Saturday, 30 December 2017

Former Gas Works Building, Seaton, Devon

Situated in - and part of - Harcombe Engineering, I've always loved seeing this old building. I took the first four photos in 2008 but didn't think I'd be able to do anything with them at the time, then in July this year I came across some interesting information about it and decided to make another visit.

I'd been using old Ordnance Survey Maps of Seaton to verify dates of various buildings, and also whilst researching the identity of one of them. Then out of interest, I had a look at other sections of Seaton to see what else I could find and came across this building. According to the oldest map available online - dated 1889 - it belonged to the Gas Works along with other buildings, including a circular gas holder.

So, the next day I set out on my walk to have another look. Being a work day, I went to seek permission to take more photos first, and asked the owner if he knew anything about the history. He confirmed that it was part of the old gas works and also gave me the date when it was built. Unfortunately, I have looked through every notebook, pile of scrap paper and lists that I have - which is a lot - and I can't find it anywhere. Doh!

I'm pretty sure it was around the 1860s though. Interestingly, on the old OS Maps the area next door is marked as being a Builders Merchants Depot. The man I talked to told me that it was built a couple of years after the gas works, and is still a builder's yard...which confused me for a moment until I realised that Bradfords Building Supplies is next door, and I didn't even make the connection!

Trying to discover the date the depot was built, I did a bit of research about Bradfords and found some really interesting information about it.

Operating since 1770, the oldest branches were located near railway stations, which was the fastest method of distribution for their products during the 18th and 19th centuries. I wasn't able to discover when the Seaton branch opened but it is on the corner directly opposite the erstwhile railway station, with the goods depot situated above. Therefore, not only a continual builder's depot but also a continual one belonging to the same firm.

The Seaton railway line was opened in 1868, and assuming that Bradfords was built a few years after that, the date for the gas works would possibly be in the late 1860s.

Wonderfully weathered red brick on the front elevation, there are signs that the building was extended on the right side, with a newer brick abutted against the old. Some lovely details; shallow brick arches above most of the doors and windows, and two of the windows with higher arches containing a brick-faced tympanum (below).

The left side (below) is faced with a mixture of local stone rubble and some brickwork around a blocked window and what may have been a door and/or other windows.

As I often tend to do, I really wish I'd taken more photos. Being a working yard there's always a vehicle or two in front of the building, which means taking photos of just the clear bits. I've pretty much got all the bits, but it would be nice to get the whole thing in one, or some longer shots to show where the bits match up, and some more detailed close-ups too. I think I'll have to go again after the New Year. Meanwhile, I really wanted to get this one published while I can still call it 'this year'. :)

And talking of which, a very happy new year to everyone. Let's hope it'll be a good year for us all. :)

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