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Some key milestones in our 275 year history and how this can be mapped against the
development of Liverpool as a city…

Established in 1748

Richard Clare set up in business in the seaport of Liverpool at an exciting time. The year was 1748. Just three years earlier, panic had set in amongst the townspeople at the approach of Prince Charles Stuart at the head of a Scottish army, intent on retaking the throne from the Hanoverian King George II. 

This story covers nearly 275 years of the life and times of a private business still operating in a city which itself achieved pre-eminence throughout the world as a hive of industry and commerce. Liverpool and its history is the result of constant change. Political change, religious change, social and economic change - all have brought with them great innovations, and in turn, both wealth and poverty. And yet throughout its turbulent and glorious past, history has repeated itself here time and again. The story of Liverpool and R. S. Clare is but a microcosm of Britain.


Turpentine Distillation 1753

Nevertheless, Richard Clare timed it right. Commerce was expanding and the Exchange was founded in 1748 when he set up shop in the centre of town - Lord Street - initially as a druggist and manufacturing chemist, but soon distilling turpentine.

The raw product was shipped in from the colonies in America. The Salthouse Dock, just down the road, was completed in 1753. A couple of years later saw the regular publication of the first newspaper and business directory.


A Huge Risk of Fire 1759

Fire was a great hazard in a town of wooden buildings without an effective fire brigade. In 1759, Mr Baker's tar and oil works was burnt down, but fortunately it was contained because 30 tons of oatmeal fell from the floor above and smothered it. Richard Clare must have breathed a sigh of relief, because he was only 50 yards away.

In the same year, Drury Lane theatre opened, and by now the seaport of Liverpool was expanding fast. It handled twice as much shipping as Bristol, slavers and privateers being responsible for a large part.


Relocated in 1770

RS Clare relocates out of the centre of Liverpool to a green field site on the banks of the River Mersey, now called Stanhope St where the company remains located right up to this day.

The First Consignments of Cotton 1770

In 1770, the first consignments of cotton were imported from the West Indies, Virginia and the Carolinas, no doubt along with the raw turpentine. By this time slaves were being sold on the Goree in the town centre. That year Clare was evicted from Liverpool, probably being a fire hazard, and he built a new house with adjoining factory, a mile up river near to the new township of Harrington, on the river bank. No doubt due to the state of lawlessness, he built a high wall round it, planted a fine garden and even incorporated an ornamental pond.


1790 - By Now The Port is Booming

By now the port was booming. There were 2,600 freemen in 1790, £200,000 worth of French shipping was captured and 120 privateers operated out of Liverpool, one of which, "The Active' took 14 ships as prizes.

It was said that 350 vessels sailed regularly on a single tide. Doubtless the wealth created was concentrated in a few hands since it was recorded that in 1775 and 1801 sailors rioted for more wages. Perhaps they didn't take too kindly to the press gangs who pressed them into service as ships' crews. The African slaves suffered terribly on the voyage across the Atlantic and conditions were fairly horrific for small ships and men who sailed them.

Innovation generated wealth and further growth.


1816 - The Leeds Liverpool Canal

By 1816 the Liverpool to Leeds canal was completed. It had cost £2⅓ million and took forty two years to build, but opened up an enormous market inland. Alongside wealth existed poverty. £25,000 was spent annually by the Council on paupers. The town's population had increased to 150,000 by 1821. 7,250 ships used the port. Growing pains increased and on several occasions troops were brought in to quell the riots.

For two decades before Queen Victoria came to the throne, the industrial revolution was gathering momentum. Regular mail packet steamers sailed to Ireland. A railway service cut travelling time to Manchester from six hours to less than an hour. Gas lighting was introduced into churches, public buildings and then as street lighting out to the town boundaries.

Reservoirs, water works and sewers were installed. The Lime Street rail tunnel was excavated and a daily train service to London began. All these projects created work for thousands of Welsh and Irish who gravitated to the town.


1840 - William Alfred Meadows

1840 – 1930 Managing Director 1889 – 1927

Chairman 1915 – 1930


1845 - The Albert Dock Opens

The Albert Dock opened in 1845, when the town controlled 500,000 tonnes of shipping but it was totally inadequate by 1870, because trade had grown by a factor of ten, and steam driven freighters were too large to gain access.


