The first stone of the intended new gasworks at Malton was laid late in June 1832 [1]. The streets of Malton were lit with gas for the first time on 12th November 1832 [2] 'The works adjoin the river, and from the beauty of the design, and the superior execution of the workmanship, the building from the bridge, has a very handsome appearance.' These first works were constructed by Messrs. John and James Malam, and purchased for £4,000, by a proprietary of £10 shareholders in 1836 . . . The Gas Works are near the bridge: there are three gasometers, which will hold about 37,000 cubic feet of gas' [3] The Malton Gas Light and Coke Company was formed in 1836 and became an unlimited company in 1862 (National Archives). There were various amalgamations over the succeeding years. Some documentation is in the archives at Transco plc. In October 1840, a dispute is reported over payments between the Lamp Inspectors of the borough and the Directors of the Gas Light and Coke Company. At a meeting between the parties, shareholders and inhabitants it was decided to leave the town in darkness [4]! My assumption is that the Lamp Inspectors managed the gas lighting on behalf of the ratepayers. An insight into Victorian practicalities and cost control is given in a report in 1841 [5]. 'The arrangement as to putting out the lights, will be the same as last season . . . namely two-thirds of the lamps to be put-out about eleven o'clock at night, and one third of the lamps to remain burning until about 5 o'clock in the morning.' Business must have been satisfactory since at a meeting of the directors 'it was unanimously resolved that a reduction in the present rate of gas be made from 6s 8d to 5s 8d per 1000 cubic feet.'

Every night, the gas lamps in the streets would be lit by employees of the Malton Gas Company, in accordance with the contract with the Malton Local Board. In September 1861, the Malton Messenger carried an advertisement for two lamplighters - "none need apply who cannot keep the taps and burner in good repair" [6] In 1865 the gasworks were probably extended since the Yorkshire Gazette carries an advertisement in the name of William Moon, secretary & manager, Gas Works, for the sale of a steam engine, two boilers and a gas holder, 'to be cleared away to make room for an extension to the gas works' [7]. Mr. Moon may have resigned shortly after since an advertisement appeared in 1867 'WANTED by the MALTON GAS LIGHT and COKE COMPANY, a Person fully competent to take the Situation of SECRETARY and MANAGER at their Works.' [8]

In 1879 the organisation was renamed, restructured, or both as the London Gazette of 25 November 1879 carries proposals for an Act of Parliament to dissolve the Malton Gas Light and Coke Company and form the Malton Gas Company. This document details the objectives of the company and describes where its premises were located. At this time there was agitation amongst residents as they believed the increased capital proposed would induce the company to lay pipes to the surrounding villages therefore keeping costs high to the townspeople. They also objected to the difference in price charged to the North Eastern Railway [9]. Shares in the gas company appeared to be a sought after investment. They changed hands at local auctions as described in 1888 [10] when it was stated that the last time the shares were offered in public, in March 1884, they fetched £22 5s per share. At the auction on the Tuesday, Mr. T.J. Blanche paid £25 10s and £25 5s for a number of shares, excluding the 10% dividend declared that morning. Three years later [11], the shares were selling for £27 2s 6d.

There were accidents as a result of gas use and installation. In April 1871, gas was laid on in the bedrooms of Mr. Ward's china and glass shop in Yorkersgate [12]. A joiner had damaged the pipes and the leaking gas filled the void between ceiling and floor. When a light was taken upstairs there was a large explosion - 'the smash among the china and glass defies description.' An 'alarming, and very destructive explosion' occurred in the shop of Mr. J.S. Harrison, printer and bookseller, Castlegate. Some alterations in the shop had resulted in workmen fracturing a pipe behind a large bookcase which was blown from its fixings and 'sent flying across the shop, almost through the window' [13]

  • [1] Yorkshire Gazette, 30th June 1832
  • [2] Hull Packet, 4th December 1832
  • [3] City and Topography of the City of York and North Riding of Yorkshire by T. Whellan & Co, 1857
  • [4] Yorkshire Gazette, 3 October 1840
  • [5] Yorkshire Gazette, 2 October 1841
  • [6] Malton Messenger, 14 September 1861
  • [7] Yorkshire Gazette, 29 April 1865
  • [8] Yorkshire Gazette, 26 October 1867
  • [9] Yorkshire Gazette, 11 February 1880
  • [10] York Herald, 11 August 1888
  • [11] York Herald, 6 March 1891
  • [12] York Herald, 29 April 1871
  • [13] Yorkshire Gazette, 6 October 1883
My Image
My Image
©British Library NEWS6512 Malton Messenger 29 April 1871

