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Invoice found on eBay turns back the clock 140 years to oil company’s founder

Managing director Andrew Goddard turned back the clock 140 years and five generations to the early days of the company’s founder when he made a purchase on eBay.

 

Andrew Goddard discovered an invoice dated October 31, 1877 that had been issued by his ancestor James Kent Morris, founder of Morris Lubricants in Shrewsbury, to a Mr H. Pugh for £5 and six shillings for candles.

 

A note on the bottom of the invoice refers to an offer to provide petroleum oil to the customer in Liverpool and stated: “This is a special offer and if you are a buyer, you will do well to accept it, subject only to supply and return.”

 

Mr Goddard, who is a fifth-generation direct descendant of James Kent Morris, paid £2.50 for the invoice, which gives a fascinating glimpse of the early years of the well known family business, which began as a grocer and candlemaker in 1869 in Frankwell, Shrewsbury.

 

The invoice lists the business address as Steam Candle Works, Shrewsbury and its services as tallow melter and candle manufacturer, special wholesale agent for Price’s patent composites, night lights, Blinkhorn’s patent snuffles dip candles and depot for American refined petroleum oil, what we now know as paraffin.

 

Morris showed the he was an astute businessman by importing paraffin as candles began facing competition from lamps which burned the fuel in a growing number of homes by 1877. Paraffin was also used for heating oil stoves, which he began to sell together with lamps.

 

Gradually oil replaced candles as the company’s main business and the rest, as they say, is history with Morris laying solid foundations which have allowed Morris Lubricants to go from strength to strength.

 

“I occasionally search the Internet for Morris Lubricants products to see if there are any old tins out there to add to our collection,” explained Mr Goddard. “I saw this invoice and thought I should buy it for the princely sum of £2.50.

 

“The invoice was written by my great great grandfather and obviously, the business was only eight years old at the time. It’s a fascinating piece of business and family history, which I would never have come across but for the Internet.

 

“It’s amazing to think that 140 years after James Morris wrote this invoice the business is still going strong and although we no longer make candles, we still melt tallow for one of our products.”

 

Today the company employs a workforce of 209 and sells its wide portfolio of lubricants to customers in all corners of the UK and to 85 countries around the world. The company celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

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