1870 - Strong Population Growth

By 1870 the town's population has expanded dramatically, reaching 300,000 in total. This was despite over 15,000 people per year dying from diseases like Cholera, along with famine and fever.

Great fires burnt down Laird's shipyard, Bibby's Vegetable Oil Mills and countless cotton warehouses across the city. However, all were rebuilt quickly and the city continued to grow and prosper.

An early example of town planning, which also brought relief to the poor, was the landscaping of Sefton Park and Stanley Park - laid out at a cost of £370,000 and taking 1,000 workers to deliver! 

One hundred years earlier there were four pubs/inns in total in Liverpool, by this time there was over 2,000! 


1872 - Sydney Carter Meadows

1872 - 1933, Managing Director 1927 – 1933

Chairman 1930 – 1933


1873 - William Alfred Meadows

Manufacturing Chemist circa 1873.


1887 - William Meadows, father of W A Meadows, born in Aintree, of Irish parentage.

Before an untimely death aged 46 in 1866, he had tried his hand at oil distillation and set up Meadows and Son as distillers in Rainhill, which ran successfully until 1887. Bankruptcy followed when prices for tar derivatives fell by 50% in three months.


1889 - Ownership Change

The Meadows & Wilson families buy RS Clare for £6000 from the Clare family, and became a Ltd company.


The 1890s - A Fine Period for Liverpool

The 1890s were a fine period in Liverpool. For years dignatories had been attracted to the Port of Liverpool from all over the world. The Shah of Persia, The Queen of Hawaii, , Dr Livingstone and the other well known African Explorer, H. M. Stanley; the Crown Prince of Sweden, General Grant, President of the U.S.A., Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales - they all came. They were shown the latest achievements of the day. The railway under the River Mersey, 7 miles of docks, the electric tramway which displaced the horsedrawn omnibus, the great ships being built, the White Star Liner, Oceanic - over 700 feet long, carrying 2,000 passengers.

They probably were not made aware of the public library in Toxteth financed by Andrew Carnegie (it was only one of several) the dozens of nonconformist churches being built, the newly opened Y.M.C.A., the annual emigration of up to 1 million to America, or the scrapping of the ss Great Eastern after 30 years' service. One of its steam boilers gave many more years of service as a naphtha tank at RS Clare & Co.


1907 – Ballymenagh Trophy

RS Clare is awarded the Ballymenagh Trophy For innovation in road surfacing for the best dust laying compound, TARCO.


1908 - Alfred Gordon Shaw Meadows

1908 – 1978, Director 1934 – 1978, Deputy Managing Director 1944 – 1954, Managing Director and Chairman 1954 – 1976


1910 – New Product Portfolio

Tarcoline Enamel Road Marking Paints launches along with automotive, industrial and marine lubricating oils and greases.


1925 – Exhibiting the Best Products

By the mid 1920s, the science of Lubrication was well established. Great strides in motive power such as the steam turbine, gasoline and diesel engines running at high speeds and temperatures, required something more than mere oils and greases. Clare imported Pennsylvanian paraffinic base oils from the U.S.A. They had exceptional emulsification and lubricity properties and Penna Neutral and Penna filtered stock were then described as the finest mineral lubricants yet known. They still form the basis of standards for the lubricants industry. They were straight-run distillates requiring no acid treatment, but merely removal of sulphur compounds before dewaxing and filtration to improve colour.

Clare sales literature of the day tells an interesting story, reflecting the company policy to market products on the basis of quality rather than price. The correct oil viscosity for a particular application was the key - not the established maxim -

'The thicker the oil, the better the product'

Base oils were selected for their particular characteristics to produce blends with fatty oils enabling the marketing of several ranges of lubricants to satisfy particular needs.


1927 – Going Global

Sydney Carter Meadows meets Charles Wakefield, owner of Castrol on a boat to Cairo, striking a deal for RS Clare to supply greases for Castrol to become our first Worldwide client.


