Gassed about the past: a look around Leicester’s National Gas Museum

From mini ovens to motor engines, experience life from a time when energy was all about gas.

Leicester is home to a fair few highly publicised museums and exhibits, most famously the Leicester Art Gallery and the National Space Centre.


But it is also a great place to enjoy a number of fascinating sites focusing more on the niche and the overlooked. The National Gas Museum is a quaint and captivating museum found on Aylestone Road.


Originally the John Doran Museum, it was reestablished as the National Gas Museum in 1997 by the National Gas Museum Trust, and has remained the country’s sole official exhibit of gas related artefacts ever since.

The Science Museum Group described their collection as “the largest, most representative and most significant holding of material related to the gas industry, its application and effects upon society, probably anywhere in the world.”


As for the museum today, the building itself is about as authentic as you can get, making use of a former gatehouse from an old gasworks situated directly across from the modern day British Gas company.


Inside, the museum is conveniently split into two sections. The ground floor focuses on the domestic side of gas products, while the upstairs area features all the industrial appliances.


For a particularly traditional experience, the back room demonstrates what a typical kitchen would have looked like during the age of gas, along with personal commentary from the curator to help you recognise the archaic kitchenware.


I was pleasantly surprised to find that the exhibits, while mostly focusing on the items powered by gas of course, also showed a display of typical objects used by the gas workers of generations past that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.


Interactive educational features help to facilitate learning, with a short documentary at the push of a button, and bags of coal (before and after dry distillation) so you can get a clear idea of the processes involved.


Aside from the huge number of artefacts on display, such as gas-powered radios, gas-powered projectors, even gas-powered hairdryers (which, according to the curator, were exactly as bad as it sounds), the walls are covered with informative diagrams and historical documents.

These documents not only serve to educate, they provide a first hand account of public perception from over 100 years ago. Adverts and memorabilia lend a traditional experience of life in a gas-powered world.


All in all, the National Gas Museum is educational, entertaining, and brilliantly authentic.


With friendly staff and free admission, the museum is open from 10:30am until 15:00pm Tuesday - Thursday.

 

Written by Fox Whitemore

Fox is a 23 year old Media and Communications graduate from De Montfort University and currently working as an intern for Cross Productions. He is passionate about writing both creatively and journalistically, loves working with the local community and would love to be writing as a full time job in the future.