The Malton Gas Company

About three-quarters of a century ago the leading townsmen of Malton were busy in their minds considering the formation of a company to acquire the then newly-erected gasworks, which had been constructed by one John Malam, an enterprising gas engineer and speculator, who went about the east of Yorkshire planting gas works in promising towns. Malton found him at work near the county Bridge in 1834, erecting the nucleus of the present works. Various public and semi-public meetings were held, and finally the Malton Gas light and Coke Company was formed with a Board of twelve directors. Those gentlemen were William Allen, John Hopkins, John Slater, Henry Smithson, John Agar, Joseph Barnes, James Dunlop, George Holiday, John Pratt, Alfred Simpson, Thomas Taylor and john Wright. The mention of those names will call up in the minds of old Maltonians many reminiscences of the past, which, however, we cannot deal with here. The capital of the new company was fixed at £4,000 and no shareholder was to have more than 20 £10 shares. The late Mr. Samuel King filled the office of secretary. The first public amp to be lit by gas was in the centre of the Market Place, and until recently there were people living who saw it lit. To get a light without a wick was a novelty t most of the inhabitants, but the new illuminant was not very freely adopted, as the charge made for it was high. The method of charging first adopted was a fixed sum for each burner, burning a given number of hours, but that system soon gave way to the more satisfactory way of paying for the gas by measure or meter. For the first nine years of its career the company charged 13s per 1,000 cubic feet. In July, 1845, it was reduced to 10s, two years later to 8s 4d. In 1850 to 6s 8d, and in 1857 to 6s. Successive reductions were made as the consumption increased until the price now stands at 2s 6d per 1,000 feet, although in the meantime materials and labour have increased in cost. In 1880 the company ceased to exist as a joint stock company with a limited liability, having in that year had granted to it by Parliament statutory powers. As is usual when charters are granted, various conditions were imposed. The area within which the company could supply gas was defined as the Borough of Malton. The price of gas was fixed at 4s for 1,000 feet as a standard, and when that proce was charged the dividend was not to exceed ten per cent; but a provision was made that should the price be reduced or increased below or above 4s per 1,000 feet, then the company might pay a quarter per cent more or less for every penny the price deviated from 4s in inverse order to the price. Fortunately for Malton and Norton and the shareholders, the company have never found it necessary to charge as much as 4s per 1,000, although it is plain that heir sliding scale of price and dividend gives a mutuality of interests to the consumers and the shareholders. The company has never exacted its full "pound of flesh" under the sliding scale arrangement, but had it done so it would at the present time be paying a dividend of 14 1/2 per cent. Conditions were also laid down in the statutory enactment respecting the purity and illuminating power of the gas to be supplied. The original board of twelve directors was by the Act limited to a maximum of seven; there are at the present time five gentlemen holding that office. The capital has increased as the business grew from the original £4,000 to £29,000, and the consumption of gas now reaches 55 million cubic feet per annum. The attitude of suppliers of gas in times back towards the public was "you can take it or leave it." The town has for some years past been altogether different, and custom has been eagerly solicited and inducements to consume gas offered by letting out various apparatus. To gain additional custom the smaller houses have gas fittings, cookers, etc., supplied under the penny slot system, and it is interesting to note that more than one half of the total number of the customers of the company are now catered for in this way. The company, although standing in the public mind as a monopoly, has never been without competitors. They have always had the tallow candle and the oil lamp to contend against; in latter days the electric light has entered the field and made an attempt to eclipse the gas light, but, notwithstanding all the alleged advantages of its competitor, gas continues to hold its own and to flourish. The present chairman of the directors is Mr. Hugh W. Pearson, and the manager and secretary is Mr. Henry Tobey. As our readers will remember, Mr. Tobey is this year's president of the North of England Gas Managers' Association, whose last half-yearly meeting was held at Malton.

Yorkshire Gazette 6th January 1912 V Malton Gas Company


The very first use of the 'electric light' was in 1893 at the Farmers' Manure Company's Works. The dynamo was capable of supplying 70 pumps at 16 candlepower and savings of £60 - £70 per annum in gas were anticipated. It must have been a curious sight for unsuspecting inhabitants as the electrician demonstrated its capabilities by throwing a searchlight across the town. [1] The installation was destroyed in a fire later that same year [2] After a somewhat lengthy and tedious decision making process, electricity finally lit the Malton streets in 1905. Around the end of 1903 the Northern Counties Electricity Company 'secured the yard and the warehouses recently occupied by Mr Black, seedsman, by the Derwent side, as the site for their generating station and manufactory.' [3]

In November 1899 it was put to a meeting of the Malton Urban District Council (MUDC) to consider whether an agreement should be given to the Northern Counties Electric Supply Committee (NCESC) to apply for permission to the Board of Trade to establish works for supplying electricity to the urban district of Malton. The company guaranteed to supply lighting for the town within two years at a cost of 30% less than was currently paid for gas. The scheme would initially cost £10,000 but it would cost £40,000 to complete it. [4]

