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Home > Companies & Works > Scottish Oil Companies > Wm. Taylor & Co.

William Taylor & Co.

Constitution Copartnership
Date of Formation prior to 1828
Date of Dissolution company failed 1883, although subsequently reconstructed.
Office Salamander St. Leith
Oil works Magdalene Bridge Chemical Works,
Straiton Oil Works,
Forthbank Oil Works

William Taylor & Co. opened soap works in Leith in 1828, having previously traded from works in Queensferry. The firm quickly developed a trade in grease and lard oil from their Leith "stearine manufactory". By the1850's the company's wax and composite candles (manufactured from stearine derived from palm oil), were marketed throughout Britain, and the partners were active in the palm oil trade with West Africa through the Glasgow-based firm of Taylor, Lauchland & Co.

By 1860 large volumes of paraffin candles were being manufactured, and the firm turned their attention to mineral oil and wax production, perhaps experimenting at their Salamander St. works, and certain engaging in small-scale oil production from cannel coal at the Magdalene Bridge chemical works, Musselburgh which the company acquired c.1866. At about the same time, the company established Straiton oil works, exploiting local reserves of oilshale.

Throughout this period, works manager, William Young was active in developing and patenting new technical processes and was later (when in the employ of the Clippens Oil Co.) to patent the Young & Bielby retort, which transformed the economics of shale oil production.

Between 1869 and 1877, the Forthbank chemical works in Stirling (formerly the premises of Shand & Co.) are listed in valuation roles as being owned by William Taylor & Co., although operated by the Forth Bank Oil Company (presumably a subsidiary company). William Melrose Young was associated with this operation.

In 1876 the Straiton Estate Company was formed to acquire Straiton oil works, the refinery at Magdalene Bridge, and presumably the rest of the mineral oil interests of William Taylor & Co. The firm of William Taylor & Co. continued soap and candle production at Leith, lately with William Walker Stephens as sole trustee, until the company failed in 1883. These interests were then carried forward by a new limited company, William Taylor & Co. (Edinburgh) Ltd. which continued to manufacture soaps at Broughton Soap Works, McDonald Road, Edinburgh into the 1930's.







DISSOLUTION OF COPARTNERSHIP. THE Firm of WILLIAM TAYLOR & COMPANY, Soap Manufacturers, and Stearine and Candle Manufacturers in Leith, carried on by us, William Taylor, Peter Brash, and James Dick, in Leith, has been DISSOLVED by the retirement of me, the said William Taylor, as at 30th June 1854 years, from said Company ; and the Business is now carried on under the same name by us, the said Peter Brash and James Dick. Witness our bands at Leith, the 10th day of May 1855.


W. Anderson, Town-Clerk, Leith, Witness

The Edinburgh Gazette, 11th May 1855


Died, at No. 17 Abercromby Place, on the 10th instant, William Taylor, Esq, Scotston Park, South Queensferry, late soap manufacturer, Leith, in the ninetieth year of his age.

The Edinburgh Evening Courant, 20th January 1866


In the vicinity of Loanhead, Messrs. William Taylor & Co., the well known oil distillers and soap manufacturers, Leith, have secured an extensive area of oil shale, which they are using at an oil-works specially erected for that purpose.

The Glasgow Herald, 8th October 1870


THE Subscriber, James Dick, has retired from the Copartnery carrying on business as Merchants in Leith, under the firm of William Taylor and Company, of mutual consent of the whole Partners, as at the 26th day of August, 1870. The business will be carried on as formerly, in future, under the old firm, by the Subscribers, Peter Brash and William Walker Stephens, being the only remaining partners of the firm.

