Rose's Lime Juice at Boxmoor Wharf

Threefellows Carrying narrowboats

By Ellie Reid

Boxmoor Wharf
Hemel Hempstead Library Collection
Barrels at the wharf
Hemel Hempstead Library collection
Threefellows Carrying narrowboats
Hemel Hempstead Library Collection
Hemel Hempstead Library collection
Hemel Hempstead Library Collection

From 1946 until its final closure in 1983, Boxmoor wharf was home to the company that made Rose’s Lime Juice; at one time employing over 30 people and being the largest lime juice depot in the world.

Lauchlan Rose, the founder of L. Rose & Co. came from a family of shipbuilders. His company provided ships supplies including lime juice,a remedy for scurvy. In 1867 he had patented a method of preserving citrus juice without alcohol, and from this his business grew. From his neat lime juice, he went on to develop “Rose’s Lime Juice” a sweetened bottled drink for the domestic market, which became a great success. The company’s London premises were severely bomb damaged in the Second World War, so were relocated to St Albans and Hemel Hempstead. 

From 1947 unprocessed lime juice was transported by narrowboat from London to Boxmoor where the juice was stored and subsequently filtered and sweetened before being sent to St Albans to be bottled. At its height the company had up to 25,000 barrels in the yard, which in summer were sprayed to keep them cool.

The delivery of lime juice by canal continued until the early 1980s. These photos from the 1970s show Threefellows Carrying narrowboats including “Banbury” at Boxmoor Wharf. Threefellows Carrying was a partnership of three canal enthusiasts who in 1971 began acquiring former trading boats with the intention of restoring them for use for commercial carrying. The transporting of lime juice from Brentford to Boxmoor Wharf for Rose’s was their first commercial trade.

Canal traffic ceased to the wharf in 1981 and Rose’s Lime Juice which had become part of Cadbury Schweppes,finally left Boxmoor in July 1983. The site is now occupied by a B&Q DIY store.

Can you add to this story? Do leave a comment or add your own memories to Our Dacorum.



This page was added on 23/06/2011.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.

  • I was in a Catholic boarding school, in Cornwall, and one of the pupils was Christine Rose, who was part of the Rose’s Marmalade family. Very happy, outgoing girl.

    By Shirley Brown (22/05/2022)
  • My Nan owned and ran the hairdressers next to the lime juice depot. I remember playing with the son of the manager who’s mum came to my nans salon and the family lived on the site. I loved being there, lots of fun and great smells.

    By Christina lewis (26/11/2021)
  • A member of my canal boating family Tommy Humphries for many years did the lime juice run from Brentford to hemel. I have the original plans for the plaque that was placed on the b& q building that stood in the place of roses

    By Jeannette Smith (09/11/2020)
  • The top photo is definitely of the Gauging Locks at Brentford where I am a volunteer lock keeper. The warehouses in the background have now been replaced by the ‘Island’ housing development. The building behind the crane on the right is the Boatman’s Institute which is now a private residence. There is a small inlet dock just to the left of the Gauging Locks which we believe is where the limes were loaded, can anyone confirm this?

    By Richard Williams (09/06/2020)
  • 70 years ago I lived in Apsley just down the road from the Roses factory, and I remember the lime juice factory well.. My mum and I would walk “up the town” past the lime juice factory and well remember having to cross the road in the summer to avoid being sprayed as they cooled the barrels. I also recall a school trip from Two Waters primary school to visit the factory and we all got a spoonful of lime marmalade, yep from the carefully ‘wiped’ spoon!
    We often walked the tow paths past the site from Apsley to Boxmoor.
    Could that last picture have been taken on the Wagon and Horse pub side of the canal?
    All these memories returned after introducing my grandson to the pleasure of Roses marmalade, ah times past!!!

    By Deirdre Balch (04/06/2020)
  • My previous identification of the top photo as Brentford is definitely correct – it is not on the Lea as suggested later. Interestingly a photo of me on our motor “Towcester” in British Waterway’s Brentford Depot loaded with wooden barrels for Rose’s and dated May 1973 has just appeared on the Brentford High street Project site at
    As I noted in the earlier post they came in 40 gallon steel drums from (I think) the end of that year.

    By Tam MURRELL (26/09/2018)
  • The lime juice was brought from the London docks to a depot at Brentford and then delivered from there to Hemel, hence the confusion perhaps (Ed.)

    By Marion Hill (17/04/2019)
  • I agree that the top photo is not the Hemel site. But does anyone think that the last photo has been reversed? (It’s a mirror-image) – the bridge is right, but the photo could not have been taken from that direction.

    By Phil (12/09/2018)
  • I wrote two blogs about the film THE BARGEE. Not sure what has happened to the second one, but the first can be found as MEMOIRS OF ALAN FRENCH. This is about witnessing this film being made at both Apsley Mills and Rose’s Lime Juice. The film starred Harry H. Corbett and Ronnie Barker.

    By Alan French. (07/06/2018)
  • I actually worked for Cadbury Schweppes who owned the factory in Two Waters Road for four years until it closed in 1983. I remember the smell of the Lime Juice and also the Lime Oil which they started to manufacture there. all the juice was brought in by road as the canals boats were not in use by then. Was such a shame that it closed, was a really happy place to work. I worked in the office employed as a book keeper, I loved the place, very good memories of it. Bill Cooper was the production Manager, Eric Bolland the Office Manager and Keith Dixon overall plant Manager.

