Scottish shale Scottish shale

North British Oil & Candle Co. Ltd.

Company number:
Registered in England No. 2127C
Share capital:
Registered office:


Oil works:

A company, seemingly promoted in Exeter, England, to build and operate an oil works and refinery in Lanark, and to manufacture candles from the products. Listed in the 1878 Post Office directory as "North British Oil & Candle Company, paraffin and oil manufacturers bases at Whitelees, Lanark. Peter Dow, Manager".

In July 1878, the works were almost totally destroyed by fire, On 3rd August 1878 a petition was heard for the winding up of the company.


  • G. A. C. Bentinck, Esq., M. P., 39, Old Square, Lincoln's Inn, London.
  • R. T. Head, Esq., The Briers, Alphington, Exeter.
  • T. Hughes, Esq., M.P., 9, Old Square, Lincoln's Inn, London.
  • R. W. Kennard, Esq., M.P., 37, Porchester Terrace, London.
  • James Sanders, Esq., Pennsylvania. Exeter.
  • William Simpson, Esq., Hanley, Staffordshire.
  • H. D. Thomas, Esq., 9, Dixs Field, Exeter.
  • William Woodcock, Esq., 67, Bessborough Street, Pimlico, London.

  • Newspaper references
    • SINGULAR CONDUCT OF A TOWN COUNCILLOR - A meeting of the Town Council was held in the Council Chambers on Wednesday, for the purpose of receiving and considering a report by the Agricultural Committee on articles of roup on land to be led at Whitelees, and which the British Oil and Candle Manufacturing Company (Limited) were proposing to offer for. Provost Adams presided. The report of the committee was read, from which it appeared that, in consequence of letters which the Town-Clerk had received from the solicitors of the above company suggesting certain modifications in the articles of roup, the committee had agreed to recommend the Council to adopt these modifications to a great extent as being but fair and reasonable. The report of the committee was unanimously approved of. The Provost then said that, before leaving this subject, he considered it to be his duty to bring under the notice of the Council a correspondence that had passed between a member of the agents of this company. He was sorry that the member of Council to whom he alluded was not present. He would, under such circumstances have deferred the remarks he had to make until another occasion were it not that he considered it absolutely necessary to come to some resolution at this meeting in order to counteract, before it was too late, such an unwarrantable interference with the actions of the Council as that which he was about to expose to them. He might mention that, when the agents and one of the directors of this Oil Company came to Lanark, Mr Rankin, one of the Councillors, waited upon them unsolicitedly and succeeded in making the impression upon their minds that he was favourable to their views, and was doing all in his power to forward them. After the opinions expressed by Mr Rankin in the Council, it was evident that these gentlemen had come to too hasty conclusion in this respect, and had placed their confidence on a very sandy foundation. The Provost here read on of Mr Rankin's Letters, together with the reply from the company's agent, and remarked that he merely read these letters to prove the friendly footing on which the parties had met, and had corresponded. The next letter was, however, one of a different character, and was, in his opinion, highly objectionable and reprehensible. In this letter Mr Rankin spoke in name of the Council, and stated, with an air of authority, what the Council would do, and what the Council would not do; but this was not the worst of it, for he warned the company not to mind the wording of the articles of roup, for that no matter how worded, the Council would not give the permission for drainage therein stated. This was a serious accusation. In plain language, it amounted to a charge of double-dealing on the part of the Council, and such a charge no person should make, and certainly no gentleman would make, without being well assured that had good grounds for it. In this instance, there were no grounds for it. In this instance, there were no grounds at all. He was positively certain that every Councillor who sanctioned these articles had acted straightforwardly, and wished them to mean what their language clearly expressed. He was afraid, therefore, that the charge was the mere offspring of a morbid imagination. Seeing that the feeling was strong in the Council, and also amongst every rational member of the community out of doors, that the establishment of manufacturing works of every kind about the town and its neighbourhood should be encouraged, he trusted that the attempt made by one of their members to "burke" the establishment of this one by protests, threats of interdict, trying to get up petitions, and writing unwarrantable letters, would meet with that want of success which it merited. In order, however, to neutralise the effect of the correspondence he had been forced to bring under their notice, and to check that diseased tendency which some individuals had to write unauthorised letters, both in season and out of season, he begged to move; - "That the Clerk be instructed to write to the secretary of the British Oil and Candle Manufacturing Company, informing him that a copy of a letter from Mr Rankin to Mr Orr, dated 17th March, had been brought under the notice of the Council; that this letter does not contain the views of the Council on the matter to which it refers, and was written without any authority; and further, that the only party authorised to state in writing the intentions of the Town Council as a body is the Town-Clerk. Mr Bailie Lawrie seconded the motion and remarked that the Clerk should write at once for he understood that Mr Rankin was at present in London, and, after the letters he had just heard read, he would not be surprised if he allowed the members of the company, on whom he would certainly call, to consider him as a deputation sent by the Town Council. The motion was the unanimously agreed to.

