Farewell to the Gas Tower: digital exhibition

Our iconic gas tower is due for demolition early in 2021. Before the Covid19 pandemic we had planned a community art exhibition as part of a series of events and exhibitions to celebrate the gas tower and its place in our community. We hope this event will still take place in the future, but in the meantime, we are hosting an online exhibition right here on this page!

Please send us your dramatic photographs, and digital versions of your sketches, drawings and paintings. Do you have a memory you’d like to share, or a story to tell? Have you written a poem or created a sculpture? If so, we'd love to hear from you! We hope to create a record of part of Reading's skyline that will soon be gone forever.

Contributions should be submitted by email to

Gasometer - by Jez Dyer

Jez Dyer gives us another striking black and white image of the tower. Here it looks almost like black lace against a herringbone sky.

Gas Holder No. 4, Reading - by Claire Alcock

It was announced today (22nd January 2021) that permission has finally been granted for the demolition of the gas tower. And so this seems a particularly appropriate day to publish Claire Alcock's poem of farewell. Claire is the vicar of St John and St Stephen's Church, which has views of the gas tower from every corner. If you like her poem you can read more poetry and reflections on her blog,

The Weathered Tower - by Mary Chambers

The tower in my photos is all about the weather. It becomes a frame or filter for the sky, almost like a barometer, and in every light it looks different. It can be black against the sunset, grey on a sunny day, brilliantly illuminated against storm clouds.

Golden light on the tower on an October morning made me take the photo that inspired Leslee Barron's beautiful cover for my picture book, Alina Saves The Moon.

And after a storm, the real life Alina once found the gas tower in a puddle!

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A Painting of Reading’s Gas Works and Holder - by Michael John Quinn (c. 1955?)

I have been asked to answer a very common question. ‘Why paint an ugly gas works?’ It was John Constable who gave us the answer. “I never saw an ugly thing in my life! For lest the form of an object be what it may – light, shade and perspective will always make it beautiful”. I can only hope that I have kept to Constable’s requirements for beauty.

But more than that, the Herring and Goodey side of my family was inextricably bound up with the growing gas works from 1880 onwards. Great Grandfather Goodey married and came to live in a cottage on Kennet Side opposite the gas holder. He had a boat moored by the cottage, and made a living from wealthy spectators at Henley and other water festivals by ferrying them around. His two daughters Ethel Mary and Eliza were described to me as ‘handsome’ and dressed well. Great Aunt Eliza married well to the keeper of Brighton golf course, but had no children.

Ethel Mary was not so lucky. She married Robert Herring, and very soon they came to live with their growing family in a damp slum house at the very end of Cumberland Road, 149, again overlooking the gas holder. Having got money from somewhere he took over a public house in Silver Street, and was said by the family to have drunk away any profits, and in the process drinking himself to death. But not before leaving Granny Herring with five children without means in a slowly rotting house. (It was bulldozed away as uninhabitable on Granny’s death, opening a clear view of the gas holder). Nevertheless, with the help of her eldest child, Winifred (my mother – who became a stand-in mother to the rest) Granny worked – becoming a Post Lady in the 1914 to 1918 war.

My first memory was of a cheerful wedding at 149. Almost in tears at the waste of such beauty, aged 3 or 4, I gathered up all the confetti. A few years later I would often walk over the weir and the Thames path to visit Granny, always to be given a boiled egg, which oddly smelt very like the leaking gas! Sadly, much later and still in the same damp house she was very old and very ill. Her widowed daughter Nellie came to look after her. But in the end she had to go in to Battle Hospital. Her home was not a house to die in. Recently married, my wife and I went to see her for the last time. Distressingly, poor Granny could only remember the hospital as the workhouse, which it once had been. She pleaded in tears for us to take her home with us to end her days. Was it impossible? Perhaps it was – but I have always regretted our failure. I never knew her father. Unable to face his slow death from cancer, he took his boat to the weir of his beloved Kennet, where he sank the boat, and drowned with it.

