This record is held by Hackney Archives Department

Reference: D/B/CCL

This collection consists of the following types of records:


D/B/CLL/1. Production and stock records


D/B/CLL/2. Sales records


D/B/CLL/3. Title and premises records


D/B/CLL/4. Staff records


D/B/CLL/5. Publicity and historical records


D/B/CLL/6. Photographic records


D/B/CLL/7. Objects


D/B/CLL/8. Financial Records

Date: 1860-1988
Held by: Hackney Archives Department, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Extent: 66 files
Custodial history:

Company records dumped at the Long Acre site were rescued by John Leonard and eventually placed in the hands of Carless Refining and Marketing for safe keeping. Besides the records that form part of this group, records concerning petrol production were passed on to the National Motor Museum. A list and selected copies will be obtained in the near future. Some framed photographs remain at Romford; copies have been made and included in the Hackney Archives Department visual collection.

Administrative History:

Eugene Carless established his distilling and oil refining business in 1859 at Hackney Wick, on land adjoining White Post Lane. Here he constructed the Hope Chemical Works. In 1860 William George Blagdon joined as a partner, emaining with Carless for ten years. After the dissolution of the partnership Carless 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. A brief partnership with George Bligh Capel made in 1870 was dissolved in 1872, 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.


A major fire in 1890 damaged but did not destroy the Hope works. In 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. An associate of Gottlieb Daimler, Frederick Simms suggested the trade name of Petrol, to be used for a motor launch spirit in 1893, and this was accepted by William Leonard, though it was not accepted for registration as a trade mark as it was regarded by the Registrar as a descriptive word. Marketing petrol firmly linked the firm with the motor car and Carless Capel and Leonard supplied their new fuel for the Emancipation Run to Brighton in 1896. Simms and Leonard were both founder members of the Automobile Club, later the R.A.C. At the turn of the century Carless Petrol was stil virtually the only British source of highly refined motor spirit, and by 1906 the firm had 1,500 agents throughout the country. Further expansion at Hackney Wick took place in 1907 with the purchase of the Lea Chemical Works.


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


Expansion led to site changes. The Company opened a new refinery at Harwich in 1964 and this took on gas condensate from North Sea Oil. In 1965 a refining and storage depot was established at Longport, Staffordshire. With increasing demands for capital, Carless Capel and Leonard became a public company in 1971. Carless Petroleum was established as subsidiary in 1973, and Carless was also involvedin on-shore fields at Humbly Grove and Wytch Farm. Production ceased at Hackney Wick in theearly 1970s and the administration moved from the Hope Works to Petrol House, formerly a dry cleaning factory owned by Lush and Cook. In 1979 theadministration moved again to Cannon Street and Petrol House was finally sold in 1984, ending the Company's Hackney connection. A distribution depot remained at Bow, on a site used by the Company since the 1930s. The major subsidiaries also moved - Carless Solvents to Romford in 1984 and Carless Petroleumto Colchester in 1977. The Company HQ moved twice more, ending at Long Acre from 1984.


In 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.

Publication Notes:
  • There have been two company histories. Edward Liveing's Pioneers of Petrol: a centenary history of Carless Capel and Leonard (1959) and Peter Pugh's Carless, Capel and Leonard plc: the growth of a family firm into an international oil company (1986). The former is weak on technical developments. The Company also produced a historical brochure in 1984. Copies of all three works are included in the HAD local history collection (class 627).

  • petroleum industry
Creator Names:
  • Carless, Capel and Leonard Ltd, 1872-1989, oil distillers and refiners
Copies Information:
  • Mounted photographs in the present company offices were not included in the deposit and have been copied. These include portraits of William John and Charles Hare Leonard, succesive senior partners in the company, the centenary year certificate, 1959 and a selection of views of company vehicles and petrol tankers. All of the latter form part of the records in this list. Negatives have been made for the views copied; customers interested in having copies made should therefore first consult the Visual catalogue.

Immediate Source Of Acquisition:
  • Date of deposit: August 1995 Acc No 1995/24


    Deposited by: The Managing Director, Carless Refining and Marketing


    Condition of deposit: Indefinite loan

Conditions of access:

Open, except where indicated. Permission to reproduce for publication must be obtained from the Managing Director.


Listed DLM


August 1995

Link to NRA Record:

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