      Glasgow Herald, 25th March 1865


      ADDER KILLED – On Monday afternoon, some the workmen of the North British Oil and Candle Company observed an adder come out from some whins on the White Lees, Lanarkmuir, which they killed. It measured 18½ inches long, and was about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, and was of a dark grey colour, with bright black spots.

      Dundee Courier, 7th September 1871


      HORIZONTAL RETORTS FOR SALE - There will be exposed for Sale, by Public Roup, on Friday the 28th April current, at One o'clock PM at the WORKS of the NORTH BRITISH OIL and CANDLE COMPANY (Limited), situated near Lanark, 36 HORIZONTAL CAST IRON RETORTS, with all the Condensers, Pipes, and Connections. These may be seen any day prior to Sale on application to the Manager at the Works. The Conditions of Sale are with Messrs, Hill Reid & Drummond, WS 42 Frederick Street, Edinburgh. LAWRIE & SYMINGTON Auctioneers.

      Glasgow Herald, 15th April 1872


      LANARK. Soiree of North British Oil and Candle Co.- The employees of this Company had their winter social meeting in the Good Templars' Hall, Lanark, on the evening of Friday week. There was a large turn-out over 200 being present. The hall was brilliantly lighted up with paraffin candles, in addition to gas, and tastefully decorated. Mr Dow manager of the works, presided. Beside him on the platform were Mrs and Misses Dow, and several other ladies and gentlemen. An excellent tea service having been discussed, the Chairman delivered the following address:-It is now some years since we had the pleasure of meeting each other on an occasion of this kind. Since that time our trade has had a great deal to contend with, and until a very recent date, things have looked very black indeed with us all. Perhaps one reason we have not met oftener- is because our spirits have been as low as our profits, and these have been low enough, making us sometimes think our flickering light would get blown out altogether ; but however feeble the light, it has been gently fanned, and is now beginning to look a little brighter. It is not my intention to detain you with a scientific discourse, or any lengthened historical account of the rise and progress of the mineral oil trade, but merely to give you a rapid sketch of some of the points in connection with it, which may be interesting to some of you. About the year 1850 or 1851, Mr Young brought out his paraffin oil from his work at Bathgate, and it was then first introduced into the market as an article of commerce. Since this date its commercial development has been something wonderful. In little more than twenty years after, there were between sixty and seventy works in Scotland alone, employing about 6000 men, who received in wages nearly £400 000 a-year, with an invested capital of over £3,000,000. The severe depression of the trade for the last few years has greatly reduced the number of works. Considering the competition it has had to withstand, no trade in modern times has made such rapid progress. Petroleum, I may state, has now become an important article of commerce, and the increase of this trade within the last ten or twelve years is quite astonishing. The daily yield for December was 25,390 barrels, and at one period the daily production was as high as 38, 000 barrels. There is little doubt but the Pennsylvania yields are getting less productive, but there is oil coming from Canada, and California is now producing small quantities. No doubt prices may have gone too high, but there cannot be a doubt that petroleum and paraffin oils have been sold for some years at far too low prices, and we have now some hope that we shall never have the same low prices again. Although coal or paraffin oil was the first to be brought into the market, petroleum takes the lead in point of antiquity. It is known that the American Indians used it a century ago for curative purposes. It is believed that it was asphaltum, similar to what is got by evaporating petroleum, which was used in the building of the city of Babylon and Nineveh. It is believed that a substance obtained from petroleum was used by the Egyptians in embalming the dead. A late writer on this subject says:- "The substance was used by the Egyptians as early as history can furnish us dates of the times. From the account at the close of the book of Genesis of the embalming of Jacob and Joseph it is plain to infer that embalming was a common process then, 1700 years before Christ." The colour, the odour, and inflammable nature of the mummy all indicate the presence of petroleum. Passing to the present day, all that Scotland can do now in one month would not equal what Pennsylvania can, and is doing, in a single day. One can scarcely limit the uses to which petroleum and paraffin oil may be applied. In America it has been largely used with beneficial results on all kinds of fruit trees, and it has been used sprinkled on the soil with great advantage to crops. Farmers will do well to turn their attention to it, and especially in the Clyde Valley. It is a certain cure for insect pests, and its regular use would no doubt save large sums of money yearly. All the difficulties of the traffic had been overcome by skill, energy, and perseverance, and the very low price ruling for such a long time has enabled traders to carry it into countries and districts where it might not otherwise have been known. The result is a wide knowledge and appreciation of it, and a largo increase in its consumption. There is still a wide field open for investigation and discovery connected with the trade, and should we be spared to meet on another such occasion, some new appliances may then be related. Air Dow sat down amid great cheering. Mr Alexander was the next speaker,and delivered an interesting address, describing the efforts of the late Provost Adams, assisted by himself, in furthering the present industry. Rev. Air Trench then proposed a vote of thanks, and wished prosperity to Mr Dow, which was received with much enthusiasm. An assembly followed.

