ON June 15, 1854, The Examiner urged its readers to consider the formation of a gas company to provide much-needed street lighting in Launceston.
In weighing up the relative costs of wax, tallow and whale oil, The Examiner pointed out that coal gas was much cheaper and had other benefits.
``We place the subject before our readers for their consideration.''
Gas, it explained, was the spirit obtained when coal was distilled (in a retort) and had been in commercial use in England from the early 1800s.
``Might not a Launceston Gas Company be formed, now that capital is plentiful?''
While street lighting was a priority the potential with business and private customers was not overlooked by the proponents.
In 1856 the Launceston City Council engaged Scottish-born engineer William Falconer to prepare plans for the proposed gas works.
Falconer had been involved in the construction of gas works in Canada before overseeing the establishment of the Hobart Gas Company.
A prospectus for the Launceston Gas Company appeared in January 1858 seeking initial capital of 30,000, comprised of 3000, 10 shares.
The company was formed on May 20, 1858, at the Cornwall Hotel (now the Batman Fawkner Inn) and things move quickly after that.
In September the company advertised for a suitable site in Launceston and in October nearly a hectare of land was bought for 750 in Cimitiere Street, fronting the North Esk River.
In January 1859 tenders were called for the construction of the gas works buildings and equipment started arriving from England.
By the end of 1859 the company's brick and stone retort house, gasometer, offices and storerooms had taken shape.
Launceston's gas street lamps were lit for the first time in April 1860.
In August of that year it was reported that more than 25 kilometres of pipeline had been laid with 132 shops, 60 hotels and public houses, 37 private dwellings, 9 public buildings, 6 places of worship, three printing offices and one theatre connected to the gas works.
As well there were 123 municipal street lights, five marine board lights and and three private street lights.
Most of the coal for the gas works came by sea from Newcastle.
Despite the commissioning of the council's Duck Reach hydro power scheme in 1896 the demand for gas for heating and cooking continued.
The original horizontal retort house was replaced in 1932 with the present four-storey red brick structure where gas was produced in vertical retorts.
In the 1950s the plant was modified to use coal from the Fingal Valley.
By the 1970s there were 6000 domestic customers and 100 kilometres of gas pipeline in Launceston.
But in 1977 the production of coal gas ceased and LPG was supplied. A decade later the Launceston Gas Company was bought out by Boral.