SIDMOUTH NOSTALGIA: Industrial past of the Ham in focus

A PRESENT day site of much local controversy, Sidmouth s the Ham has an industrial past.

A PRESENT day site of much local controversy, Sidmouth's the Ham has an industrial past.

In their 2007 book Sidmouth: A History, John Ankins and Margaret Taylor talk of how, in 1863, Sidmouth's second gas works were built at the eastern end of the Esplanade, now the site of the town's swimming pool and part of the Ham car park.

Ten years on in the Sidmouth Journal and Directory, dated March 1873, an advertisement stated: "Sidmouth Gas Works, to be sold on April 4.

"Now in the occupation of Mr Henry Ellis, comprising the land, Retort House, cottages, buildings, and premises, two gasholders, several miles of mains and 80 public lamps."

In 1873, a Mr John Dunning, of Middlesbrough, bought a long triangular strip of land near the Ham. Mr Dunning also obtained a further provisional order for the purpose of erecting piers and landing places.

Ankins and Taylor describe how "He (Dunning) spent time and money trying to build a pier or jetty to unload the coal barges instead of running the barges onto the beach to be unloaded."

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However, rough seas always destroyed the work Mr Dunning put into building a jetty. In 1877 a storm destroyed a crane and the foundations were washed away. By 1879 he was forced to give up on the idea.

The arrival of the railway to Sidmouth in July 1874, meant that coal could be brought in by train, then delivered by lorries to the gas works.

The Sidmouth Urban Council bought out the Sidmouth Gas Company in 1913. In 1933 they built gas show rooms in the High Street. Gas consumption had risen from 18,000,000 cu ft a year to 70,000,000 according to Ankins and Taylor.

The Gas Works remained at the Ham until a new modern plant was built near the railway station. This went into full production in 1941 before being closed in 1956- now part of the Alexandria Industrial Estate.