Leith Local History Society

Roses lime juice

picture of lime juice bottle

In the late 1850s Lachlan Rose (1829-1885), the son of a Leith shipbuilder, set up a business provisioning ships. Among these provisions in 1863 was lime juice – a commodity every sea going vessel was required to carry by virtue of the Merchant Shipping Act, as a protection against scurvy at a time when the carrying of fresh fruit and vegetables was not possible on long journeys.

At this time lime juice was used solely for medicinal purposes but being an astute businessman Lachlan decided to make it more suitable for popular consumption. He sweetened the juice and put it in bottles turning it into a new and attractive beverage. And so ‘Rose’s Lime Juice’ with its distinctive bottle bearing the lime leaves and fruit emblem was born.

In 1891 the company purchased Bath and Elmshall estate in Dominica and converted the old sugar factory to the processing of limes. By 1924 the demand was such that the company established lime plantations on the Gold Coast to supplement supplies. A further estate in Dominica was purchased in 1950. The early days of the firm were spent in Mitchell Street and Constitution Street, Leith with production from 1939 carried out at 2 Queen’s Dock. later new products such as “Rose’s Lime Marmalade”, “Rum Shrub”, “Ginger Brandy” and “Orange Quinine” were introduced and a wine importing business was started. In 1875 the head office moved to London where they remained until World War II when the premises in Worship Street were bombed. They moved to St Albans where in 1947 a new production line was set up, followed soon by a factory on Merseyside.

In 1955 the company was bought by Schweppes which in turn merged with Cadbury Ltd.

Next time you buy a bottle of “Rose’s” remember its humble beginnings in Leith.