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Rose’s, Limeys and Scurvy

In 1753, Scottish physician James Lind discovered that eating citrus fruits was a strong cure for people affected by scurvy, a disease rife throughout the navy.  James Cook adopted the idea of a daily ration of citrus juice for his sailors and from 1795, it became standard practice for long distance sailors in the Royal Navy. If you had ever wondered why in slang, Brits are sometimes known as limeys, it goes back to the days our sailors guzzled lime juice.


A local relic from the past,  St Albans Museum + Gallery,  Hertfordshire,  June 2018

Move on to 1867, and Lauchlan Rose patented a method to preserve citrus juice using sugar rather than alcohol. Whilst this may not have been so popular with some of its fans, it opened the product to a generally wider market.

The first factory was set up by Rose on next to the Old East Dock in Leith, Scotland in 1868. This position allowed ready import of the limes from the West Indies, and easy distribution of the juice, as this was the main Scottish harbour for the Royal Navy.

Business went well, and in 1875 Rose opened new headquarters at the London docks.  Production in Leith continued and in 1893, Rose purchased lime plantations in Dominica and took additional supplies from Ghana.

In 1940, during The Blitz, the company moved its headquarters from London to St. Albans, hence the appearance of this Rose’s bottle in the St Albans Museum + Gallery.

Market share in the UK continued to grow, and in 1957 Rose’s was acquired by Schweppes. Various mergers and takeovers have occurred since then, resulting in the UK’s Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial now being manufactured and distributed by Coca-Cola.



Copyright Debbie Smyth, 18 June 2017

Posted as part of Paula’s B&W Traces of the Past

7 replies »

  1. Lovely shot. I used to like the cordial (in my sugar-consuming days), but never thought about it’s origin —nor that of “limey”!! These days I wait eagerly for the short fresh lime season and add the fruit to water.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Not that easy to get in Germany (I’m sure it’s available in speciality shops but not on regular supermarket shelves) and probably less so after Brexit – I love Rose’s Lime Cordial.

    Liked by 1 person

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