|Founder William Wilson||Founded 1830|
Price's Candles, founded in 1830, is an importer and retailer of candles. Its full name is Price's Patent Candles Ltd. The firm is headquartered in Bedford and holds the Royal Warrant for the supply of candles.
It is now the largest candle supplier in the UK. It holds an important place in the technological history of candle making.
Price's Candles was founded by William Wilson and Benjamin Lancaster in 1830, and originally consisted of a candle factory at Vauxhall, London and a crushing mill upstream at Battersea, York Road. Palm trees from West Africa were used for their palm oil, and George Wilson used sulphuric acid to remove the brown colour. Limited dockside facilities at Battersea caused the factory to be moved to the Wirral. In 1840 there were 84 staff, and by 1855, 2,300. By 1900 it was the largest manufacturer of candles in the world.
In 1919 the company was bought by Lever Brothers Ltd. In 1991, Shell, the eventual owners of the company, sold it back to a private buyer. However, the Battersea site is now closed and the company no longer manufactures in the UK.
In 2001 the company fell into administration. An Italian company, Cereria Sgarbi Sp.A., bought the company before, in turn, being bought two years later by SER Wax Industry in the summer of 2003. Production was amalgamated at its site just outside Turin.
There were 130 different types or sizes of candle and 60 different permutations of material. Price's Candles supplied "edible candles" for Captain Scott's final expedition to the South Pole.
As well as the manufacture of candles, Price's were the first to introduce and produce "Cloth Oil" which was extensively used in machinery of the wool spinning industry. As gas engines began to be developed, they introduced, in 1877, "Price's Gas Engine Oil", which was still in use in the 1930s. For the petrol engine, they produced "Price's Motorine" in 1905 for Rolls Royce amongst others. In 1910 this product was improved to "Price's Motorine de Luxe".
William's son, James Wilson, was concerned to provide all the boy employees (over 1,000) with a bible, a hymn book and an arithmetic book in their own locked drawer. James was an evangelical Christian and, by providing free breakfasts and suppers and free baths, a pioneer in workers' welfare. The famous novelists Elizabeth Gaskell and Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote enthusiastically about these reforms. In time, a model village was built adjoining the factory at Bromborough Pool near Birkenhead.