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The Eventful Arrivals
Natural Gas Comes to the Village - Barwick's 1st!

Barwicker No. 118
June 2015

In the Barwicker No.68 (December 2002) Alan Senior described how piped gas came to the villages of Scholes and Barwick shortly before the 1st World War supplied by the Garforth Gas Company.

The gas provided was coal or town gas manufactured by heating coal in a local gas works. This served the district for over 50 years until 1971. Vast natural gas reserves were discovered during the 1960s below the sea bed in the North sea. Quickly exploited, a national distribution grid of pipes was constructed and in the period 1967 to 1977 all of Great Britain was converted over to the new gas. This cost over ₤ 100 million and the local manufacturing plants were made redundant.

Barwick-in-Elmet was converted to Natural Gas over the period of the 25th to 26th January 1971, and with Aberford, was the first area in the district. Various letters and leaflets were distributed to residents providing information on what was happening, here is an extract from the Skyrack newspaper in January 1971:

In little more than a week the flickering of yellow flames from stand-pipe burners in the streets of Barwick-in-Elmet and Aberford will signify the arrival of North Sea Gas to the area. The flames will changes from blue to yellow in the burners - spaced out along the streets like so many Olympic torches - when the last of the "old gas" has been purgedfrom the gas pipes of the village. It is fitting that those two villages, with their roots so deep in the past, should be the first to make use of the pure, clean natural gas that has accumulated deep below the bed of the North Seafor millions of years. In the three weeks that follow the conversion of these two villages the whole of Garforth, and most of its surrounding communities, will be receiving the substance that has revolutionised the British Gas Industry since the first major strike under the North sea in 1965.

There had been stories circulating that following conversion people were unable to light their fires and cookers; unable to simmer food without the gas going out; and of a roaring noise which the new gas made; and worst of all, stories of explosion in the homes of consumers. The North Eastern Gas Board re-assured all the consumers that these were not correct and any issues related to old appliances. In fact many old and very dangerous appliances were discovered and taken out of service as a result of the conversion.

It was pointed out that the gas was much cleaner and marks you would get above gas appliances from town gas would no longer occur. The gas was cheaper, changing to 3½ (or 6½ "new" pence) a therm instead of 6½, but with a standing charge increasing to ₤ 3.10s in place of ₤ 1.19s.

Burning off natural gas

To convert appliances new burners needed to be fitted which changed the gas/air ratios. On Monday 25th January each house in the vil1age received the equipment needed. From 8pm in the evening a group of gas fitters then converted all non-essential appliances such as the ovens and the grill portions of cookers. These were then out of action overnight.

Hobs could continue to be used still working on the town gas. Then at 8 am on Tuesday 26th January the supply to all houses was disconnected. When this was completed the supply pipes were purged of the old gas using burners placed in the street, the colour of the flames changed to yellow when the natural gas arrived which took about two hours. During the rest of the day the fitters converted the final appliances and restored gas to each property.


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