Records of L Sterne & Co Ltd, refrigeration machinery manufacturers, Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

Production records 1901-1953

Administrative / Biographical History

Louis Sterne ( 1835-1924  ) was born in Philadelphia, USA, but moved to the UK in 1865  . Although he had training and experience in locomotive engineering, he had also been something of a traveller and an adventurer before that date. In 1865  he set up business as a consulting engineer in London and, at the same time, entered into a partnership with a Mr Townsend, making draw and bearing springs for railway buffers. In 1873  he went into business with one of his competitors, W S Thomson, and incorporated, in 1874  , Thomson, Sterne & Co Ltd . This company was registered in England but its manufacturing base was at the Crown Iron Works, North Woodside Road, Glasgow, Scotland, close to the centre of engineering and locomotive building in the city at that time. During the 1870s  and 1880s  , although the company's profits were not large, they continued to make emery wheels, emery grinding machines and railway springs.

In 1879  , they started to manufacture Clerk's Patent Gas Engines in Glasgow, and by 1882  were doing well enough to purchase new premises in Lancashire, England. In the same year, Thomson retired, and the controlling interest passed to a James S Beale, who became managing director. The company now became known as L Sterne & Co Ltd and paid their first dividend at a modest 5 per cent. Samuel R Beale, son of J S Beale, became commercial manager in 1905  and, when his father died in 1912  , he joined the board as general manager, under the chairmanship of Louis Sterne. At this time the company were selling, under licence, some small refrigerator machines to which S R Beale made some improvements. By 1914  , refrigeration was fast becoming a major concern for the company, which obtained a contract for the Port of London Authority in 1915  and, a few years later, a contract for Clydeside Cold Storage Co Ltd . They were also involved in ice rinks, including Earls' Court and Wembley in London. In 1914  they entered the marine refrigeration business and opened an office in Liverpool.

In 1918  the company undertook a process of rationalisation. They transferred their railway and grinding wheel interests to the Universal Grinding Wheel Co Ltd , whilst maintaining financial interests in Universal. In 1921  , L Chew, formerly of H J West & Co , became a director of L Sterne & Co Ltd , who used his engineering expertise to begin the manufacture of compressors in Glasgow. They continued to flourish, absorbing, the London based Blackfriars Cold Storage Co Ltd in 1923  and buying, in 1935  , the Haslam Foundry & Engineering Co Ltd , which had fallen into the hands of the bank.

Management changes during these years saw Sir John F Beale, brother of S R Beale, take over as chairman when Louis Sterne died in 1924.  Sir John Beale died himself in 1935  and he was succeeded as chairman by S R Beale. However, Samuel Beale moved south to England at this date to take his brother's place as chairman of Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd so that his own role became largely non-executive. Meanwhile, S R Beale's nephew, Peter Brown discovered a small automatic type of refrigerator, developed by a company called Universal Cooler Co , in Ontario. L Sterne & Co Ltd acquired the patent rights and started to market this product in the UK as the "Sternette" for domestic and household use. Samuel Beale retired in 1960  and was succeeded as chairman by his nephew, Peter Brown. The company went into liquidation in the 1960s  .


This material is arranged into series, which consist of numbers of items related by format and/or function. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Gift : L Sterne & Co Ltd : 1960s

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom.

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)1637) and London (NRA15345)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

Made available by the Joint Liquidator


None expected

Related Material

No related material in same repository

Material in other repositories:

GB 800001 Share records, letter books, ledgers, journals, cash books etc 1871-1953 (enquiries to the National Register of Archives in Scotland)

For contact details of all repositories with a GB code, see the Archon repository search page


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Additional Information

This material is original

Updated by Lesley Richmond , Acting Director, 3 March 2000

Geographical Names