The large gas holder at Oval Village was built in 1877-9 by Corbet Woodall on the site of an earlier holder. It was then the world’s largest telescopic gas holder with a capacity of 3.1 million cubic feet.
The Morning Post thought it ‘a stupendous piece of workmanship’, noting that ‘it will contain upwards of 28,000 feet of riveting, and when completed will weigh upwards of 400 tons’.
It was heightened in 1890-1 by Frank Livesey of the South Metropolitan company to four vessels (lifts), doubling the capacity. The wrought-iron guide frame was increased from 27.5m to 41m high.
By the 1990s, advancements in technology meant the bold iron structures were no longer needed to store gas. In 2014, Southern Gas Networks announced plans to remove 111 gasholders around the country during the next 16 years, the Oval gas holders were included.
The main Oval gas holder was granted Grade II listed status in 2016 by Historic England who said:
“Gasholder No 1 at Kennington was the world’s largest gasholder when it was built in 1877-9. It also made early use of wrought iron in a frame and so marks an important moment in gasholder technology. Furthermore, it provides a distinctive backdrop to the Oval cricket ground and its image has long been broadcast around the world.”
Berkeley started construction on the former Oval gas holders in 2019 and plans to retain and refurbish it by building homes within the iron structure.
In 1844, the Duchy of Cornwall agreed to lease the land as a cricket ground. Turf was brought from Tooting Common and the Surrey County Cricket Club officially started life in 1845.
20,000 spectators gathered at The Oval in 1868 for the first game of the Aboriginal cricket tour of England, the first tour of England by any cricket team.
The first Test match was played between England and Australia in 1880. In 1882, Australia achieved the Test with seven runs within two days. A British newspaper, The Sporting Times, wrote a satirical obituary, remarking that English cricket had died and “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”.
The company increased in size and moved to Lambeth in 1908, then starting producing gin in 1958.
It is now housed in an Edwardian building with a 1950s extension and original features such as pot stills and a botanical room where the ingredients for gin were stored.