Rock Oil was started back in 1928 by one Fred Malone, the father of the current chairperson Barbara Hewitt. After leaving his previous profession involving weights and measures, Fred desired a change and something he could really sink his teeth into. Rock Oil ticked over nicely as a small locally based operation until World War 2, when rationing of many raw materials meant the business had to take a back seat. It was post World War 2 when the business really took off, gradually building up custom and purchasing its first sign-written van in 1958.
1966 saw a few major changes with both Barbara and her husband Ted becoming directors of the business. This was also the year when Rock Oil acquired its first tankers allowing them to deal with bulk fuels for the first time. A couple of years later Rock Oil moved site to Wharf Street. Tragically in 1973 the premises burnt to the ground and to make matters worse was uninsured. In 1975 Ted became the Managing Director after Fred sadly passed away; meaning Ted had a serious job on his hands to rebuild the company after the total loss of the building and all materials.
With blending being taken care of by another blender for a short time and backs to the wall, the business slowly but surely recovered. Rock Oil then entered the 1980’s with a rebuilt plant and a return to in-house blending. Now the company had a choice to make: either pile it high and sell cheap or gain some credibility. With serious technical products being developed, it was decided that Rock Oil become involved in racing and the motorcycle market. The need for motorcycle lubricants to be able to perform to the highest possible level was essential because of the high demand on components in motorcycle engines and gearboxes. Technical excellence backed up with the involvement in racing, meant the Rock Oil name quickly became synomonous with top performing motorcycle products.
It was at this time the current Chairman Charles started becoming active in the running of the business and he spent many a wet weekend at race circuits helping establish the Rock Oil brand. The first major team to become involved with Rock Oil was the Kawasaki ‘Team Green’ off-road team. It is fair to say that even to this day Rock Oil are still remembered for their involvement with Kawasaki. It was also during this time that Rock Oil gained its first export customer. Following the mid-1980’s Rock Oil built up an increasing level of export sales creating relationships and very close friends all over the world. Towards the end of the 1980’s Charles took over as Managing Director due to Ted having some serious health issues. Ted recovered but then took a back seat to leave Charles to handle the day to day running of the firm.
The 1990’s saw a number of major changes for Rock Oil including the move to the present purpose-built site on Priestley Street near to Warrington centre. During this time established lubricant firms were purchased and subsequently brought their business under the Rock Oil banner, these being A.E. Bennetts of Liverpool and Nickerson Lubricants of Halifax, both long standing independent lubricant blenders with their own specialised areas of business. These acquisitions and the new plant meant that Rock Oil was ready for the next phase in its history. Ted maintained a major involvement in the business until sadly he passed away in 2005.
In 2014 Charles stepped down as Managing Director after 25 years in the position and took up a new role as Chairman. Greg Hewitt became Managing Director and took over the reins with the company being the strongest it’s ever been. Charles has been instrumental in driving the company to where it is today and led the company to a record turnover with sales in over 70 countries worldwide.
In 2017 saw the opening of a brand new Research & Development centre. This 10,000 square foot building houses one of the finest independent laboratories in the country and staff across technical, sales, marketing and senior management. With over a million pounds worth of technical equipment, the facility is at the cutting edge of the lubricants industry. This is the single biggest investment the business had ever made to ensure the Rock brand was able to match the ambition of its staff and support customers all over the globe.
Rock Oil is one of the few remaining blenders of lubricants still manufacturing in the UK and has worked with multiple British and World champions across various motorsport disciplines. Rock Oil is currently the official lubricant partner of the British Superbike Series which is the biggest domestic motorcycle race series in the world.
With the next generation of the family now actively involved in the running of the business it won’t be long before the Rock Oil story takes a few more twists and turns on its way to celebrating its 100th birthday.