    By Jackie Brompton (31/07/2017)
  • Dad worked for a small General Haulage Company from the Bricket Wood area, although not a regular run,he would Occasionally go to Boxmoor wharf,with another Artic to make a collection of barrells for the St Albans plant,loading out with a load of Dubonnet into London, memories of this collection started an interest in canal boats,leading to a spell of volunteering for the Narrowboat trust, finding just how hard the boatmens life was and how this regular run from Brentford was some of the last cargo carried on ‘the cut’

    By jeff anderson (24/11/2016)
  • I agree.  The photograph at the top, if you look carefully, is two locks side by side.  It looks to me as if it might be one of the locks on the River Lea, possibly Tottenham.  I lived on working narrow boats until 1966, and I distinctly remember the shape of the lamp-posts.  We did occasionally do the Limehouse to Hemel Lime Juice run.

    By Barry Horne (01/06/2016)
  • As a kid and teenager I lived near Cassiobury Park, and the Grand Union Canal that ran through. From the age of about 9 I and my best friend Tom would hang around the lock in the park and bum lifts on the boats. Northwards through Grove Park, past the Ovaltine factory at Abbots Langley, the Apsley paper factory to Boxmoor (and on a few occasions, Berkhamsted Warf), was our favourite trip. Sometimes we’d hop off at a lock or bridge and run ahead ‘lock wheeling’ if necessary before rejoining later. Needless to say we didn’t tell our parents, but made sure we got back home before they started to panic. A close run thing a few times, though the freedom we were granted was almost unbelievable in these restrictive times! Happy memories of irresponsible youth, but very much part of growing up. Our hosts were without exception lovely kind people who I’m sure influenced my later life, in a good way.

    By Robin King (15/12/2015)
  • I lived on the site from 1962 for 16 years, as my dad was the factory manager, the top photo is Brentford, Tam Murrell’s post is correct, my dad worked for roses for 40 odd years, starting work with old man rose in Leith and then moving with him down to St Albans and then to Boxmoor to manage that site.

    By graeme rutherford (14/03/2015)
  •  My father was a maintenance engineer at the St Albans plant from 1956. As a child of 10 I used to visit my mate whose dad ran the Boxmore depot. They lived on site in a bungalow which is now covered by B&Q. I remember the overpowering smell of lime and how we cooled off in the summer standing in the water spray used to cool the barrels. 

    Happy Days

    By Dave Cook (16/10/2014)
  • The lighters (not a Thames Barge) noted by dabro are at Brentford – there are barrels of limejuice visible on the wharf in the background. British Waterways ran the majority of inland waterways and used to operate narrowboats themselves too. About 1971 they had three pairs of boats on the “barrels” job but they were needing a lot of maintenance and BWB decided to put the job out. We took over from them in about 1971. At that time the barrels were nice ethnic wooden ones, but shortly after that 40 gallon steel drums were used. One of our pairs is shown in the bottom shot. Threefellows Carrying took the job over for a few years, but ultimately it returned to us. The Boxmoor Trust owned the land that Rose leased, and when it came up for renewal Rose (by then part of the Cadbury-Schweppes empire) decided the rent was too high and moved their processing plant to St Albans where they had other premises. We carried the very last freight to Boxmoor October 1981 if I recall correctly. The local canal society put a brass plaque in commereration on the wall of the DIY store that was built on the site, but obviously that did not last long there.

    By Tam Murrell (29/01/2014)
  • I used to work in the laboratory in the Roses factory (Schweppes) in St Albans and visited the Boxmoore site many times to take samples. Lovely place lovely memories

    By paul arnold (05/11/2013)
  • Agree with above statement by Dabro, photo is probaby taken at Bulls Bridge, the wide boat is a Lighter (or dumb barge) normally used on the Padington Arm and Regents Canal.

    By Joe Kershaw (22/09/2013)
  • The photograph at the top of this page is not boxmor wharf there was never any locks at that location and the barge in that photo looks like a Thames barge, much larger than the narrow boats that used the grand union canal

    By dabro (04/07/2013)
  • I used to go fishing with my dad in the late ’60’s early ’70’s, all along the Grand Union Canal through Hemel. The Rose’s site was a really good spot, good fishing.

    By Andy Sawyer (08/06/2013)
  • Just talking with my Dad today about his days as a truck driver. He worked for a firm of coopers (barrel-makers) and was telling me about transporting some of the lime juice barrels. Apart from the beautiful countryside, the smell of the barrels was aparently heavenly, making it more of a day out, rather than simply “fetching a load”

    By Tony Cooley (25/05/2013)
  • I used to walk down pass there with my father on he way to the bus depot where he worked, we would always stop and watch them loading the bargess and you could smell the fresh lime.

    By paul andrews (15/11/2012)
  • Used to live nearby Roses Lime Juice as a child vividly remember the wonderful scent of limes that used to permeate the air every time you passed by the wharf. All the barrels would be stacked up in neat rows and regularly sprayed with water during the hot summer months to stop the wooden barrels from drying out.

    By Bernard Henderson (25/07/2012)
  • I used to go and see the Roses Lime Juice Pair through at dawn at the end of their overnight trip to Roses Depot in Hemel Hempstead. They were certainly the only working pair that I knew of back then. They used to crash the lock gates “breasted- up”. Very spectacular albeit very naughty. Must Have been the early 80s. Very interesting that they must have been just making a living.

    By Mike Russell (26/01/2012)
  • I remember seeing all the barrels outside the Lime juice Factory when I was little. I used to love going past it in the summer when all the sprinkers were on to keep the barrels damp, I think to stop them from leaking.

    By Joyce Scott (02/07/2011)