Castrol’s success owes much to the original philosophy of Charles Wakefield.

Our Heritage

Adding a measure of castor oil did the trick

Castrol was founded by Charles “Cheers” Wakefield under the name of ‘CC Wakefield & Company’. In 1899 Charles left a job at Vacuum Oil to start a new business selling lubricants for trains and heavy machinery.


Early in the new century, Wakefield took a personal interest in two sporty new motorised contraptions – the automobile and the aeroplane. The company started developing lubricants for these new engines, which needed oils that were runny enough to work from cold at start-up and thick enough to keep working at very high temperatures. Wakefield researchers found that adding a measure of castor oil, a vegetable oil made from castor beans, did the trick nicely. They called the new product “Castrol.” In 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Brown choose Castrol to lubricate their engine on the first trans-Atlantic flight.

Alcock and Brown in the plane on their first trans-Atlantic flight

Having helped pioneer a new kind of motor oil, CC Wakefield pioneered a new method of getting customers to notice the product: sponsorship. The Castrol name appeared on banners and flags at competitive aviation events, auto races and at attempts to break the land speed record.

By 1960, the name of the motor oil had all but eclipsed that of the company’s larger-than-life founder, and so ‘CC Wakefield& Company’ became, simply, Castrol Ltd. In 1966 The Burmah Oil Company bought Castrol and in 2000 Burmah-Castrol was purchased by BP.

As well as having a heritage of passion and speed, the Castrol brand also stands for innovation and performance:

  • 2008, Castrol launched its Marine Bio range with improved environmental performance to help protect ocean life
  • 2012 NASA's Curiosity rover began its mission on Mars, lubricated by a Castrol grease
  • 2017 Castrol launched its first bio-synthetic engine oil with 25% renewable plant-based oil

Today Castrol is developing and testing new products and business models to adapt to developments in sustainability, mobility and digitisation. Recent developments include:

  • Metalworking fluids which enable industry to use less water
  • Transmission fluids which are being used in the latest electric cars.
  • Investing in joint ventures to develop new digital platforms
    • Reducing the cost of running wind turbines by predicting when they will need maintenance;
    • Enabling motorists to book car services online with user recommended workshops
    • Applying machine learning to cut the fuel used by ships

Castrol’s success owes much to the original philosophy of Charles Wakefield. He drew on the help and encouragement of his customers in developing his new Castrol Oils, because he had the foresight to see that working in partnership was the best way to achieve success for both parties. This rationale is as relevant today as it was then.