National Grid has an on-going nationwide programme to dismantle unused gasholders.
These structures were formerly used to store gas, but they are no longer needed because improvements to the national gas network mean that gas can now be stored in the pipe system underground.
The three gasholders at our Windsor Street site have not been in use since 2012. Dismantling the gasholders is the first step to bringing the site back into beneficial use. We have appointed our specialist contractor, DSM, to undertake the work which is expected to be completed in 2022.
Gas production started at the Windsor Street Gasworks in the 1840s and our site was acquired by the Birmingham Corporation in the 1880s to enable expansion of the gasworks. The gasholders at our site date from 1885, where they have remained a feature of the Aston skyline since. Famously they have been painted in the Aston Villa Football Club colours and are the last remaining gasholders in Birmingham.
Undertaking the dismantling work safely is our priority and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re taking steps to ensure the safety of our workers and neighbours. Following clear guidance from the Government, Public Health England and the construction industry, we’re implementing strict additional controls and measures to ensure safe working. We’re constantly reviewing the situation and will act swiftly to adjust our ways of working if Government advice changes.
Before we dismantle the gasholders, we’ll need to remove any water, oil and sludge from inside them. When we’re removing the water, there may be some noise from the generators used to power the pumping equipment. We’ll try to keep this noise to a minimum.
You may also notice a gas/diesel-like smell when we remove the sludge and other debris from the bottom of the gasholders. This will be temporary and is not harmful to people, animals or the environment. However, if you are concerned about a gas smell, please contact the national gas emergency service on freephone 0800 111 999. A gas engineer will need to check if there is a gas leak unrelated to our work on the gas holders.
Once we have emptied the below ground tanks, we will carefully dismantle the gasholder frames. This will involve cutting the steel structure using a range of machinery including cranes. The site will be closely monitored and we will take action to reduce any smells, noise, vibration or dust.
Our working hours will be 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday with some weekend working if required.
We’re an approved Client Partner of the Considerate Constructors Scheme. This means our work at Windsor Street will be registered with the scheme and meet its Code of Considerate Practice requirements.
Throughout the duration of the works we remain committed to working with our specialist contractor, DSM, to:
Demonstrate and promote the highest standards of considerate construction with our on-site activities.
Undertake work in a way that is considerate of the general public, the workforce and the environment.
Act as ambassadors for the construction industry, promoting the Scheme and its aims, and will look to promote a positive image of construction at all times.
We recognise that gasholders are a part of our industrial heritage and undertake historical recording at all our gasholder sites, including Windsor Street. The current Windsor Street site has been associated with the gas industry since the 1880s when it was acquired by the Birmingham Corporation to enable the extension of the Windsor Street Gasworks. The gasworks once housed 11 gasholders and when the twin gasholders were built in 1885, they were the largest in the world. By 1928 the gasworks had become the largest gasworks owned by the Birmingham Corporation, occupying an area of 26 acres, and it remained in operation until the late 1980s.
As the Windsor Street gasholders are the last in Birmingham, we have commissioned Professor Russell Thomas to produce a booklet on the history of the gas industry in Birmingham.
Heritage is not just about buildings and infrastructure, it is about people. The gas industry has played a huge role in generations of families’ lives and still does today. This social history is important to pass on to future generations and our Capturing Stories project aims to do just this.
Capturing Stories is National Grid’s commitment to seek out and record the lived experience of the gas industry. These digital recordings will be used to supplement our growing archive of physical and technical heritage information.
The recordings are of stories locked away in the memories of those who worked on former gas manufacturing sites, gas industry employees and of people who remember their local gasworks being operational.
These stories are recorded in the form of podcasts and videos and you can explore them at capturing stories.
Do you have a story to tell about life and work in the gas industry at Windsor Street?
If so, we’d like your help to create one of the world’s largest digital history archives of the gas industry, capturing people’s experiences through video and audio recordings.
The completed podcasts and videos supplement the physical archives held at the National Gas Archive in Warrington and the National Gas Museum in Leicester. We’ll also donate copies to national and local museums, archives and libraries.
If you have a story you’d like to share please email us:
The Windsor Street gasholders were painted in the club colours of Aston Villa in the 1980s. Exactly how this came to happen is a bit of a mystery, but if you can shed any light on this then please get in touch. It is believed that the engineer once in charge of maintenance chose the colours because he was a supporter but we don’t know this for sure!
The links with the club remain strong today and we have plans to work together on a joint heritage project.
As the final gasholders in Birmingham are dismantled, we’ve commissioned local historical education specialists Mrs History to work with two local primary schools close to the site. Groups of children from St Matthew’s C of E and St Joseph’s Catholic Primary Schools will be undertaking local history walks and classroom workshops before presenting their findings to an invited audience.