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R A Lister & Company was founded in Dursley, Gloucestershire, England, in 1867 by Sir Robert Ashton Lister (1845–1929), to produce agricultural machinery.
From the 16th century onwards, the Cotswolds were the centre of the world’s woollen industry, but by the late 18th century this dominance was waning with the growth of the cotton mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The third youngest child, Robert Ashton Lister, was born in 1845 and educated in Germany and France.
During World War II, this became a lead shadow factory producing electric motors and dynamos for various military purposes, and included a top secret section which produced components for the Alan Turing designed Bombe computer which cracked the Nazi Germany Enigma machine coded messages. Until this point, Lister’s range of machinery had been designed to be powered by a drive belt, which itself relied on either water, steam or horse-drawn power to drive it. for their design of petrol-driven engines (derived from the design of a range of imported engines made by the U. based Stover Manufacturing and Engine Company), allowing Listers to offer portable and independently powered farm machinery.
In 1909 the company acquired manufacturing rights from the London-based firm of F. The acquisition of the petrol driven engines, referred to by Sir Robert Aston Lister as the infernal combustion engine, was a matter of pure chance.
Charles Ashton Lister (Sir Robert’s son) was in London when he came across Mr Southwell who had tripped over a mountainous pile of horse droppings (a hazard in London in the early years of the twentieth century).
Assisting Mr Southwell to his feet Charles noticed he had dropped a number of diagrams of petrol engines.