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Sunday, 9 August 2009

George Holsworthy Palmer

The Imperial Gas Company was from its beginning more enthusiastic about the manufacture of ammonia salts than the Chartered. At St. Pancras they had employed George Holsworthy Palmer as a 'draughtsman'.

Palmer, mentioned above in connection with David Richards, was still at the start of a long and colourful career in the gas industry. By 1822 he had already worked for Chartered and been promoted there from storekeeper to Clegg's assistant and then dismissed. He went next to Macclesfield where he developed a purification process. While at Imperial, he was at the same time superintendent at the Mint Gas Works. He thus brought to Imperial considerable skills and experience in several of the technologies needed to run a gasworks and had a proven interest in its chemistry. He was however a very unstable character and Imperial, unlike some of his later employers, could not have foreseen his numerous future disasters.

Before gas production began at St.Pancras Palmer was directed to 'furnish plans and elevations of an elabotary as works and apparatus to be employed for the manufacture of carbonate, muriate and sulphate of ammonia’. A few months later he was required to provide apparatus for the ammonia laboratory.

As well as the new St.Pancras works Palmer was also in charge of the Imperial's venture at Haggerston. Sometimes known as 'Shoreditch works', it covered the area which is today Haggerston Park. There he was told to site the 'new purifying engine ...... alongside Scott's Pond.' This was to be used for the evaporation and preparation of the ammoniacal liquor.

As well as providing apparatus Palmer was asked to run tests on the chemicals themselves. He was to 'take one gallon of ammoniacal liquor and saturate it with sulphuric acid'.

Soon after, Palmer, inevitably, was sacked for 'negligence or insufficiency' -probably because the gasholder at Shoreditch had fallen down and he had been abusive to the directors. Imperial resolved however 'to continue experimental works for conversion [of ammoniacal liquor] into a more suitable form for sale'.

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