Southall Gas Works

Younger Britons won't remember the conversion from Town Gas, made by baking coal, to Natural Gas, then extracted primarily from under the North Sea. Southall Gas Works now retains only gas storage facilities. It was once a major manufacturing site.

News clipping regarding long service awards by the North Thames Gas Board to employees at Southall Gas Works in 1954

The 1920's and 30's saw severe economic conditions but some secure blue collar jobs clearly existed. After the First World War Hugh returned to Southall Gas Works, spending the rest of his working life as a valveman. Profit sharing schemes sound modern. He joined the Gas Light And Coke Company's Co-Partnership Scheme in 1926, a scheme inaugurated in 1909! It paid an annual bonus related to the amount of gas sold, provided a savings scheme, and investment in the company's stock. It also discouraged unofficial strikes and absenteeism, which would result in loss of bonus. His wages rose in 1927 and 1928. I don't know how many hours per week were required, I suspect a lot. He was certainly working rotating shifts in a continuous production process. In July 1954 he received a 40 year service presentation of a half hunter pocket watch. On the chain is a half sovereign and a Masonic symbol.

Detail from Masonic apron

I only discovered my grandfather had been a Freemason when, during the clearance of his house after he died, we recovered a small suitcase containing his Masonic regalia. I have been told he once got into serious trouble at the gasworks when his mistake resulted in production gas being lost to the atmosphere. He was informed by those in the know that his misfortune could have been alleviated had he been a Mason. He joined up, typically becoming fully involved, going on to serve as Master of the Hanworth Lodge in 1950. My father gave the garments and decorations to the folks at the Masonic Hall in Staines. I took some photographs first.

News clipping regarding retirement of Hugh Samuel King from Southall Gas Works in 1957

He retired from work in June 1957. There are a number of photographs of events around the time of his retirement. I don't know exactly what they are but I like this one. It's interesting to note that his Gas Board pension in 1959 was less in pounds than his wages in 1928. At his death he still had a paid up union card in the Gas Staffs Western Branch. I guess he liked to keep all the angles covered.

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European union?