Laundry Yard SW1

Photo:Crater at Gas Light and Coke Company, 11 November 1940

Crater at Gas Light and Coke Company, 11 November 1940

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:Laundry Yard ARP Report, 11 October 1940

Laundry Yard ARP Report, 11 October 1940

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:Air Raid Damage Report for Gas Light and Coke Company, 11 November 1940

Air Raid Damage Report for Gas Light and Coke Company, 11 November 1940

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:Bomb Map: Laundry Yard SW1

Bomb Map: Laundry Yard SW1

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Former Gas Light and Coke Company and Laundry Yard SW1

11 October 1940

By Alec Gladd

On 11 October 1940 at 8.05pm a high calibre high explosive bomb struck the former site of the Gas Light and Coke Company at the corner of Monck Street and Great Peter Street, adjacent to Laundry Yard SW1. The site - previously a gasworks from 1813-1937 - was in the process of redevelopment for use as military deep shelters (the Millbank Rotunda complex).

The bomb fell on the excavation works of two disused Victorian gas-holders. Two houses were destroyed and a thick cloud of dust and lime shrouded the scene. Marsham Street and the rear of Great Peter Street were blocked by debris and a small fire broke out from a ruptured coal gas main.

The situation at Laundry Yard remained difficult to assess. A shift change had been underway at the Gas Light and Coke Company site and the evening darkness and debris cloud complicated the search for survivors and accurate reporting of casualty numbers. Searching through the gloom wardens found local buildings, including time keepers’ huts, had been wrecked. Worse, two workers had been blown into the gas-holder excavations and seriously injured by fallen wooden beams. 

Wardens went down 35 feet by ladder to reach them, finding them lying on a raised dry spot surrounded by six feet of water. The men were carefully extracted by block and tackle hoist. They reportedly joked and sang as they were taken away on stretchers but both later died of their injuries. The following day two more workers were found dead in the gas-holder excavation water. Five other workers were reported as injured. 

One month later, on 11 November 1940 at 6.30pm, another high explosive bomb hit and damaged the Gas Light and Coke Company site and Laundry Yard. The explosion dug out a crater and the ARP reported nine casualties, five of whom had to be rescued. 

After the 1940 incidents the Gas Light and Coke Company site - between Great Peter Street, Monck Street and Horseferry Road - was developed as the top secret Millbank Rotunda. Three reinforced concrete and steel circles - rotundas - were built on the site of the original gas-holders. Codenamed 'Anson' they provided secure facilities for the Air Ministry, Home Office and Ministry of Home Security. The Rotunda and its underground warren of offices were self-sufficient, with their own water, power and communications systems. Filtered air was also pumped from 'Anson' direct to the Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall. The Rotunda became a civil defence intelligence hub and offered back-up facilities for Churchill and his War Cabinet.

Damage to the Rotunda was inflicted on 18 July 1944, when a V1 flying bomb hit the complex, causing 20 casualties.

Today Laundry Yard is no longer a street in Westminster. The Gas Light and Coke Company - which had provided the first public supply of gas in world history - was nationalized on 1 May 1949 (under the Gas Act of 1948) and became the North Thames Gas Board. The Gas Light and Coke Company and Laundry Yard sites were replaced by three government department towers from 1970 to 2003 and by the new Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, in 2005. 

This page was added by Alec Gladd on 24/04/2012.
Comments about this page

I have been trying for a long time to locate Laundry Yard, Westminster, as it was where my Nan was born in 1866.It is so nice to know a little more about my family history.

By rita walker
On 12/05/2013

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