Cameron, Captain Chapman, H Cholmondeley, John Burgh Crampern, Edward Cromwell Disbrowe, W. Dutton, Edward Esdaile, W. M. Fache, Fr. Fuller, H Goez, John Gosnell, George Hallett, Edward Hamilton, J Huggins, P Hughes, John Peake Knight, Joseph Kidd, Thomas Robinson Leadam, Thomas Mackern, Victor Massol, J Mayne, Jas Bell Metcalfe, C T P Metcalfe, Samuel Thomas Partridge, T Piper, W Piper, R Pope, Henry Reynolds, Albert Robinson, Henry Rosher, C J Sanders, W Scorer, Rittson Southall, T Spicer, J Smith, Charles Snewin, Charles Trueman, Thomas Uwins, W. Watkins, J Wisewould, David William Witton, Stephen Yeldham, J G Young,

The responsibility of Stewards is limited to the dinner ticket, 21s., and gentlemen who will kindly undertake the office are respectfully requested to forward their names to any of the Stewards; or to the Hon. Secretary at the Hospital. 32. Golden-square.  Ralph Buchan, Hon. Sec.

The origins of the gas industry lay with the discovery of coal gas in the early 18th century. Gas lighting for homes, buildings and streets was pioneered by William Murdoch, a Scottish engineer, who with his pupil Samuel Clegg of Manchester and John Malam of Hull, designed and built gas works for mills and factories from 1800 to enable them to be lit.

They worked with entrepreneurs such as F A Winsor to secure financial backing. Winsor’s ideal was to have a central gas works making gas for illumination in every town and city in the country. Samuel Clegg joined the Chartered Company and constructed the first operational public gas works in Peter Street, Horseferry Road, Westminster, which began producing coal gas in September 1813.

The gas light alternative proved to be popular; simple open flame gas burners provided a much brighter light than could be obtained from candles or oil lamps and also proved to be safer and cheaper. By 1823 it was reported that the Company’s three stations at Peter Street, Brick Lane and Curtain Road, were annually consuming 20,678 chaldrons of coal, producing 248,000,000 cubic feet of gas, and lighting 30,735 lamps through 122 miles of gas mains.

Developments at Westminster were followed by the rapid expansion of gas works and their Companies across London and other cities and large towns in England and Wales. By 1830, there were 200 gas Companies, by 1850 there 800 gas Companies, 13 of which were in London, and by 1860 there were nearly 1,000 gas Companies.

The Chartered Company was quick to explore more effective and efficient means of manufacturing gas. Coal gas was first produced using retorts (horizontal tubes) which were charged (filled with coal) and, having given off the gas, discharged (the coke removed) by hand through a door at one end. These retorts were made of iron and distorted badly with prolonged heating.

Fire clay retorts with iron lids were introduced around 1822 and the through retort, a coal-gas retort with charging door and discharge door, 20 feet long and sharing heat at the former dead-end space, was developed in 1831 by George Lowe, the Company’s Superintendent of Works. The through retort raised the charge to 600 pounds and lowered heating fuel to 400 pounds.

Falling dividends caused by the rising competition between companies in London impelled the Company’s Directors in 1850 to nominate a special committee to consider the question of amalgamation.

The Gas Act 1860 ended the severe competition and encroachment on Companys’ gas supply areas, by permitting companies to arrange for the lighting of allotted districts. However this also encouraged London Companies to exact greater profits. It was reported to the House of Parliament that the public were paying £1,700,000 a year for gas, a far greater sum than outside London.

Public opinion and the Parish Boards became increasingly dissatisfied with the monopoly of the private companies. In 1866, the Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Board of Works wished to restrict the powers and heighten the obligations of the 13 Companies supplying London with gas. The City Corporation considered buying out the Companies’ rights and managing a municipal supply.

A committee in the House of Pariament advocated amalgamation in 1867. The City of London Gas Act 1868 brought the Chartered, City of London and Great Central Companies to a working agreement and reserved their rights to 10% dividends, and to raise money via loans. In return they submitted their production and finance records for Government inspection. The new Act also enabled the right of further amalgamation with any Metropolitan gas company without Parliamentary sanction.

During the 1870s and 1880s the Chartered Company absorbed the other large gas Companies operating in London… As a result of amalgamation, the Company’s output of gas increased dramatically from 1,285,602 cubic feet in 1869, 9,934,489 in 1877, to 21,357,687 in 1900.

From 1878, the Company began to experience increasing competition from newly established electrical lighting Companies which were applying to the Government for powers. The passing of the Electric Lighting Bill 1882 granted these Companies right of exploitation in public areas. At the same time the expanding Company broadened its business into the letting of gas stoves for heating and cooking.

In 1879 the Company applied to Parliament to seek ‘powers to apply capital to the purchase or manufacture of engines and apparatus which they proposed to sell or let on hire, with the object of encouraging the use of gasfor cooking, warming, and other purposes’.

In 1949, the Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company was nationalised and placed under control of North Thames Gas Board.

8 thoughts on “Henry Banister 1814 – 1864”

  1. Dear Sue,

    Your information is incorrect. The Henry Banister of the bellringing family at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Woolwich was my great great great grandfather. I am descended from his son William who wrote the book ‘The Art and Science of Change ringing’. Henry (3 May 1790 – 30 June 1869) was an Inspector of Caulkers in Woolwich Dockyard and was superannuated from there at the age of 70. I have many family documents, photographs and records from this branch of my family.

    Your Henry Banister is a different person.

    Yours faithfully,

    Judith R. Oliver (Mrs)

  2. Hi Judith

    Thanks so much for correcting my information… I really appreciate this as there is nothing worse than having incorrect details…

    I have taken out the information I had on this as requested! ‘… Banister set up a Charity in his will, and he was a Bellringer at St. Mary’s Church in Woolwich, and he rang the only peel in which the changes were rung by a father and his six sons, stationed according to seniority (Henry Banister and his sons James, Thomas, John, William, George and Francis)…’


  3. Dear Sue,

    That was quick! Thank you for that. I regularly trawl the internet for new things that may appear connected with my family history. I was quite excited at first and then realised you had the wrong one.

    I am most impressed.

    Yours sincerely,

    Judith Oliver

  4. Hi Judith

    Facts are just factoids until they are confirmed, and a site like mine is dependant upon people like your good self who correct or add information… in this way, the information grows and gradually over time becomes more accurate…

    This witnessing is of the utmost importance and I greatly value such contributions…



  5. Dear Sue,

    My records show that Henry Grant Banister (engineer) Superintendent of the Chartererd Gas Company, Horseferry Road, died at the Gas Works on Dec 16. 1864. His will was proved at the Principal Registry in 1865.

    I’m curious to know how he died. He was married to Laura Devonald 1830-80 in 1856.

    Hope this helps.


  6. Dear Sue ,
    I was interested to read your item about Henry Banister but also in the response from Mrs Judith R Oliver, ggggranddaughter of Henry Banister 1790-1860, St Marys Woolwich bellringer. I am a ggggrandson of the same and would be grateful if you could pass my information to her as I would be interested in contacting her.
    Many thanks, Peter Leslie

  7. Dear Sue,

    I have emailed Peter Leslie today – thank you so much for contacting me with his request. I am delighted to find a family connection and look forward to his reply.

    With thanks,

    Judith Oliver

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