Rossana on her tour of the gasworks.

Peterborough woman given ‘emotional’ final tour of gasworks before its final demolition

A Peterborough woman has been given an ‘emotional’ tour of the city’s old gasworks building during the course of its ongoing demolition.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 5:05 am
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 3:08 pm

In January, permission was granted to demolish the old gas cylinder on Wellington Street.

The building is amongst the most recognisable in the city for residents, with the Coal Gas Works first built on the site in the 1870s.

Among those that greeted the news of its demolition with sadness is Rossana Pinto.

Born in 1955, Rossana spent almost her entire childhood living on Morris Street, Eastgate, where her back garden looked out on the gas works.

Both of Rossana’s parents emigrated to the UK in the 1950s from Italy, briefly returning when she was a baby to allow them the opportunity to save for a deposit on a house - the house Rossana’s mother still lives in today.

Rossana’s father worked at the London Brick Company and Rossana had the honour last July of seeing a blue plaque placed at Phorpres House, London Road, the company’s old offices, to honour the contribution made to the rebuilding after World War Two by the many members of the Italian community at the company.

Growing up in the area, the gas works became a symbol of Rossana’s childhood, something she would see and play close to every day and even create stories about.

Rossana said: “I am a very sentimental person, I like to hold onto memories to pass them on to my children and grandchildren.

“Growing up in the 50s and 60s, we didn’t have all the technology children do now.

“We appreciated the simple things in life and for fun we went out to play on the streets.

“For me, this meant the gasometer was always there. We never saw it as threatening and we used to love speculating as to why it was moving up and down.

“I remember around November when we used to get this thick dense fog and there it would be looming in the dark. It inspired me to write several short stories about ‘my mountain’ or ‘dark shadow.’

“In 1972, I got into the band T Rex and it changed again and I began thinking of it as my ‘metal guru’ (the name of one of the band’s number one singles).

“When my mother got the letter saying the building was going to be demolished, my heart sank.

“I know it might sound silly but I thought ‘they can’t, it’s been there my whole life’.

I then saw a post on Facebook about it and the comments were full of residents, some of the names I recognised, reminiscing and I realised I wasn’t the only one who felt like this. It did mean something to the community and I think the older you become, the harder change is to accept.”

After seeing all of the demolition equipment arrive Rossana, who now lives in Walton Park, decided to get in touch with the Site Manager at Erith (the company handling the demolition) and in return they invited her to take a tour of the site.

This took place on Monday (March 8) and they have also offered her a small piece of the building to keep as a souvenir.

Rossana added: “It was very kind of them to offer me a small piece of the gasometer after it has passed through a health and safety check. I am planning on using it to put together a little sculpture for my garden.

“My father worked night at the London Brick Company for 23 years and when he left, I collected a few London Bricks and built a similar sculpture.

“Every time I look out at it, I think of my dad.

“The same is true of the gas works, the tour was very emotional. The building is a large metal reminder of all the sacrifices he made for me.

“It brought back so many childhood memories and how we all just adapted to living in its shadow.”

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