The rise of manufactured gas for domestic use was primarily pioneered by the UK, particularly in the period of 1812 – 25, when a large number of gas utility companies were created to service London and other major cities. First in line after the nation’s capital were Exeter, Liverpool and Preston in 1816, with other cities rapidly following suit. In fact, by 1821, only towns with populations of less than 50,000 were without gas lights. The trend continued apace, and only five years later, just two UK towns with populations of above 10,000 were without gas light.
The move to domestic gas use for cooking purposes was slower, and the public were initially reluctant to adopt it. This was largely influenced by gas company rules prohibiting gas use in the daytime. London’s famous Reform Club installed their first gas cookers in 1841, and several models were displayed at the Great Exhibition in 1851, whereupon their popularity grew rapidly, albeit largely confined to wealthier households.
Gas companies quickly caught on however and started offering rental cookers, which were paid for with prepayment slots. Popularity grew even quicker from 1923, when the oven thermostat was created and gas cookers became reliable and controllable for quality cooking results.
Electricity became widely available in homes during the 1920s and this increased competition. Manufacturers produced as many gas appliances as possible to convince their customers to stay with gas – including gas-powered fan, irons, fridges and even radios.
Today of course, most people use gas central heating, and many professional cooks actively seek out gas cookers over electrical models, thanks to the rapid responsiveness of gas hobs. Gas also remains a cheaper fuel than electricity, which further boosts its appeal for many!