Saying farewell to a much-loved landmark

by Leslee Barron

March 8th, 2022, was the date the dismantling of the gas tower began. Campaigning had seen the start date postponed twice, for a whole year. I had hoped the gas tower would stay, but I was also realistic.

People asked why I called it a gas ‘tower’, that I should call it a gas ‘holder’ or a ‘gasometer’. It has been all of those things, in the past, when it held gas and when it was a meter for gas.

As it has stood for the last sixteen years, without gas, for me, and many others, there’s only one word that describes it, and that’s ‘tower’. Because it is a tower. It towers over the river and Newtown, so with respect let me give it this status.

I was dreading seeing the steel being cut into, but I braced myself and walked the much-trodden path down from my home to the gas tower on the day it started. With flashes, sparks, bangs and grinding metal the first sections were cut away.

The gas tower has meant so much to me over the last four years. It gave me a focus. It introduced me to peregrine falcons; I can admit now that I knew nothing about them before I spotted them and knew that was an opportunity to stop the dismantling last year. It helped me realise what a wonderful community I live in. It even got me shortlisted as ‘Photographer of the year 2021’ for one of my gas tower photographs by Historic England. It introduced me to Mary Chambers, with whom I have collaborated on the website, an online and a physical art exhibition, and of course the storybook, Alina Saves The Moon.

There is a sense of grief watching it disappear, but I have secured a piece of it which will become part of the benches for Newtown Community Garden, another focus.

I could easily draft a thesis on ‘my love of an old chunk of rusting metal,’ but I won’t, not today anyway. Maybe one day I’ll sit on one of those benches and start that draft.