In December that year an agreement was signed with the above company to permit them to establish electricity works at Malton. [5] However, the company covenanted to light a 'compulsory area', which didn't include all of the streets that were lit by gas at that time. It seems that a dispute was already underway. MUDC had appealed to the NCESC to extend the 'compulsory' lighting to cover the present area lit by gas and to reduce the maximum charge per unit for electricity. A letter received from the agents for NCESC, Messrs. Wyatt & Co, Westminster, stated that they declined to accede to this. At the monthly meeting of the MUDC in January 1900 it was decided to ask the Board of Trade, by resolution to enforce their request. [6] It seems that the scheme did not progress but it was a discussion point in the September monthly meeting later that year 1900, where Mr Fairweather, engineer of NCESC attended. After full discussion it was agreed to go ahead with the scheme provided the following terms were agreed to in writing: The same area to be lit as was at present with any reasonable extensions requested by the council to be added as desired. The generator and any other related works to be erected in Norton. The cost of lighting the streets was to be 30% less than gas and must not be more than 7d a unit to private customers. They must also cover the cost of the Council's solicitor fees and they should have the option of purchasing the works after 12 years. [7]

In February 1901 NCESC were advertising shares in the company at a 'one chance' offer of £1 each. [8] Some of the smaller towns had already had electricity stations set up but presumably to progress they required further investment. The article listed the towns where agreements had been made to provide electricity, including Malton, on 27 Dec 1899 and Norton, on 15 Oct 1900. It is unclear why but little progress was made until 1905 regarding installation of electricity in the town as it seems negotiations were still underway regarding the areas to be lit. The gas company submitted their usual tender for the contract in this year but were instructed that they were only required to light part of the town as NCESC were going to provide lighting for some of the streets. An argument ensued with MUDC that resulted in the Gas Company withdrawing their tender on 4th July. [9] MUDC held several meetings in this month in an attempt to finally resolve the lighting issue leading to both gas and electric companies submitting new tenders for the whole of the town. The original tender from the Gas Company was £404.10s - £42.8s.6d less than the previous year but the renewed tender was £353.15s while the tender from NCESC was £385. While one may think that the decision would be in favour of the Gas Company winning the contract, some members of MUDC felt that they had probably been over charged for their gas supply the previous seven years by £899.9s.1d in total. In addition they saw electricity as the way forward for the future so it seems that an agreement was finally reached for NCESC to provide lighting for the whole town. [10]

By September 1905 the electric street lighting was well under way and it was expected that it would be completed by the end of the month. [11] At the same time, Norton Urban District Council (NUDC), not wanting to be left behind, was undergoing discussions with NCESC regarding laying cables for lighting their town. A meeting was held with Mr Fairweather on 29 July 1905 to discuss the issue, where he explained that the generating station and machinery at Malton had been provided at a great outlay.** If the committee could agree to it Norton could be supplied from there and the cable could commence being laid. It seem that Initially, Norton had expected to have their own generating station but as Mr Fairweather pointed out, the cost saved in this way would mean further improvements could be made at the Malton station that would benefit both towns. After the war NCESC was taken over by Newcastle Upon Tyne Electric Supply Company. Clement Wilson Fairweather became General Manager of NCESC in 1900. ** I thought the land purchased for the electric plant in 1903 was on the Norton side

When the street lighting contract came up for renewal in 1908 the Gas Company originally declined to tender. Agreement was reached in July 1908 with the NCESC whereby for £400 per annum 34 morning lamps would be lit from one hour after sunset till one hour before sunrise from 16th July till 31st May; and, 147 night lamps would be lit from one hour after sunset till 11pm from 1st August till 16th May. The proposal to not light the lamps each month for the nights when there was a "full moon" was not implemented [13]

The above refers to the electric lighting of the streets. Just when the first house had electric lighting is not known. A house 'Fern Croft', no. 25 The Mount was being auctioned in May 1922, and was advertised as being 'lighted by gas.' [14] A Mr. Vasey was advertising in the Malton Messenger in 1923 services for the installation of electric light [15].

