Scottish shale Scottish shale

William Brown & Co.

Company number:
Not known
Share capital:
Not known
post 1813
Registered office:

24 Stockwell St, Glasgow

Oil works:

William Brown & Co were a long established firm of oil and colour merchants that seem among the first to consider production of oil from cannel coal. The company's bankruptcy proceedings in 1858 reveal that the partners of Wm. Brown & Co. along with landowner John Bain established the Clydesdale Chemical Company in 1855, proprietors of the Rosebank Oil Works. In 1860 James Young won a legal action against the Clydesdale Chemical Company for breach of patent. Following the insolvency of the Clydesdale Chemical Company, Bain & Carlile, and then Thomas Carlile & Co continued oil production at Rosebank, paying licence royalties to James Young.

Bankruptcy proceedings indicate that Wm. Brown & Co. operated a separate plant alongside the Clydesdale Chemical Company's Rosebank works in Cambuslang, operating under the title the "Sperm Oil Company" or the "Hyper-Sperm Oil Company" which produced a range of oil products including paraffin. Hindsight suggests that these complexities may have been intended to conceal the fact that processes were being employed that breached Young's patent.

It may be of relevance to note that George Hutchinson & Co., based at Bishop St. Oil Manufactory, are listed in Glasgow Post Office directories for 1861 and 1862 as "Manufacturers of Hyper-Sperm oil" - perhaps a coded reference to paraffine oil.

The Glasgow Post Office Directory for 1858 list the firm as William Brown, Sons & Co. oil merchants and colour manufacturers, 24, Stockwell St; works 117 Port Dundas Rd. Despite the bankruptcy proceedings the firm continued in business as oil and colour merchants into the 1860's, retailing oils produced at Rosebank Oil Works.


  • William Brown
  • James Brown (from 1840)
  • Charles Wilsone Brown (from 1841)

  • Additional resources
    • The Bankruptcy of William Brown & Co.

      Bankruptcy Proceedings, Sheriff Court – Tuesday 5th January


      The bankrupt was examined today before Sheriff Sir Archibald Alison, Bart. Present- Mr. James M'Clelland, trustee ; Mr. Stevenson, of M'Grigors & Stevenson, law agents in the sequestration.

      Mr. William Brown, oil and colour merchant, Stockwell Street, interrogated by Mr. STEVENSON - I have been a merchant since 1813. On1st January, 1840, my eldest son James was admitted a partner, and my second son, Charles , on 1st January 1841. I have carried on business in connection with my sons since these dates My capital was £12,800 of my own in the business when my Son James was admitted a partner, independent of my private fortune. My business was then profitable. It might be worth from £2,500 to £3,000 a year. Generally speaking, my business has continued to be profitable down to this date.

      Apart from my general business I had a good deal of speculation in connection with railway stock, oil, tallow, cotton, and corn. My loss on oil was £5,000; on tallow £9,000; on cotton and other produce, £3,800; on corn £2,200. Between 1845 and 1852 there was a loss by speculating in railway stock of £19,900. These transactions were all on account of the firm. Produces a state of affairs in 1856, the result being, after deducting the securities held by the banks as against their own claim it showed the liabilities at that time to have been £43,134. Valuing the bank stock and other property we hold at the price of the day it amounted to £46,266, showing a balance in our favour of £3142. The state of affairs now made up in 1857 by Mr. M'Clelland prior to the date of sequestration, as at 12th November showed my liabilities to be £71,909. The assets at the same date were £31,282 showing the deficiency as between 1856 and 1857 to be £ 40,547. The chief part of it arises from the position of the Western Bank. There was a loss of £2,300 on the Sperm Oil Company; and the shares held by me in the Western Bank were valued at £18,675, beside 103 shares held by me in connection with the transaction with J&J Wright, which were valued at £8,600; but are no valueless. The deponent thinks that if the Western Bank had not stopped their insolvency would not have taken place. Has a house belonging individually to him in Athol Place, Glasgow and another in Wemyss Bay. Both of the houses are vested in trustee by marriage settlement. The Athol Place house was burdened with a heritable bond for £1,800. That £1,800 was expended by me in building the house at Wemyss Bay.

