London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:

1824 - 1974

Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records of the Imperial Continental Gas Association, including:
    1. Deeds of settlement, Acts of Parliament (Mss 23319-326);
    2. Directors' minutes and other papers (Mss 23327-340);
    3. General (Shareholders) meetings minutes and annual reports and accounts (Mss 23341-345);
    4. Secretary's papers (Mss 23346-376);
    5. Accounts (Mss 23377-413);
    6. Gas and electricity contracts: Belgium (Mss 23414-424), France (Mss 23425-30), Germany (Mss 23431-432), Netherlands (Mss 23433-434), Roumania (Ms 23435);
    7. Staff records (Mss 23436-442, Mss 31767-8);
    8. Property records (gas works, offices etc): Austria-Hungary (Mss 23443-445), Belgium (Mss 23446-66), Germany (Ms 23467), Netherlands (Ms 23468), London (Ms 23449-74);
    9. Notes for company histories (Ms 23475-480);
    10. Annual reports and accounts of subsidiaries (Mss 23481-482).

Extent: 278 production units.
Classification: BUSINESSES
Former Reference: MS 23319- 23482, Ms 31767- 8
Site Location: Held offsite; some items at London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • The Imperial Continental Gas Association was constituted in 1826 to 'manufacture and produce inflammable air or gas from coal, oil and other materials ... and to supply Cities and Towns .... in foreign countries'. It was not concerned with the British market. Its founder Major-General Sir William Congreve Bt, MP, FRS (1772-1828) had toured the continent since 1824 promoting the adoption by municipal authorities of lighting by coal gas and concluding early contracts to supply such cities as Ghent, Rotterdam, Hanover and Berlin. From its London headquarters, the Association expanded its operations abroad in succeeding decades. It negotiated contracts in Austria-Hungary, Belgium, France, Prussia and the Netherlands, took over or built gas works in foreign cities and directed production and supply through a network of British and foreign agents and engineers. Its concern initially was with the lighting by gas of public places, but by the second half of the 19th century it was also supplying domestic consumers. Towards the end of the century, it branched out into production and supply of electricity.

    Many of the Association's works and premises were damaged during the First World War. In addition, in 1916-17 its holdings in Germany and Austria-Hungary suffered compulsory liquidation by the German and Austrian governments. In consequence, after 1918, there was restructuring so that operations were increasingly restricted to Belgium and France and direct supervision transferred to locally constituted subsidiary companies. In 1928-9, the following allied and subsidiary companies were formed in Belgium: Antwerpsche Gasmaatschappij (A. G.M.), formed to take over the Association's interests in the Antwerp area; Societe Electricite et Gaz de l'Agglomeration Bruxelloise (Electrogaz) and Societe Provinciale du Gaz et de l'Electricite (Provinciale), formed to serve the suburbs and outlying communes of Brussels and the rural areas of the province of Brabant; Les Cokeries du Brabant, formed to produce coke and gas; Societe de Distribution de Gaz (Distrigaz), formed to create a long-distance gas grid throughout Belgium; and Union Intercommunale des Centrales Electriques du Brabant (Interbrabant), formed to produce and transmit electricity. In 1933 a Belgian holding company, Compagnie Belge et Continentale du Gaz (Contibel), was formed to administer the subsidiaries. In France, the Association's main interest lay in the Compagnie Continentale du Gaz, formed in 1907. This remained in Association hands until 1946 when the energy industries of France were nationalised.

    The role of the Association in the affairs of its subsidiaries diminished progressively after 1945. In April 1987, in the course of company restructuring, the Association went into voluntary liquidation.

    The Association operated from a succession of addresses in the City of London: 29 Swithin's Lane (1824-31); Levant House, St Helen's Place (1831-35); 7 White Hart Court, Lombard Street, (1835-64); 30-31 Clement's Lane (1864-91); 21 Austin Friars (1891-1920); 6 London Wall (1921-27); 2 Devonshire Square (1927-79); 14 Moorfields Highwalk (1979-87).
Creator: Imperial Continental Gas Association
Copyright: Depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • The Association presented its archives to Guildhall Library in August 1987. Ms 31767-8 were given by a private individual in 1997. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.
  • 1987/053
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions
Arrangement: Records arranged by MS number, assigned during cataloguing at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section.
Publication Notes:

For further details of Imperial Continental Gas Association and its history, see the following works;
- N. K. Hill, 'The History of the Imperial Continental Gas Association, 1824-1900: A study of British economic enterprise on the Continent of Europe in the nineteenth century' (Unpublished thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at London University, 1950);
- R. A. Bourne-Paterson, 'The Imperial Continental Gas Association in the twentieth century' (Unpublished typescript, 1970);
- Anon. 'The Imperial Continental Gas Association 1824-1974' (1974); and
- N. K. Hill 'Accountancy developments in a public utility company in the nineteenth century' in 'Accountancy Research', October 1955, vol. 6, no.4.