Quick-selling lime: L Rose & Co

How did Rose’s lime become one of the best-known mixers in the world?

Lauchlan Rose establishes L Rose & Co
Lauchlan Rose (1829 -1885), was born to a family of shipbuilders in Leith, a Scottish port near Edinburgh. He was a devoutly religious and disciplined man. He became a merchant, importing products such as grain and wine.

Rose developed and patented a process that used sulphur dioxide to prevent the fermentation of fruit juice.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1867 made it compulsory for British ships to carry lime juice, as it was known to prevent the onset of scurvy. Advertisements for L Rose & Co’s lime juice and lime cordial began to appear from 1868. Rose’s lime juice appealed not just to sailors, but also the growing temperance movement in the domestic market.

The head office was relocated from Leith to Curtain Road in London from 1875.

Control over a source of limes was acquired with the purchase of the Bath and Elmshall estates in Dominica from William Davies in 1891. An old sugar factory was used to crush the limes and transfer the juice into barrels for export.

L Rose & Co is incorporated as a limited company
L Rose & Co was incorporated as a limited company from 1898. Factories were operated at 11 Curtain Road, London and 41 Mitchell Street, Leith.

L Rose & Co had a capital of £150,000. John Barclay Rose (born 1861) was chairman. He was joined by Charles Morrison Rose (born 1863) and Hugh Gilmour Rose (1865 – 1933) as joint managing directors.

L Rose began to manufacture calcium citrate from 1906.

The Dominica estates covered hundreds of acres by 1909, and the company was also supplied by independent growers across hundreds of acres.

John and Hugh Rose retired during the First World War, leaving Charles Rose as the sole managing director. He was assisted by his son, Lauchlan Rose (1894 – 1986), after he returned from the war.

A factory was established at the Bath estate for the production of citric acid from 1921.

Lauchlan Rose II takes over management
Lauchlan Rose took over management of L Rose & Co from his father in 1924.

A lime estate was established at Asebu, Cape Coast (modern-day Ghana) in 1924.


This was to prove a challenging time for L Rose & Co. Bottled lime juice faced increasing competition from fruit squash, and the Great Depression resulted in a decline in sales.

The business was turned around by the successful introduction of lime marmalade from the mid-1930s, and the increasingly popular combination of gin and lime.

H G Rose died with a net personalty of £28,179 in 1933.

L Rose & Co dismissed 120 staff because they held trade union membership in 1939. Lauchlan Rose announced that only non-union labour would be hired.

The London premises were destroyed during the Blitz in 1940. Production was relocated to a new site on Grosvenor Road, St Albans.

Additional factories were opened at Boxmoor Wharf, Hemel Hempstead and Liverpool in 1948.

The lime juice was left to settle in 12,000 gallon oak vats at Boxmoor. The pulp and oils rose to the top, and the lime juice was drawn off from the bottom. After filtration and sweetening, the liquid was transported to St Albans for bottling.

L Rose & Co is acquired by Schweppes
L Rose & Co was acquired by Schweppes, a large manufacturer of soft drinks, in an exchange of shares which valued the company at £1.8 million, in 1957. Lauchlan Rose joined the Schweppes board of directors.

Lauchlan Rose retired in 1969.

Schweppes merged with Cadbury, a large chocolate manufacturer, in 1969.

Rose’s accounted for half of Schweppes profits in the United States by 1979, with an estimated 65 percent of the lime juice market.

L Rose & Co withdrew from Dominica in 1980, and transferred operations to Cameroon and Ghana.

High rent saw the Hemel Hempstead factory closed in 1983, and all production was relocated to St Albans.

Coca-Cola acquired much of the global Schweppes business in 1999.

The Rose’s brand in the United States is controlled by Dr Pepper Snapple, which has been independent of Schweppes since 2008.

The St Albans site has since closed.

As of 2018, Rose’s Lime Cordial in Britain is produced under contract for Coca-Cola by Princes Foods in Bradford.


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