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An illustration of Lambeth gasworks from 'London: a Pilgrimage' by Blanchard Jerrold and Gustave Doré, 1872. In nineteenth-century London gas was manufactured from the distillation of coal. The illustration shows coal being heated in retorts (closed fireclay cylinders, often of a D-section) to drive off gas that is then purified and stored in gasholders. Coal gas consisted mainly of methane and hydrogen plus carbon dioxide, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. Gasworks created smoke, dust and noxious smells and waste products. They were therefore usually sited in the poorer areas of London.
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