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British Industrial History

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John Hearle

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of Devonport, Plymouth

Plumber and ironfounder.

1826 'Gas from Dartmoor. - Experiments have been made with the gas contained in the peat with which Dartmoor abounds, and these trials have succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations. We witnessed this week the production of peat gas, by means of an apparatus a small scale, the foundry Mr. J. Hearle, plumber and iron-founder, of Plymouth. The stream of light arising from the peat is infinitely more brilliant than that of coal-gas ; as it contains no sulphur it needs no purification, and a piece of white paper may be held over the flame without being in tbe least sullied ; it also possesses the advantage of being perfectly free from offensive smell. The peat from which it is produced is found in the extensive morasses of the moor, extending from a few inches beneath the surface to a great depth; it is very solid, of the colour of chocolate, and consists entirely of decomposed vegetables which have sprung up and decayed for ages in the moorland plains. When burnt, this peat becomes excellent coke, greatly superior to that commonly used; for being entirely free from sulphur, which is so apt to render iron brittle, it gives a greater degree of tenacity to the metal. This superiority has been proved by forging two pieces of iron, one with peat and the other with common coal coke, when the metal prepared with the former was incomparably the best. Should this material come into general use, and there is every reason to suppose that it will, the morasses of Dartmoor will furnish an inexhaustible supply. The advantages resulting to this deserted wilderness, from extensive demand for peat, will be many and important. The railroad will kept in activity, and the facility of transmitting manure by the increased intercourse will promote the cultivation of that region, which has so long been "proverb and a byword" in the fair land of Devon. We have also seen a specimen of pipe-clay from the moor, which appears to be of the very best quality. Mr. Hearle is about to procure a large supply of peat, for the purpose of proving its qualities the forging and smelting of iron. - Devonport Telegraph.'[1]


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Sources of Information

  1. Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 16 November 1826