The London Gazette, 2nd May, 1871


THE Copartnery carrying on business as Merchants in Glasgow, and at Old Calabar, on the West Coast of Africa, and also on the South West Coast of Africa, under the Firm of TAYLOR, LAUGHLAND, & CO., of which the late Peter-Brash, Merchant in Leith, was at the date of his death sole Partner (William Walker Stephens, Merchant in Leith, who was also formerly a Partner of the said Firm, having ceased to be a Partner on 31st December 1870), was DISSOLVED on 5th November 1872, by the death of the said Peter Brash; and since that date to 10th January 1873, was carried on by the said William Walker Stephens, as sole Testamentary Trustee of the said Peter Brash, for the purpose of winding up the said Business; and has now, as regards the Business at Glasgow and Old Calabar, been disposed of by the said William Walker Stephens, as Trustee foresaid, to Robert Cowtan M'Kinnon, Manager of the said dissolved Firm at Glasgow, and Robert Paterson Gilbertson, Agent of the said dissolved firm at Old Calabar, as at the said 10th January 1873

The Edinburgh Gazette, 17th January 1873


... the method referred to is the invention of Mr. William Young, engineer and manager to Messrs William Taylor & Co., the well-known Leith firm, who have long been prominently identified with the mineral oil industry at Loanhead, and Magdalen Bridge, Musselburgh. It is both novel and simple, and does not require a long and elaborate description at our hands in order to make it understood, even by such readers as have no practical acquaintance with the destructive distillation of oil shale. The experimental work at which the process has been practically and successfully demonstrated is erected near the village of Loanhead, a few miles south of Edinburgh, on the estate of Straiton, which extends for about 270 acres, and is the property of Messrs Taylor & Co.

The Glasgow Herald, 28th July 1873


The estates of William Taylor and Company, Soap, Stearine, and Candle Manufacturers, Salamander Street, Leith.and William Walker Stephens, the sole Partner of said Firm, as such Partner and as an Individual, were sequestrated on the 16th day of June, 1883, by the Court of Session

The London Gazette, 22nd June 1883


Failure, - The suspension is announced the firm William Taylor & Co., Leith, soap and candle maker, with liabilities amounting £47,000.

The Falkirk Herald, 23rd June 1883


… the firm established the manufacture in Leith (Sheriff Brae) over 90 years since, their previous Queensferry history having been lost in obscurity. The "new works" into which the Queensferry business was translated were soap works of more than respectable antiquity, and at the time were in operation by an old Leith firm, Jameson & Auld. The buildings, some of which still exist, bear a stone recording "built in 1583, rebuilt by T.J., 1800". The purchase of an extensive property then known as Little Carron (now Salamander Street) was the next important step, where in addition to soap making, the firm were pioneers in the manufacture of stearic acid and of the old composite candle in which a most extensive trade developed. The best material for the industry was found to be palm oil, so the firm took a hand in trading enterprises to the West coast of Africa, and establishing one of the the two earliest lies of steamers between Liverpool and these ports.

With the discovery and distillation of paraffin shale they next became identified , and their exploitation of shale and line from the mines of Straiton and their burning and lubricating oil refineries at Musselburgh and Stirling are within the recollection of the present generation.

The composite candle trade coming to the end the Leith premises were vacated in 1882; the present factory within the Edinburgh boundary established, and other ramification of trade other than soap-making cut off. Today is once again practically that of a century ago. The firm today looks back at paste generations of customers and particularly desires to thank present-time supporters. It is not an advertising firm in the modern sense, but relies on a prime need of the Scottish people – soap of a sound and satisfactory quality produced under conditions mutually advantageous to the producer and consumer.

Every pound of soap used to-day means a patriotic contribution, the fats employed yielding their quota of glycerine, the most urgently need and most essential element in the nation's munitions of war. William Taylor & Co. (Edinburgh) Ltd. Broughton Soap Works, Edinburgh

Advertisment printed in The Scotsman 25th, January 1917


Scotsman soap


LVSAV 1999.020; a bar of "Scotsman Soap" made by William Taylor & Co. (Edinburgh) Ltd. for the London firm of R. & R. McLeod & Co. Ltd.


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