Watching it come down – update on the demolition of the Highbrooms gas holders

Watch it come down! Demolition underway....

Watch it come down! Demolition underway…. gas holder reduced to ground level in the background – July 2013

With the arrival of July the huge red machines with savage jaws have been ripping out the Victorian gas holders in High Brooms for about three weeks and they seem to be making good progress. My earlier blog entry on this subject showed that the demolition company had just broken through the outer skin on one of the main holders but now large sections have been removed and the machines are additionally attacking it from the inside.

The holders have been on this site since around 1880 and were still in use until the late 1960’s and many people in the area had ties to those who worked here and were involved in the production of coal gas, and even those that weren’t can still remember the smell!

The New Gas Works, Tunbridge Wells - 1880

The New Gas Works, Tunbridge Wells – 1880 (photo TWBC_museum)

Susan Roberts grew up in the area and added the following memories: My dad worked at the gasworks in the mid 1950’s and I can remember watching him working near the top of the holder when we lived in Holmewood Road. We could barely watch our TV then because of the “ghosting” caused by the holders. So sad to see them go. Did you know when we were kids and you had whooping cough you would be pushed around the perimeter and apparently the sulphur that would be in the air helped stop the coughing. My dad suffered from psoriasis and was told by the doctor that checked him when applying for the job there that it would disappear – it did.


Brickworks in Highbrooms next to the Victorian gas holders

Others, who shall remain nameless, have other memories of entering the site and climbing the tall metal towers or firing mud at them from the end of a stick to see who could leave the highest mark.

Access to the site is obviously restricted for safety reasons but you can still see the work progressing from a distance. Today the inner workings and Victorian construction have now been fully exposed showing how metal plates were hot riveted over the seams to prevent the gas from leaking.

Demolition of the Highbrooms gas holders - progress July 2013

Demolition of the Highbrooms gas holders – progress July 2013

Demolition of the Highbrooms gas holders - progress July 2013

Demolition of the Highbrooms gas holders – progress July 2013

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Copyright for all images belongs to Daniel Marsh @danieljmarsh unless otherwise stated – please do not replicate or use in any form without prior permission being granted.

Tunbridge Wells Gasworks plans

Tunbridge Wells Gasworks plans (photo TWBC_museum)


3 thoughts on “Watching it come down – update on the demolition of the Highbrooms gas holders

  1. Chris Taylor

    Just found your site and have had a good wander down memory lane. Thank you for the effort you have made in bringing this stuff together.

    I was born in North Farm Road in 1947 and left in 1970 though my sister still lives in our old house. Before and after WWII my father worked in the brickyard office later taken over by Kelly’s car repairs. In the showroom next door was a goldfish pond and he’d take me in there during holidays to feed the fish. Later he became works manager and was still in that role when the company invested heavily in new machinery. Sadly that investment came far too late and coupled with a downturn in the building industry the company became unable to service the loans and failed to remain a viable concern and it ceased trading. We also used to tour the works during longer breaks like Christmas and New Year to visit the skeleton staff keeping watch on the kilns which were still firing bricks despite the break. Before the new machinery was introduced they also had a smashing stationary beam engine powering the works with two Lancashire boilers taking it in turns to provide the steam.

    I have put a few photos of trains at HB Station (taken mostly from our front steps) at:
    and this one maybe of most interest as it also shows one of the gasholders:

    I have also added some videos to YouTube of Roy Gibb and Graham Woodhams (2 of the Three Bums) performing at the HB Tavern – just search YouTube for “Roy and Graham”. An example here:

    Whilst there I also took photos of the weird and wonderful interior.

    Thanks again – and keep up the good work.

    Chris Taylor

    1. Roland Douglas Butler

      I was bought up in Oak Road with the gas holders around 200 feet from our house. We never suffered any chest problems then. That sharp downhill bend in Sandhurst Road with the Junction of Oak Road was always the scene of many accidents, mostly at night!!
      Have many happy memories of that area, and as I am now living in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, in my quiet downtime [of which I have many at 73], Ivery often think of the good times I had.
      Hope this is of use to you.
      Kind regards
      Mick Butler

  2. Pingback: The last of the giants in High Brooms is coming down…. | Highbrooms Society

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