Scope and Content

Consists of customer ledgers 1898-1914; agenda for meeting 1950's; letter 1872; pamphlet issued by Cornforth Ltd 1935; contract of insurance 1947; map and aquatint of premises and wharf 1866; papers relating to trials 1869-1901; reference records to products 1933-1950's; guardbooks 1906-1968; advertising leaflets and circulars for products such as patent chemical manure, guano and sheep dip 1864-1960's; house journals 1930-1959; press releases 1960's; advertisements 1963; printing proofs and art works 1958-1962; photographic prints 1800's-1900's; portraits 1950's-1960's; material relating to the history of the company 1843-1960's

Administrative / Biographical History

Lawes Chemical Co Ltd was founded by John Bennet Lawes at Deptford Creek, London for the manufacture of superphosphate, later moving to Barking Creek. In 1872 it was incorporated as Lawes Chemical Manure Co Ltd, and went into liquidation in 1969.

J.B. Lawes (1814-1900) succeeded to the Rothamsted estate, Hertfordshire in 1822, taking possession in 1834, and began to experiment in agricultural chemistry, testing the action of fertiliser on various crops in field and plot tests through the 1830s and early 1840s. From his experiments he discovered that bone meal treated with sulphuric acid gave better results than untreated bone meal, and it was realised that this was the effect of the phosphoric acid content of the treated meal, the phosphoric acid in mineral phosphates being converted by means of sulphuric acid into a form available to plants. Lawes took out a patent for this means of production of superphosphate, and is responsible for founding the mineral superphosphate industry.

As well as founding the Lawes Chemical Co for the production of superphosphate, in 1843 Lawes founded the Rothamsted Experimental Station, continuing to make a large contribution to agricultural research.


  • TR LAW/AC1/1 Customer Ledger
  • TR LAW/AD1/1 Agenda
  • TR LAW/AD2/1-2 General Administrative and Commercial Records
  • TR LAW/AD4/1-2 Premises Records
  • TR LAW/AD7/1 Commercial Records
  • TR LAW/DO1/1 Drawings
  • TR LAW/ET1/1-3 Experiment and Trials Records
  • TR LAW/ET2/1-8 Reference Records to Products
  • TR LAW/ET3/1-2 General Technical Reference Records
  • TR LAW/P1/A1-4 Guardbooks containing Lawes' advertising publications
  • TR LAW/P1/B1-2 Guardbooks containing other firms' advertising publications
  • TR LAW/P2/A1-41 Individual Advertising Publications for Lawes Products
  • TR LAW/P4/1-10 House Journals
  • TR LAW/P5/1-2 Press Releases
  • TR LAW/P7/1-3 Records of Advertising Campaigns and Events
  • TR LAW/P8/1-5 Printing Proofs and Artworks
  • TR LAW/PH3/1-103 Photographic Prints
  • TR LAW/SP1/1-33 File of miscellaneous material relating to the company's history

Access Information

Available for consultation

Acquisition Information

Accessionnumber DX111.


Compiled by Zoe Watson, March 2004

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue is available at the Museum of English Rural Life

Conditions Governing Use

Please contact the Archivist

Related Material

Other business records of Lawes Chemical Co are deposited with the Libraries Department of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Valence House, Dagenham, Essex. Personal and working papers of Sir John Bennet Lawes are at Rothamsted Experimental Station. See Catalogue of Records in the Station Library (1987), ref. RHC H1454 or Main University of Reading Library 630.16-ROT

Geographical Names