All of this, and much more, is buried in my painting. It expresses my love, and my regretful failure to Granny, who deserved so much more – even from me.

Michael John Patrick Quinn

Moonlight - by Susan Rivers

The moon is in the gas tower again! It's a sickle moon this time, but its full shape is visible, and the light is bright enough to reflect off the columns and illuminate the tower, while the roofs of Newtown School are a black silhouette in the foreground.

Another project from Susan Rivers, who has a fantastic view of the tower in all its moods from her house, will be appearing here soon!

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The Thames at Reading - by Albert Henry Barlow (1922)

As part of my family history research I became acquainted with the grandson of my grandparent's neighbours (Stewart Grover and Nora Grover nee Winzer) who lived in Wykeham Road. The painting attached was created in 1922 and is from Nora's scrapbook of the time. It may have been a gift to celebrate the wedding of Nora and Stewart in the same year. At the time of their wedding they lived in Liverpool Road before moving to Wykeham Road. It clearly shows the gasometers of the gas works by the Thames and was painted from about where the Thames meets the Kennet I think. The painter was called Albert Henry Barlow, b.1899, and who lived at 107, Liverpool Road. He was a painter and decorator by trade. A big thank you to Mr and Mrs Grover's grandson Andrew Clinch (who now lives in Canada) for sharing it with me and for giving permission for me to send it to you to display in the digital exhibition. (From Pete Harwood)

Gasometer in the Gloaming - by Les Pullen

Back in the eighties I was working as a carpenter in a factory in Caversham. I came out of work one evening and saw how gorgeous the sky was: a beautiful, velvety purple, which I really wanted to capture somehow. I didn't have my camera with me, though, so I got on my bike and rode like the devil to get home before darkness had fully descended.

Now, it so happened that we were having work done to the roof of our house in Liverpool Road. So there was scaffolding up. I left the bike in the yard, dashed upstairs to get my trusty Pentax ME Super, and climbed straight out of the window on to the scaffolding. Then crawled confidently up the roof to the chimney stack, where I braced myself.

I took a couple of shots, many of which were under exposed, some just weren't framed well. This one, though, came out very nicely, and included an unexpected 'star' effect from one of the buildings. No filters were used, so that was a lovely surprise.

I don't think I've ever expended such effort to get a picture. But it was so worth it...

Gas Tower Aerial - by Laurence Farmer

Laurence Farmer's drone footage gives a fascinating aerial view of the tower and its surroundings. The tower looks very geometrical from above and its presence dominates the houses around it.

Gas Tower on a Winter's Night - by Joy Stuart Olver

Gas Tower in the Kennet - by Penny

Cemy Junction Gas Tower - by The Burly Photographer

Today's contribution is from Richard McKenzie, a.k.a. the Burly Photographer, with some dramatic black and white images and a stunning sunset. You can see more of Richard's work on Instagram: @richard_mckenzie_photography (portraits and fine art) and @theburlyphotographer (burlesque).

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Gone - by Michael Garaway

This painting of the Gas Tower, which combines watercolour and acrylic, was commissioned by Susan Rivers in 2019 to commemorate both the tower and her mother.

More of Michael's work can be seen at and on Instagram: mgarawayartist.

Newtown Gas Tower in the Kennet - by Rhiannon Stocking-Williams

Reading photographer Rhiannon Stocking-Williams won the Pride of Reading Award 2019 for this photo of the gas tower. Rhiannon held her first exhibition early in 2020 at Picnic Cafe. More of her work can be seen on her website.

Reading Gas Tower Twist Infusion - by Tina Panting

Our first artist is Tina Panting, a local photographer from Earley who is very inspired by Reading's architecture, as well as photographing lots of local areas. Tina has created a Reading 2021 Calendar, which is available from her shop. For the gas tower, Tina wanted to do something a little different, and has contributed this collection of photos with a twist.

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