BOOK REVIEW A History of the

BRITISH LUBRICANTS INDUSTRY by Timothy J Hill, ISBN 987-1-898937-81-4, Publishers Merton Reviewed by Rod Parker, former Director General, UKLA

A history of the British Lubricants Industry is long overdue. Tim Hill’s book places the UK lubricants industry at the centre of lubrication development and record how over the years our supply infrastructure drew supplies from home, Europe and the world.

Much of our industry’s history could have been lost forever if Tim had not been so persistent in writing the book over a sixteen year period. His book covers the development of lubricants as far back as the Roman days when simple natural products, minerals, animal and vegetable components became lubricants and were the fundamental drivers for the development of better wheel bearing on horse driven coaches and in so many more applications that suffered from friction and wear.

Down through the ages until today, manufacturing machinery, transportation and tooling have all benefited from the scientific development of better lubrication products. Also covered is the early discovery of Shale Oil in Scotland and crude oil in England, which provided a local source of fuels, lighting oils and other fractions or what we call today petroleum products that allowed further developments to be nurtured. The history of British lubricants manufacturing and supply over the years are reported in detail including how the First and Second World Wars affected the industry.

For much of the book Tim relied on personal information and company archives including those of UKLA which included year books for the National Lubricating Oil and Grease Federation.

Lubricant developments over the years have driven design change in so many industries. The British Industrial Revolution might have petered out if it


was not for the introduction of machines and raw materials that could benefit from the lower friction and wear provided by lubrication whether on fibres/ wool/cotton or revolving/sliding parts.

Later in the twentieth century Lubrication Engineering became Tribology, the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion which includes the study and application of the principles of friction, lubrication and wear. Lubricants are mainly concerned with wear, friction and heat mitigation, but the choice of the correct materials and surface design are also key design parameters.

Tim covers these developments over some 26 chapters providing a comprehensive history. For me, it is an essential read for any UK lubricants company, their employees and probably their customers. Tim has provided a record of so many interesting facts and details of the development of the British Lubricants Industry. I believe that knowing your history and using this knowledge helps ensure you don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

Rod Parker is a former Director General of the United Kingdom Lubricants Association and its predecessor the British Lubricants Federation for 19 years, Rod began his career with Shell Mex and BP Ltd before joining the Wholesale Base Oil team of BP Oil in London following its separation from Shell Mex in 1975. He worked for Shell Mex and BP Oil for 24 years in total before joining BLF and also edited LUBE Magazine for over 17 years.

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