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The History of Lister Petter


UK Manufacturing, distributed worldwide

Lister Petter proudly continues to manufacture diesel engines and associated products at its modern production facility in Hardwicke, Gloucestershire, just 11 miles away from its original home at Long Street, Dursley.

Through its longstanding network of loyal and experienced distributors, Lister Petter continues to have a global reach, exporting to every continent and most countries throughout the world.


Sleeman & Hawken acquire Lister Petter

Hardwicke Factory


After a couple of years of turbulant time for Lister Petter, new owners Sleeman and Hawken stepped in and purchased Lister Petter. Recognising the importance of the brand, and also having a long history of working closely together, Sleeman and Hawken brought on board the manufacturing expertise.

Read the details from Sleeman and Hawken on the takeover confirmation.


Lister Petter New Ownership

In 2004 Lister Petter was bought out and with new investment grew both its product range and turnover. This was a new lease of life for the Lister Petter brand. This helped revive alot of important markets where the Lister Petter brands used to thrive.


Lister and Petter Companies Merged

Hawker Siddeley combines Lister & Petter into one company. Lister Petter. Research & Development  under Hawker Siddeley enabled Lister Petter to make significant advances in its engine know-how. This culminated in its highly successful ALPHA engine.


Hawker Siddeley Acquire R A Lister

In 1965 following the death of Charles Ashton Lister CBE (1871 to 1965), Lister was acquired by Hawker Siddeley, who had bought its old rival Petter Diesels in 1957.


Hawker Siddeley Acquire Petter

In 1957 the company was acquired by Hawker-Siddeley and some production was moved to Hamble as the reorganized company was split into four groups within Hawker-Siddeley Brush Group—Petter Staines (small engines), Petter Generator Divisions, Petter Marine Division, Petter Service Division and Thermo-King Division (building refrigeration units under license from the US firm Thermo-King).


Successfully selling D-type & cold start engines

Lister continue to sell the highly successful D-type and CS (cold start) diesel engines, as well as light (1.5 ton) narrow gauge locomotives.


Robert Ashton Lister - Founder of R A Lister

Engine Erecting Shop

1929 First diesel engines produced by R A Lister in Dursley

In 1929, Sir Robert died at the age of 84, and in the same year the first of Lister’s own design of “CS” (cold start) diesel engine was made. With one cylinder and producing 9 horsepower (6.7 kW), it became known as the Lister 9-1. This was quickly followed by the 5-1, 10-2, 18-2 and 38-4, all in 1930; the 27-3 in 1931; and 3-1, CD and CE in 1933. Lister engines were traditionally painted a mid-range shade of Brunswick Green, which continues to be used today by Lister Petter.

The CS is a slow-running (600 rpm) reliable engine, suitable for driving electric generators or irrigation pumps. CS type engines gained a reputation for longevity and reliability, especially in Commonwealth countries, to which they were widely exported. Some CS engines ran practically continuously for decades in agricultural, industrial and electrical applications.


R.A. Lister & Co Ltd managed by one of Robert’s sons

The 3rd of Robert Ashton Lister’s five sons heads R. A. Lister & Co. Ltd. with worldwide markets and 6000 retail outlets in UK.

The highly popular D-type engine was introduced. Other main products included electric lighting plants, dairy equipment, sheep shearing machinery and garden furniture


Petter opened factory in Reckleford, Yeovil, Somerset

Petter opened Nautilus works in Reckleford, employing 500 people and making 1500 engines a year.


Petters 30 Hhp engine

In 1902 Petter produced their first agricultural tractor with a 30 HP diesel engine & also introduce the Handyman engine.


First oil engines made by Petters

In 1895 the Petter company designed and built their first oil engine. This engine was a small 2.5hp engine that was introduced and used in the agricultural sectors mainly. This success immediately drove expansion of the business and the Petter brand grew again.


James B Petter & Sons founded

In 1893 James B Petter and sons were founded in a small west country town of Yeovil. Their main aim was to produce engines for many applications.

They first designed and built a self-propelled oil engine in 1892. Three years later they designed the first internal combustion engined motor car to be made in the United Kingdom. The car, using a converted four-wheel horse-drawn phaeton and a 3 hp (2 kW) twin-cylinder horizontal oil engine, had a top speed of 12 miles per hour (19 km/h). The vehicle was constructed at the Park Road carriage works of Hill and Boll. It weighed 9 cwt (457 kg) including the 120 lb (55 kg) of the Petter engine with its flywheel and side bars.


R.A. Lister & Co produce the first petrol engine

This was produced to power mainly sheep shearing equipment.


R A Lister company founded by Robert Ashton Lister

Robert Ashton Lister - Founder of R A Lister

Robert Ashton Lister


Robert Ashton Lister was born on the 4th February 1845 at The Rivers in Dursley, Gloucestershire.

In 1867 Mr Robert Ashton Lister founded his new company to produce agricultural equipment. This included simple equipment like cream separators and other dairy and sheep shearing machinery, petrol, oil and gas engines, tractors, tractor ploughs and automatic electric lighting plants. This all started the process off to become what is now known as Lister Petter.

In recognition of his success as both a businessman and his time as a valued member of parliament, in 1911 he was given an honourable Knighthood for all his hard work and achievements.

In 1929, at the age of 84, Sir Robert Ashton Lister passed away. His legacy and products are still at the heart of Lister Petter in many ways.


Your Lister Petter engine is precision engineered to give years of outstanding reliability and consistent performance in the most extreme temperatures and conditions.