Scottish shale Scottish shale

Emmens, Brothers & Co.

1873 or earlier
Bankrupt 1875
Registered office:

2, Gresham-buildings, Basinghall-street, London

The firm of Emmens, Brothers & Co. (a partnership of Stephen Henry Emmens and Samuel Isaac) was established in about 1872 to acquire the rights to mine minerals at Kimmeridge and to supply shales to the West of England Fire Clay, Bitumen and Chemical Co. Ltd. had a London office and undisclosed business interests in Sicily.

Stephen Henry Emmens (1844-c.1920) was recorded as an apprentice civil engineer in the 1861 census, and later attended evening classes in which he won a prize for chemistry. Although referred to as "Dr. Emmens", there is no evidence how he might have achieved such a qualification. He is recorded in 1871 and 1881 census as an "actuary", and as a "merchant and banker" in official notices (below). In 1865 he published a treatise on pure and applied logic.

Emmens seems to have been the central figure in the promotion of West of England Fire Clay, Bitumen & Chemical Co. Ltd., an ambitious enterprise based in Calstock, Cornwall which, among other objectives, set out to manufacture a patent asphalte pavement material, containing Cornish aggregate mixed with bitumen made from Kimmeridge shales Emmens made available two patents associated with the processing of hydrocarbons to the West of England Co., and contracted to supply them with 10,000 tons of minerals from Kimmeridge, presumably through the firm of Emmens Brothers, & Co. He also generously agreed to serve as managing director for a period of five years.

The West of England Fire Clay, Bitumen & Chemical Co. Ltd, was re-styled the Cornwall Chemical Co. Ltd., and concerned itself mainly with the mining of ore and production of arsenic at its Greenhill works in Calstock. It is unclear what quantity, if any, of shale and other minerals from Kimmeridge were used in its production processes at Calstock, and whether Emmens Brothers & Co. mined shale in any quantity at Kimmeridge for wider sale. Stephen Emmens became sole partner in Emmens Brothers & Co in April 1874 and was declared bankrupt in May 1875.

Emmens emigrated to the United States during the 1880's where he established a number of chemical businesses, the most notorious being the Argentaurum Laboratory; an enterprise to transmute silver into gold. For further information see; "The Mystery of Stephen H. Emmens: Successful Alchemist or Ingenious Swindler?" by George B. Kauffman, Ambix Vol 30, Issue 2, pp.65-68.

  • Newspaper references
    • 2738. To Stephen Henry Emmens, of No. 2, Gresham-buildings, Basinghall-street, in the city of London, Scientific Referee, for the invention of "improvements in the construction of asphalte roads."

      The London Gazette, 27th October 1871


      The Kimmeridge Shale Bed, situated on the estate of Col. Mansel, of Smedmore House, is about to be worked by a company. A new cheap process of extracting the oil from the shale by atmospheric pressure has been discovered, and, should the process succeed, the languishing trade of the neighbourhood will doubtless be improved.

      Western Gazette, 29th December 1871


      3130. To Stephen Henry Emmens, of 2, Gresham-buildings, in the city of London, Scientific Referee, has given the like notice in respect of the invention of " improvements in purifying distillates from carbonaceous or bituminous substances."

      The London Gazette, 26th March 1872


      The Southampton papers announce the arrival that port of the first cargo of Kimmeridge coal, on its way to one of the London gas-works.

      Western Gazette, 12th April 1872



      Persons of whom the Company or Partnership consists. S. H. Emmens, Kingston House, Brixton-rise, Merchant and Banker S. Isaac 31, Warrington-crescent, Bayswater, W., Merchant and Banker

      Names of Places where the Business is carried on:

      • 8, Old Jewry, Middlesex
      • Trizza Sicilia, Sicily.
      • Kimmeridge, Dorset.

      The London Gazette, 27th February 1873


      Appeal case: Emmens, brothers, appellants;

      The Churchwardens and Overseers of Kimmeridge and Wareham Assessment Committee, respondents. Mr Ffooks appeared for the appellants, the respondents not being represented. It appeared that the Overseers had made a rate on the appellants for a coal mine, which in reality was a shale mine, and not rateable, and it was asked that their names might be struck off the rate book which the court ordered to be done.

      The Western Gazette, 11th April 1873


      NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership hitherto subsisting between us the undersigned, Stephen Henry Emmens and Samuel Isaac, Financiers, under the style or firm of Emmens Brothers and Company, at 8, Old Jewry, London, E.C., is dissolved as from this date by mutual consent, and that the business hitherto carried on by the said firm will in future be carried on by the said Stephen Henry Emmens alone; and further, that the said Stephen Henry Emmens is authorised to receive and give receipts and discharges for all debts and sums of money due to the late firm, and that all liabilities of the firm will be discharged by him.—Dated this 1st day of April, 1874. Stephen H. Emmens. S Isaac.

      The London Gazette, 3rd April 1874


      The London Bankruptcy Court. In the Matter of Proceeding's for Liquidation by Arrangement or Composition with Creditors, instituted by Stephen Henry Emmens, of No. 8, Old Jewry in the city of London, Merchant and Banker, trading as Emmens Brothers and Co. NOTICE is hereby given, that a First General Meeting of the creditors of the above-named person has been summoned to be held at the Cannon-street Hotel, Cannon street, in the city of London, on the 27th day of May, 1875, at twelve o'clock at noon precisely.

      The London Gazette, 7th May 1875.

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