The picture, below, of a church came to light when browsing through paperwork donated to the Archive by Betty Matson. It seemed to be a picture of St. Mary’s Church, South Benfleet, illuminated by floodlights. The handwritten note on the back of the photo confirmed that the subject was St. Mary’s Church c. 1933 – 1934.
What was rather puzzling was the significance of the stamp on the back of the photo which reads ‘Research and Training Section – Watson House, Nine Elms – Laboratories’ and the date ‘?0’ Jan 1934. A search on the Internet revealed, in the National Gas Archive, that Watson House was the home of the Gas Council utilisation research department.
An enquiry with the National Gas Archive revealed that gas powered floodlighting was widely used at the time in question for illuminating various public buildings, memorials, statues, churches etc. The picture of the Birmingham town hall shows a typical application. Unfortunately there was no specific mention of St. Mary’s Church.
A gas supply was connected to the church in 1922 and although an electrical supply was available in South Benfleet from 1930, the church was not connected to the electrical supply until 1949. This makes it highly likely that gas powered floodlighting was being used to illuminate the exterior of the church when the photo was taken.