      Falkirk Herald, 10th February 1877


      DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT LANARK - Yesterday morning the works of the North British Oil and Candle Company at Lanark were almost totally destroyed by fire which broke out in the freezing-room and rapidly spread through the buildings. The loss cannot yet be estimated, but raw and manufactured paraffin to the value of £20,000 was destroyed. The damage is stated to be partly covered by insurance.

      Evening Telegraph, 8th July 1878


      DEBENTURES AT SIX PER CENT. PER ANNUM. THE NORTH BRITISH OIL & CANDLE COMPANY (Limited). Capital £25,000, in 250 Shares of £100 each. The directors of this company are prepared to receive loans on debenture for three, five, or seven years, on which interest at the rate of six per cent. Per annum will be paid half yearly at the City Bank, Exeter. The security for the Debenture holders will be the general assets of the company, the buildings and plant at Lanark, in Scotland, on which about £18,000 have been expended, and also the uncalled capital of the Company, which will not be less than £5,000, to which amount the money to be borrowed on Debentures will be strictly limited. Application to be made at the office of the Company, 162, Fore Street, Exeter, By Order, T.MARTIN, Secretary.

      Exeter & Plymouth Gazette, 31st August 1866


      In 1865 the number of new works that appeared on the scenes was eleven. Of these, the one built by the North British Oil and Candle Company, and situated at Lanark, where the crude oil brought from Shott's Oil Work was refined, has perhaps received more public notice than was either anticipated or wished for. This company is noted as being the first of the Scotch companies to manufacture candles ; but it did not make a success of even that, and, after struggling along for a number of years, it was finally reconstructed in the year 1883.

      A Practical Treatise on Mineral Oils and their By- Products, Redwood, 1897

  • Newspaper article 'Action against the North British Oil and Candle Company'
    • Action against the North British Oil & Candle Co.

      At the Northumberland Assizes, the Court was occupied the greater part of the last two days in trying the case of Murray and Another v The North British Oil and Candle Company. This was an action for breach of contract, in which the plaintiffs, Messrs, Murray & McFadyan, oil merchants, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, sued the North British Oil and Candle Company for non-fulfilment of a contract in which they undertook to supply the plaintiffs with six hundred casks of burning oil, at a price agreed upon. The action was tried by Mr Justice Mellor and a special jury, the counsel in the case being the Hon A Liddell QC and Mr Udall for the plaintiffs – Mr Manisty QC and Mr Qusin appearing for the defendants.

      In the course of the evidence adduced it appeared that the company in question was formed in May last at Lanark. In the month of August they agreed to supply the plaintiffs with oil of certain samples and stated prices, subject to references. On the 30th August the plaintiffs sent a letter accepting the offer for second and third qualities at the stipulated prices, and requested that 150 casks per month should be sent - the first delivery to be in November. They gave certain references, which the plaintiffs alleged were quite satisfactory, but the defendants afterwards repudiated the contract, and assigned as a reason that those references were not satisfactory. It appeared, however, that the price of oil rose in the market 2d per gallon between the date of the offer being made and the 6th Sept. The plaintiff considered he was entitled to recover, and brought his action accordingly. Evidence having been heard on both sides, and the learned counsel having addressed the Court each for their respective clients, his Lordship summed up the case to the jury. They would have to consider, he said, whether the references were accepted; whether the contract was concluded; and what damages would have to be given. Under any circumstances, they must say what the amount of damages must be, and he would leave it to the plaintiffs to move for them in a superior Court. The jury, after carefully considering all the facts of the case, returned a verdict to the effect that the references given by the plaintiffs were not satisfactory, that the contract was opened, and that in effect the verdict must be for the defendants, with leave for the plaintiffs to move the Court above to grant £320 damages.

      The Glasgow Herald 1st March 1866