Scottish shale Scottish shale

Thomas Carlile & Co.

Company number:
Not known
c. 1864
Registered office:

23, West Nile St. Glasgow

Oil works:

Partners in the firm of Wm. Brown and Co., plus John Bain, formed the Clydesdale Chemical Company in 1855 and constructed Rosebank Oil Works on land owned by Bain in Cambuslang. Wm Brown & Co were declared bankrupt in1858, leaving John Bain as sole partner. The case of E.W.Binnie vs Clydesdale Chemical Company, for infringement of Young's patent, resulted in a substantial financial penalty, and shortly afterward (probably in late 1860), the Clydesdale Chemical Company was wound-up. Bain and Carlile were then formed as a partnership between John Bain and works chemist Thomas Carlile to carry forward the business, producing oil as licensees of Young's patent. The firm was re-styled Thomas Carlile & Co. in c.1864.

The background to the famous trial is described by Redwood (see below), however not all dates that he quotes coincide with other evidence.

The firm is listed as "Bain and Carlile" in Glasgow Post Office Directories between 1860 and 1864, and subsequently as Thomas Carlile & Co., last appearing in the 1867 edition. Between 1860 and 1863, Thomas Carlile is listed as resident at Rosebank house, Cambuslang.

Rosebank oil works were sold off in May 1867. It appears that Thomas Carlile was subsequently partner in Stevenson, Carlile, & Co., manufacturing chemists maintaining the office address of 23, West Nile St, but with works at Millburn St. Townhead, Glasgow. This firm remained in operation in the 1870's; being subject to a prosecution in 1876 under the Alkali acts.


  • Thomas Carlile
  • John Bain

  • Newspaper references
    • Dean of Guild – Thomas Carlile & Co. Manufacturers of chemicals in Glasgow, to erect certain buildings on plot of ground near the Forth and Clyde Canal Company's property to be used by them in the manufacture of chemicals.

      Glasgow Herald, 11th September 1863


      Dean of Guild - James Stevenson & Thomas Carlile, chemical manufacturers, Glasgow, Glasgow , to erect two tenements of workman's dwellings on the east side of Millburn Road, and west of Monkland Canal.

      Glasgow Herald, 29th December 1865


      Redwood wrote;

      "In 1853 the Clydesdale Chemical Company, often erroneously called the Cambuslang Oil Company, started in the oil business, and its operation led to one of the most famous lawsuits ever tried by jury. The trial commenced on November 1 1860, and lasted over a week, during which time the services of Great Britain's most eminent chemists were brought into requisition by either one side or the other, their testimony being taken with a view to determining the line of demarkation between shale and coal.

      The Clydesdale Chemical Company's works were built at Cambuslang by Brown Brothers and Co., with Bain (on whose estates the works were situated) as sleeping partner. When operations were first commenced, crude oil was produced from Parrot Coal, but the company eventually resorted to the use of Boghead Coal which they retorted by the process known as the Continuous Distillation in Ovens, obtaining by this process a yield of 85 to 90 gallons of 880 specific gravity, crude oil per ton of coal.

      Refining operations were also carried out at these works, and everything went along prosperously for about seven years. As the company was using an infringement of Young's patent, it very naturally made every endeavour to prevent the nature of the work being made public; but notwithstanding every precaution being taken, word reached Young's ears of what was going on at those works, and he immediately started a law plea referred to and, being awarded favourable verdict by the jury, he stepped in and relieved the Clydesdale Co. of £6,000 and 3d or 3.5d for every gallon of crude oil manufactured by it.

      The result was disastrous to the company, which was completely ruined and Brown Brothers withdrew from the business in 1862; but Bain took Carlile (who had previously been acting as chemist for the company) into partnership, and the new firm carried on the business under the name of Thomas Carlile and Co. until the year 1867, when the work was finally abandoned. "

      Iltd I.Redwood; A Practical Treatise on Mineral Oils and their By- Products" 1897