Scottish shale Scottish shale

James Ross & Co.

c. 1845
c. 1918
Registered office:

Lime Wharf chemical works

A significant firm whose main interest lay in tar distilling and chemical manufacture based on the products of gas and coke production. Their Lime Wharf chemical works in Falkirk were established c.1850 to produce pitch and tars, but for a period during the 1860's and early 1870's, oil was produced from coal shale at "Falkirk Oil Works" - presumably part of the Lime Wharf site. The firm also operated oil works at (Wattston) Riggend Oil Works for a short period.

In 1877 James Ross, who had been sole parter for much of the history of the firm, passed control to Robert M. Sutherland, and Robert Orr. In c.1885, the firm open the Philpstoun Oil Works and became a major producer of crude shale oil. In advance of the amalgamation of the surviving shale oil companies in 1919, the shale oil interests of James Ross & Co. were passed to a new public company; James Ross & Co., (Philpstoun Oil Works) Ltd. The firm's other activities were carried forward as James Ross & Co (Lime Wharf) Ltd.


  • James Ross (until c.1877)
  • Robert M Sutherland (from c.1877)
  • Robert Orr (from c. 1877)


  • History of James Ross & Co., from the catalogue of Falkirk Community Trust's museum & archive collection, which in turn cites an article by A. Campbell, entitled "Scottish Tar Distillers", which appeared in the local history journal Calatia, No.1 1991.

  • Newspaper references
    • THE Subscriber JAMES ROSS, Chemical Manufacturer at Lime Wharf Chemical Works, near Falkirk, Coalmaster at Roadside Colliery, and Oil Distiller at Wattston, both near Airdrie, hereby intimates that he has ceased to have any connection therewith, having sold and transferred the same, with the whole Business connected therewith, and that as from and after the 30th day of June last, to the other Subscribers Messrs. James Ross & Company (of which Firm the said James Ross is not a Partner), by whom, as from said date, the said Business of Chemical Manufacturer, Coalmaster, and Oil Distiller has been and will be carried on. Messrs. James Ross & Company will pay all debts and obligations due by the said James Ross connected with the said Business, as well as receive payment of all debts due connected therewith, and that as at said 30th day of June last.

      Falkirk, 31st May 1878.


      JAs. ROSS & COy.

      WILLIAM REID, Writer to the Signet, Edinburgh, Witness. JOSIAH COX, Solicitor, Falkirk, Witness.

      Edinburgh Gazette, 4th June 1878



      • Ross, James, paraffin oil manufacturer & refiner & tar distiller, Lime Wharf Chemical Works, Camelon - house, Wallside. Under the Airdrie section it lists Ross, James, (crude) Wattstown Oil Works (Slater's Directory, 1878).
      • Ross, James & Co. manufacturing chemists and tar distillers, benzole, toluole, solvent naptha, burning naptha, carbolic acid anthracene, pitch & creosote oils, pitch,coal tar, sulphate of ammonia, paraffin oil and lubricating maineral oils, Lime wharf chemical works, Camelon (Slater's Directory, 1886).

      Edinburgh Gazette, 4th June 1878

  • Related file records
    • LVSAV2022.067 - Photo - Robert Crichton - Black and white half-length photograph of Robert Crichton sitting in a chair. Stuck onto a cream card background with light embossed border and cream paper cover.
    • LVSAV2022.067 - Photo - Robert Crichton - Black and white half-length photograph of Robert Crichton. Photograph has been stuck/mounted on a rough cut cream card, which has been stuck on a large piece of cream card with plain embossed border. The cream card cover has the printer's logo and address printed on the front (Moffat, Edinburgh).
    • LVSAV2022.067 - Photo - Robert Crichton - Black and white photograph of Robert Crichton sitting in an office chair and unwrapping a map in front of him.