      Interrogated by Mr.WRIGHT, for Mr. Robert M 'Cowan - I was a partner of the Sperm Oil Company. The company was formed in June, 1856. It was to endure, according to the contract, for seven or ten years. James M'Kenzie, presently residing at Largs, John Bain of Morriston, and ourselves, were the partners, Our share was one third. The capital was £9000. The works were at Cambuslang. They were leased by the company. They adjoined the Clydesdale Chemical Works. I was a partner of the Clydesdale Chemical Company. The operative part of the Sperm Oil Company was managed by Mr Carlyle. I was frequently there myself and superintended the works. -,My firm were the managers along with other parties. Wm Brown & Co. took charge of the counting house department. I signed bills for the Sperm Oil Company Wm.Brown & Co, were the parties. The capital contributed by the partners for carrying on the works of the concern was either £7500 or £7000. Wm. Brown & Sons contributed none of that sum. The company made an article for fine machinery called hyper-sperm oil. I cannot state how much was made per annum. The Clydesdale Chemical Company came into existence in July, 1855. The partners were John Bain of Morriston and my own firm holding two-thirds. I agreed to advance £2,000, one-half in cash and the other in apparatus. I did so.

      Mr. Brown here declined to answer certain questions as to the value of the patents of the Clydesdale Chemical Co., alleging that Mr. Wright had no right to question him as to the property of other people, and that he had ceased on his insolvency to have any connection with that company.
      Interrogated - where the Clydesdale Chemical Co. erected works for carrying on their business?
      Deponed - They were erected at Cambuslang, contiguous to those of the Hyper-Sperm Oil Co.
      Interrogated: - What they made in those works?
      Deponed; - Railway grease and paraffin and other oils. Wm Brown &Co. superintended the manufacture.
      Interrogated - Who took charge of the counting house and sales department of the company's chemical business?
      Deponed. - My firm did, so up to the time I ceased to be a partner.

      Mr. WRIGHT (so far as we could gather, for the proceedings again resolved into a whisper, as if only a private confab had been going on, in which we, as representing the public, had no concern) here desired to go into a line of examination as to the conduct of the affairs of the Clydesdale Chemical Co. after Mr. Brown had ceased to be a partner. Mr. STEVENSON. objected to this course as irregular, and tended to compromise third parties who were not here present He contended that Mr.Wright was entitled to get information as to the affairs Wm. Brown &Co but not to go into the affairs of other and solvent parties. His (Mr. Wright's) object seemed to be to get, in an indirect form, the information not bearing on the affairs of Wm. Brown & Co., and therefore irrelevant to the present examination. Interrogatory and objection recorded to await the decision of the Sheriff at next diet.

      The Glasgow Herald 6th January 1858

  • Newspaper references
    • BrownWmGH14-08-1861.jpg

      Advertisements from The Glasgow Herald 14th August 1861


      Fire.-On Wednesday night, about nine o'clock, fire broke out in the oil and colour works of Messrs. William Brown & Co., situated at Stirling Street, Cowcaddens. - The fire was occasioned by an escape of some liquid from one of the stills. - The district engine, with the Central and West of England brigades, were in attendance, but the flames were speedily extinguished without much serious injury having been sustained. The damage, we believe, is covered by insurance.

      Glasgow Herald 18th July 1856


      THE Estates of WILLIAM BROWN & COMPANY, Oil Merchants and Colour Manufacturers in Glasgow, and William Brown, James Brown, and Charles Wilsone Brown, all Oil and Colour Merchants there, the Individual Partners of that Company, as Partners thereof, and as Individuals were sequestrated on the 14th day of December 1857, by the Court of Session. The first deliverance is dated 14th December 1857.

      Edinburgh Gazette 15th December 1857