1933 – Invention of Thermoplastic

RS Clare’s chief chemist ‘Doc’ Myles invents the world’s first thermoplastic road marking, lasting 10 times as long as paint.  It is still the predominant form of road marking used today.

When the Second World War started and materials became hard to source, RS Clare was asked to give up the patent in the national interest and others entered the market.


1941 – World War II Blitz

The Castrol blending plant in Liverpool and the RS Clare factory both suffered bomb damage during the three week blitz in May, 1941. Since the Castrol plant was totally destroyed, a new factory was built on a greenfield site at Ellesmere Port. Ten years later they built their own grease plant and a long relationship was broken - although only temporarily as it turned out.

The business was more than replaced by the grease requirements of Regent Oil Company, a division of Texaco Ltd., the Ministry of Defence, large buyers in the Middle East and Finland as well as several independent oil blenders in U.K.


1960 – RS Clare acquires majority stake in Wilson & Scott Highways


RS Clare acquires majority stake in Wilson & Scott Highways, a road marking application company.


1978 – Ian Meadows appointed as Managing Director

Ian Meadows joined RS Clare in 1972 and became MD in 1978 for 36 years and Chairman for 27 of them.


2000 - 2010 – New Business Development & Growth

This was an intensive period of new business development, focusing on field trials and performance evaluations globally with RS Clare’s now well-known product, Valve lubricant 601 in leaking gate valves.

Subsequently, Valve Sealant 701 and Valve Sealant 701-L were developed to tackle the leaking valves that 601 couldn’t seal, where significant gate-seat damage had occurred. Since then and today, RS Clare’s Valve Sealant 701 range of products provides superior sealing performance for leaking gate valves.

Designed to further expand on the sealing performance that has been achieved with Valve Lubricant 601.


2008 – Liverpool is European Capital of Culture

Liverpool receives recognition for it's historical uniqueness, joining the prestigious club with places including Florence, Paris & Amsterdam.


2016 - Investment in state-of-the-art sustainable energy for grease plant expansion project

RS Clare’s expansion project invested in renewable energy, with the installation of ground source heating, rainwater harvesting and a high standard of installation in the building.


2016 - RS Clare & Co. Company Rebrand

Moving with the times and in line with market changes and customer needs. The RS Clare brand identity was updated and was the start of a new era for the RS Clare brand and marketing, particularly within the digital arena, including the website.


2017 - A Culturally Diverse City

Liverpool is announced as one of the UK’s most diverse cities. According to 2016 statistics, more than 51% of people in the city speak a language other than English at home. In fact, more than 60 languages are spoken in the city every day.


2019 - £1.6M Investment in New Technical Research & Innovation Hub

RS Clare prides itself on innovation and continues to invest to find improved solutions for its customers. In 2019, the completion of the £1.6m Technical Centre Innovation Hub took place that is located at RS Clare’s Liverpool Headquarters.
The Technical Centre was purpose built, with enhanced testing and R&D capacity. The facility enables the company to develop more targeted solutions for global markets with state-of-the-art testing facilities, including the R&D team being able to imitate various weather conditions for different climates, e.g., dry climates in the Middle East or colder climates, such as Norway or Canada.

The facility allows for greater innovation around testing methodologies. Rather than relying solely on industry standard methods, the facility also enables RS Clare to complement these by developing our own enhanced testing methods.

This means we can expand testing capability to ensure it adds greater value for our customers by solving specific issues they may have experienced in the field.


2022 - New Managing Director appointed, David Meadows

David is the sixth generation of Meadows’ and was appointed as Managing Director in the company’s prestigious 274-year history at the beginning of 2022.


2023 - RS Clare Acquires Lubrication Technology Specialists, Igralub

RS Clare acquired Swiss based railway lubrication solutions provider, Igralub Holding GMBH, together with its subsidiaries in Switzerland, Germany and Austria and its share of a joint venture in North America. The acquisition is complementary to RS Clare's existing rail lubrication business and partnerships.


2023 - Liverpool Hosts The Eurovision Song Contest

Liverpool is proud to host the Eurovision Song Content on behalf of past winners, Ukraine. A wide range of cultural events take place across the city in a week-long celebration.