  • [1] Yorkshire Gazette, 25 February 1893
  • [2] Yorkshire Herald, 16 December 1893 [3] Hull Daily Mail, 5 January 1904
  • [4] Yorkshire Herald, 8 November 1899
  • [5] Yorkshire Evening Post, 28 December 1899
  • [6] Yorkshire Herald, 2 February 1900
  • [7] Yorkshire Herald, 26 September 1900
  • [8] The Berwickshire News 12 February 1901
  • [9] Malton Gazette 22 July 1905
  • [10] Malton Gazette 29 July 1905
  • [11] Malton Gazette 2 Sept 1905
  • [12] Malton Gazette 29 July 1905
  • [13] Yorkshire Gazette, 18 July 1908
  • [14] Malton Messenger, 6 May 1922
  • [15] Malton Messenger, 10 March 1923


In 1867 the Malton waterworks were opened [1] "after repeated delays, caused by floods and the large excess of water in the springs in the Orchard-field, where the well is formed, the Malton Waterworks were opened without ceremony on Monday, and the towns of Malton and Norton were at last supplied with pure water . . . The water is pumped from the Lady's Spring (the water shed of the Howardeans) to a reservoir constructed on the hill above Malton and, excepting a few slight accidents, all works admirably. The scheme has been wholly carried out by the Local Board of Health." All was not however perfect, flooding in the area allowed flood water into the well. The cost to Norton was frequently discussed and eventually Norton established its' own water supply, and were able to supply Malton when their supply was under threat of contamination.

  • [1] Yorkshire Gazette, 6 April 1867

Information in Four Categories


Lots of information about who lived here and where! Families, Malton Butchers Cricket Team, Malton People Database, Memories of Malton, Charles Dickens Connection, Town Bellman, Town Crier, Wives Wanted, Malton in the 1840s, Census including some transcriptions, 1858 List of Voters for St. Michael's, Earl Fitzwilliam Rent Accounts, Newspaper announcements of births, deaths and mariages

The Town

What was the town like in Victorian and Edwardian times? Where is/was that street? House numbering, Malton in the 1840s, Planning & Building Control, Toilets in Chancery Lane, Streets Butcher Corner, Castlegate, Greengate, Market Place, Middlecave, Newbiggin, Old Maltongate, St. Michael Street, Saville Street, The Mount, Wentworth Street, Wheelgate, Yorkersgate, York Road, Peasey Hill, Planning & Building Control, Town Guides Old Pictures and Maps, Walks around the town take in a bit of history! Land Hearth Tax, 1873 Return of Owners of Land, Property, North Riding Register of Deeds, Finance Act 1910


What businesses and industries were here? Trade Directories, Photographers, Undertakers, Apprentices, Banks, Breweries, Local Traders and Advertisements, Bankruptcy, Malton and Norton Cooperative Society, Longsters, Fitch & Co, Thomas Taylor, Public Benefit Boot Co., Shopping Week 1922, The Manure Company, Biscuit Mills, Milling, Iron Foundries, Ralph Yates, Industrial Safety

Topics & Events

What happened here both locally and in response to wider events? Baker's Chronology, New Malton Spa, Emigration, The Telephone Comes to Malton, Cemetery, Horse Procession, Coronation of Queen Victoria, 1937 Coronation Celebrations, St. Michael's School, Racecourse, Emigration, Malton Golf Course, Sebastopol Cannon, Middlecave Windmill, Traffic, Theatre, Queen Victoria's Jubilee, Coronation of Edward Vll, Longster's Spa Garden, Curling, Talbot Hotel Newspapers Historical Background, Malton Messenger, Malton & Norton Gazette, including digital copies of the first few editions from 1855 Worship Three Ecclesiastical Parishes, 1857 locations, St. Michael's, St. Leonard's, Primitive Methodists, Unitarians, Independents, Catholics, Baptists, Wesleyans, Society of Friends, Congregationalists, 1851 Religious Census Police & Fire Police, law & order, prostitution, fire brigade, fires, Fire Brigade Friendly Society Pubs & Beerhouses Brewster Sessions, landlords, Temperance movement, closure dates Secret Orders Freemasonry, Friendly Societies, Oddfellows, Independent Order of Rechabites, Shepherds and Charities The Railway Victorian Heyday, Abolition of the Turnpikes, Accidents, Station Location, Railway Crossing & Bridge, Excursions, Railway Buildings, York & Scarborough line, Malton & Driffield line, Malton and Whitby line Health The sanitary condition of Malton 1854, nuisance removal, local board of health, the Dispensary, the Cottage Hospital, Apothecaries, Doctors and Surgeons, Dentists, Galvanism, 1932 typhoid outbreak, Health & Housing in 1909, Cholera, Smallpox, Smallpox Vaccination, Typhoid, 1918 Influenza epidemic Workhouse Settlement & Removals, managing the workhouse, state of the workhouse 1818, workhouse provisions, scandal at the workhouse, life in the workhouse, one of yours in the workhouse, masters & matrons, advertisements for staff First World War War is declared, the Wider War Effort, Employment issues for local tradesmen, Zeppelin Raids, Local Recruitment Advertising and Meetings, Military Tribunals, Medals and Bravery, Casualties, War Memorial, Armistice is Signed

This website is constructed using RapidWeaver. Specific theme design, 'Aspen' is © Nick Cates Design
Site last updated 29th January 2020
Contact me