Looking to celebrate its 150-year anniversary in 2019, Morris Lubricants details how the company evolved from a humble candlemakers, to a global oil exporter.
When he set up shop in Shrewsbury as a grocer and candlemaker in 1869, James Kent Morris could never have envisaged the future evolution of his business. The small operation that he established, at the age of 22, has developed into Morris Lubricants, which today employs a workforce of more than 240 people and exports high quality lubricants to 90 countries worldwide.
Next year, the British company, which proudly badges all its products with the Union Jack, celebrates a significant milestone – its 150th birthday. A series of exciting events and activities is being planned, many of which will involve the company’s celebrity brand ambassadors, Guy Martin and Rebecca Jackson. The Morris family’s link with the business has been maintained throughout its history, and today the reins rest in the hands of Andrew Goddard, a fifth- generation descendant of the founder.
Supply and demand
Its first venture into the oil industry came in 1877, when James started importing paraffin from Pennsylvania, as competition from paraffin burners began to threaten the candle market. Tragedy struck in 1891, however, when he died following a pony and trap accident and his eldest son, also called James, took over the business at the age of 18, later to be joined by three of his brothers and two of his sisters.
Morris’ first major oil contract was secured in 1915 to supply oils and greases to the Sentinel Waggon Works in Shrewsbury. Demand for lubricants increased rapidly and the business expanded its range to include substantial quantities of government surplus oils. This enabled the company to develop nationwide distribution for its own manufactured products. Leonard Paterson, James’ nephew, joined the business in 1927, when it purchased the Corbett’s Perseverance Iron Works in Castle Foregate, 1961 Shrewsbury for £6,500. This proved a pivotal decision in the company’s history, with Morris still proudly manufacturing products from the site today.
In 1935, Leonard was appointed as chairman, a position he held for 40 years. David Goddard, Leonard’s son-in-law, then joined the company as a director, followed by his sons, Edward and Andrew, during the 1990s. Andrew is now Managing Director, while Edward heads sister company Morris Leisure, which owns six caravan parks.
Looking to the future
As an example of how the company has grown since its inception, the company owned one delivery vehicle in 1945 – a Rover 10. By 1978, Morris owned a fleet of 25 vehicles, which included the likes of Thornycroft Tridents, Leyland Comets, Bedford ‘Type S’ & Leyland Freighters. Fast forward to today, and the company now has a modern fleet of 16 delivery vehicles.
Morris is now looking to the future and putting new processes and technology in place. Examples include new equipment and computer software to improve quality and service, a customer relationship management system that is focused on improved interaction, and new processes to streamline business operations.
Although firmly rooted in Shrewsbury and keen to expand in the UK, Morris has recently broadened its horizons by opening a second production facility in India. This will assist the company in keeping up its production of over 40 million litres of oil per year, under more than 800 product lines.
Continual investment in staff training and analytical equipment for its laboratory ensure quality control at every stage of the production process, which is strictly monitored. Close collaboration with the laboratory enables the customer service team to offer expert advice on the type of oil needed for certain machinery. In addition, the company’s ‘WHATOIL?’ website allows technicians to search by registration of vehicle model for the recommended oil or lubricant to use.
Amongst the 150th anniversary projects planned are a new educational Augmented Reality app, designed to demonstrate the flow of oil through an engine, as well as the continuing growth of the MLR ambassador programme for motorsport talent. There will also be The Talisman Tour, a project that sees a Fowler B6 Big Lion Road Locomotive built completely from scratch by Alex Sharphouse and a small team of enthusiasts in the Lake District, with support from Morris.
A new online presence and fresh image will be provided by the launch of a new website in 2019 and the company will be present at major events, including Autosport and Automechanika.
So, you can safely say that 2019 is going to be a year to remember for Morris Lubricants. With 150 years of knowledge and experience, it is fascinating to see how much the industry has changed. Who knows where it will go next?