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British Industrial History

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Carless, Capel and Leonard

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of Hope Chemical Works, Hackney Wick, London, E9

1859 Company established by Eugene Carless. [1] for distilling and refining mineral oil at a plant in Hackney Wick.

1860 William George Blagden joined as a partner, remaining with Carless for ten years. The company name was Carless, Blagden and Co.

1870 After the dissolution of the partnership, a brief partnership was made with George Bligh Capel.

1870 Dissolution by mutual consent of the Partnership between Eugene Carless and William George Blagden, under the style and title of Carless, Blagden and Co., lately carrying on business at Hope Chemical Works, Hackney Wick, Bow, Middlesex. All debts received by .... Messrs. Carless, Capel, and Co., of Hope Chemical Works aforesaid.[2]

Carless Capel became the leading distillery in Britain for the newly imported American crude oil, and made advances in refining coal tar and shales, from which derived benzoline, paraffin oil, burning naphtha and carburine.

1872 The partnership between Carless and Capel as manufacturing chemists was dissolved[3] and was replaced with a new partnership between Capel and John Hare Leonard, trading as Carless, Capel and Leonard, with Carless as works manager. Leonard became the sole proprietor within eighteen months.

1890 A major fire severely damaged but did not totally destroy the Hope works.

1893 Frederick Simms suggested the trade name of Petrol, to be used for a motor launch spirit; this was agreed by William John Leonard but it was not accepted for registration as a trade mark as it was regarded by the Registrar as a descriptive word.

1895 Leonard negotiated the purchase of the nearby Pharos Chemical Works from Leon Clerc, together with his interests as a refiner, distiller and importer of a range of products, including petroleum.

Marketing petrol firmly linked the firm with the motor car - Carless Capel and Leonard supplied their new fuel for the Emancipation Run to Brighton in 1896.

1899 May. List of their 160+ agents for motor spirit.[4]

At the turn of the century Carless Petrol was still virtually the only British source of highly refined motor spirit,

By 1906 the firm had 1,500 agents throughout the country.

1907 Further expansion at Hackney Wick took place with the purchase of the Lea Chemical Works.

1914 Petroleum importers and benzoline refiners; petrol, gasoline and naphtha distillers; manufacturers of petroleum and coal tar products; distillers of turpentine substitutes; lubricating oil merchants. Specialities: "Lighthouse" petroleum oil, "Pilot" American oil, "Phoebus" refined Russian oil used as lamp oil and for combustion in oil gas engines etc.; "Special Carline", "Carline" and "S" brand lubricating oils; gear case oil etc., specially suited for motors, engines and dynamos etc.; lythene for extracting resins; double-distilled benzine for dry-cleaning; special benzines for the extraction of fats; solvent naphtha and heavy solvent naphtha for making compositions for ships' bottoms; standard pentane, petroleum ethers, patent benzine safety lamps. [5]

1920s The Leonard family remained active in the firm and took up new products in the 1920s such as Coalite's by-products, supplied as a fuel to the RAF from 1934, though problems with coal mining caused production to cease in 1939.

1937 Petrol and naphtha distillers. "Carless-Coalene" Mixture. "Lighthouse" Aviation Spirit. [6]

1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers

During World War II the firm's output included the production of TNT. The works suffered bomb damage especially the Lea works, hit in 1940.

After the war it became clear to the directors that fuel distribution was in decline, while gas production from coal was a shrinking market, so Carless placed the emphasis of its production on special boiling point spirits and on securing its own feedstocks.

1948 Converted into a private limited company. [7]

1971 John Thirlestane Leonard, great-grandson of the founder, John Hare Leonard, is managing Director. [8]. Became a public company.

1973 Carless Petroleum was established as subsidiary. Carless was also involved in on-shore oil/gas fields at Humbly Grove and Wytch Farm.

Early 1970s Production ceased at Hackney Wick; administration moved from the Hope Works to Petrol House, formerly a dry cleaning factory owned by Lush and Cook.

1977 Carless Petroleum moved to Colchester.

1979 The administration offices moved again to Cannon Street. The Company HQ moved twice more, ending at Long Acre from 1984.

1984 Petrol House was finally sold. A distribution depot remained at Bow, on a site used by the Company since the 1930s.

1984 Carless Solvents moved to Romford.

1987-9 Carless Lubricants was built up by the acquisition of 4 separate businesses[9]

1988 Sold Century Power and Light to Acre Oil[10]. Acquired Filtrate Ltd and several other smaller companies involved in chemicals[11]

1988 Carless was taken over by Kelt Energy, who proceeded to sell the whole of its lubricants interests to Kuwait Petroleum, who thus inherited the Filtrate plant at Knowsthorpe Gate, Leeds.[12]

1989 The Company was taken over and broken up. A new company, Carless Refining and Marketing, was established as a wholly owned subsidiary of Repsol at Romford.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Monday, Dec 13, 1971
  2. London Gazette 25 February 1870
  3. London Gazette 19 March 1872
  4. The Autocar 1899/05/06
  5. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  6. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  7. The Times, Monday, Dec 13, 1971
  8. The Times, Monday, Dec 13, 1971
  9. The Times, April 18, 1989
  10. The Times, July 19, 1988
  11. The Times, July 19, 1988
  12. The Hunting History ed. P Hunting , London 1991
  • National Archives
  • Archives of the British chemical industry, 1750-1914: a handlist. By Peter J. T. Morris and Colin A. Russell. Edited by John Graham Smith. 1988.