Hobart Gas Company

Gas lighting in Macquarie Street, Hobart, 1878 (W.L. Crowther Library, SLT)

The Hobart Gas Company was formed in 1854 to establish a gasworks to lighten the city streets. Technological apparatus and skilled workers were imported and the gasworks were built off Macquarie Street. This was the third gasworks in the southern hemisphere, following Sydney (1841) and Melbourne (1850). The engineer was William Falconer, an experienced Scot who later built gasworks at Launceston and Latrobe.

As the demand for gas grew, the gasworks were extended, and in 1894 the Company established an electric power station. The plant was reconstructed in 1924. Succeeding years saw problems of economic depression, shortages of coal, and customers' preference for electricity, and despite the introduction of a catalytic oil reformer in 1965 to reduce dependence on coal, the company's fortunes continued to decline. Town gas ended in 1978. Much of the industrial heritage was demolished, but the engine house and office building are extant.

Further reading: Stephenson EMF Consultants, 'Hobart Gasworks conservation plan & preliminary environmental audit', Hobart, 1993.

Audrey Hudspeth