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Linlithgow Oil Co. Ltd.

Constitution Limited Company
Company Number Registered in Scotland No.1351
Share Capital £200,000
Date of Incorporation 26th April 1884
Date of Dissolution 15th December 1904
Registered Office 122 George Street, Edinburgh (from 26th April 1884); 4a St Andrew's Square, Edinburgh (from 16th January 1886); 123 Hope Street, Glasgow (from 10th October 1890); 7 Royal Bank Place, Glasgow (from 16th November 1896)
Oil works Champfleurie Oil Works

The Linlithgow Oil Company Ltd was one of a number of new oil enterprises established during the prosperity of the early 1880's, inspired in part by the success of the Broxburn Oil Company Ltd. The promoters of the Linlithgow Oil Company were mainly Fife coalmasters including Andrew Landale, previously a director of the Capeldrae Coal and Oil Co. Ltd. The company set out to exploit reserves of shale in the Ochiltree and Champfleurie estates to the east of Linlithgow - the first time that shale had been worked in the lands north of the Bathgate Hills. These seams were described in the company prospectus as being similar to those worked profitably at Broxburn and Dalmeny, and the decision was made to adopt the Henderson retort, which had been critical to the success of the Broxburn company, rather than the more modern Young and Bielby retort that was being adopted by most other new works at that time.

The Company's operations were planned on an ambitious scale with a share capital of £200,000. This funded the construction of a crude oil works and refinery at Champfleurie, coal and shale mines, housing at Kingscavil and Bridgend, a four mile branch railway, and the lease of Champfleurie House with associated shootings. The refinery was built with a generous capacity and from the outset crude oil from other companies was processed alongside the output of Champfleurie crude oil works. Initially crude oil bought from Young's Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Company Ltd was processed; later the works were to refine much of the output of Holmes and Breich oil works. A candle works were added to the refinery soon after opening.

The decision to adopt the Henderson retort proved an unfortunate mistake. The local shales proved less rich in oil that those of the Broxburn area, or had been anticipated in early tests. While the Henderson retort extracted slightly more oil that the Young and Bielby retort, it failed to recover much of the ammonium sulphate which became the major source of profit from shale. By the time this was recognised and acknowledged, the company had little remaining capital to replace retorts and efforts to raise additional capital through preference shares met limited success.

The company continued piecemeal repairs and experimental improvements to the existing retorts for many years, but by the turn of the 20th century these were worn out. The failure to raise capital to construct new, efficient retorts ultimately led to the collapse of the company. The Linlithgow Oil Company's problems also affected crude oil suppliers - the Holmes Oil Company Ltd closed in 1901 and the New Hermand Oil Company Ltd collapsed in 1903. Many of the mineral rights of the Linlithgow Oil Company were acquired by James Ross & Company and mining resumed to supply shale to the Philpstoun Oil Works.




The company paid a 10% dividend on ordinary shares in 1885, but no dividend was declared throughout the rest of the company's existence.


Advertisements and Trademarks.

It was announced at the 1886 AGM that "agents had been appointed in Ireland and England, as well as Scotland", but nothing more is known of these arrangements. Throughout the 1890's advertisments appeared in Scottish provincial newspapers for "Imperial White safety burning oil".



LINLITHGOW OIL COMPANY - The annual meeting of the Linlithgow Oil Company was held to-day in Edinburgh – Mr Landale presiding. The Chairman in moving the adoption of the report said the coal strikes has lost them a large sum of money, and another Director estimated the loss on that account at £3000. Mr Tait, C.A., said he was hopeful that a Bill would be introduced into Parliament prohibiting the importation of oils of low flash point.

The Evening Telegraph, 23rd May 1894


THE AFFAIRS OF LINLITHGOW OIL COMPANY - The report circulated yesterday as to the proposal to wind up Linlithgow Oil Company continues to excite much attention in the Linlithgow district. It can hardly be said, however, that the resolution of the directors has come as a surprise, because by shareholders and others something of this kind has been looked for for the past two years, and among commercial men the opinion is expressed that it might have been better had the directorate adopted such a course years ago. The works, which are situate on the estate of Champfleurie, about two miles from Linlithgow, occupy a considerable area, and give employment to hundreds of miners and oilworkers. The shale field is also extensive, and it said that some parts of it have not yet been operated upon. Quite recently a coal mine was opened up on the Ochiltree side, which belongs to Lord Rosebery, and it was thought that by this means a saving would be effected in the providing of fuel for the works. The mine, however, on which a considerable sum of money has been expended, was not a success. The feeling in Linlithgow is that the works will be kept in operation meantime. The works are the chief source of employment in Linlithgow district: the outlook is gloomy.

Edinburgh Evening News, 5th February 1902


THE KIRK AND LINLITHGOW OIL COMPANY - Owing to the Linlithgow Oil Company, Ltd., having stopped operations, the new church which is almost completed at Kingscavil promises to be a veritable white elephant. The church was meant primarily to meet the wants of the people of the district, who were all practically engaged or connected with the oil works. The result is that while the people previously were without a suitable building to worship in, the church now almost completed is practically without a congregation. The prevailing wish of the district is that something should occur which will prevent the works being closed entirely. Yesterday officers of Court were again at the works, in connection with the sequestration proceedings, at the instance of Lord Roseberry and Captain Stewart of Champfleurie the proprietors of the shale field.

Edinburgh Evening News, 12th February 1902


LINLITHGOW OIL COMPANY - Desirability of continued pumping - Lord Low ordered intimation and service of a note for John Scott and John Young, liquidators of the Linlithgow Oil Company, Limited, to sanction the continued working of the pumps necessary to prevent the flooding of the two pits at Champfleurie and Ochiltree, from which the shale let to the company has been extracted, and the submersion of the company's premises which would result if the pumps were stopped, until 13th March. The liquidators state that by that time it is expected the machinery, valued at £3770, which has not been sequestrated by the landlord, and which will be sacrificed if the working of the pumps were not continued, will have been brought to the surface.

Edinburgh Evening News, 28th February 1902


LINLITHGOW OIL COMPANY'S STOPPAGE - Monday having been the last day for receiving offers in connection with the sale of the Linlithgow Oil Works, much speculation has been aroused as to what the outcome would be. Today a staff of workmen have been engaged in uplifting the rails in the mines connected with the works, and from that circumstance it is generally inferred that a final close down will follow immediately. The paraffin sheds and candle-making departments have been kept in operation, but even in those departments the number of hands has been reduced from week to week. The pumps have also been kept in operation at the mines, but it is expected that these will now cease as soon as the hutch roads have been cleared of the metals.

Edinburgh Evening News, 3rd April 1902


OPERATIONS AT LINLITHGOW OIL WORKS - The work of uplifting and removing the metals of the hutch roads in the mines connected with Linlithgow Oil Works, and which work has been going on from some weeks past, was brought to a finish on Saturday. To enable this to be done extra shifts had been worked, and it is now expected that the mines will be brought to a complete standstill. A number of workmen, however, are still employed in connection with the despatch of products still in stock, and this will probably continue until the stocks are exhausted. As to what may follow thereafter there is evidently a deal of uncertainty. Meantime families with their household effects continue to leave the town and the villages connected with the works almost every week, as many as five "flittings" having been despatched in one day. Thus the process of depletion goes on, leaving in its train a general feeling of depression in the burgh and neighbourhood.

Falkirk Herald, 30th April 1902

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