Fakenham Gas Museum holds a night opening

Museum director, Harry Yates, lights the lamp watch by Mike Woodward (left) and Jim Pawley MLNF17PB05575
Museum director, Harry Yates, lights the lamp watch by Mike Woodward (left) and Jim Pawley MLNF17PB05575

A steady stream of visitors were attracted to a night at the museum evening at Museum of Fakenham’s Gas and Local History on Thursday.

It was part of the Arts Council’s annual Museums by Night Festival which ran from Wednesday to Saturday.

The gasworks themselves, opened in 1846, are a schedule 1 ancient monument and the last remaining complete town gasworks in England and Wales. It’s condition is such that with a complete overhaul and safety check it would still be capable of producing gas.

The gas came from coal that was baked in air-tight retorts to take out poisonous substances such as sulphur, tars, carbon monoxide as well as the gas itself.

Several cleaning processes then separated the gas from the impurities.

The gas was piped into people’s homes and the remaining coke was either used to heat the retorts or sold as the first smokeless fuel.

The site’s old workshops and offices are filled with the gas appliances that once filled many homes.

Alongside are the coin-in-the-slot meters and the equipment that tested the purity and quality of the gas before it was pumped into the network of pipes that delivered the gas to homes and businesses.

The highlight of the evening was the lighting of an old gas street lamp at dusk performed by museum director, Harry Yates, and the reading of the poem, The Lamplighter, by Robert Louis Stevenson..

The site is also the home of the town’s history groups.

The event was a continuation of a link with the local library’s three-year-old part-heritage initiative, North Norfolk stories. In conjunction with the event there were readings.

Fakenham Community Archive, which has some 12,000 old photographs, organised a display of pictures on the theme of ‘Play’.

Mr Yates said: “The event was well attended. I’m delighted to see people continue to show an interest not only in the museum itself but in the Arts Councils’ Museums at Night.”