West Lothian Heritage

West Lothian Heritage An exploration of West Lothian's past, particularly it's social and industrial history, based on the

Histories and old photographs of West Lothian's past, drawing on the local collections of the Almond Valley Heritage Trust

Burnhouses – Happy homes hidden within Woodmuir ForestDuring the1780’s a new turnpike road was built, linking Edinburgh ...

Burnhouses – Happy homes hidden within Woodmuir Forest

During the1780’s a new turnpike road was built, linking Edinburgh with the burgh of Lanark. The great toll road passed though Mid Calder and West Calder before striking out on a new route, gradually climbing by way of Longford, and crossing the high moors of Woodmuir. Here it met the new Cleuch Road (which linked Wilsontown Ironworks with the port of Bo’ness), and continued southwards into Lanarkshire. Much of the route through Woodmuir ran parallel to the Skolie or Longford Burn. The underlying strata would have been exposed in the bed and banks of the little burn, and seams of coal were probably revealed within easy distance of the new road.

A hand drawn map in our collection, dated 1808, is perhaps the earliest to show coal workings at Woodmuir; with two tiny circles perhaps representing shafts, and a slightly bigger dot close to the Skolie Burn perhaps indicating a building. On Sharp’s map of the Lothians, published in 1828, the site of this little dot is boldly marked as “Colliers Houses”, and the first edition OS map, surveyed in 1852, shows these houses as a neat row of cottages, set within a garden, and overlooking the burn. Two shafts, marked “coal mine” are nearby and linked to the road by footpaths. Notes made at time by the Ordnance Survey record that ten men were then employed in the Woodmuir colliery, producing about 14 tons each day. It appears however that the pits nearest to the cottages were already exhausted by that time, and mining was then focused further upstream. Over a dozen small pits, either side of the Skolie burn can be identified from old maps or from depressions that remain in the land surface. These would have been shallow pits, draining naturally into the burn, with coal wound to the surface using a horse gin of a person-powered windlass. Most of these small workings were abandoned by the end of the1860’s when two much larger and deeper pits were sunk to the north of the turnpike road.

The little row of four “colliers houses”, set in gardens overlooking the Skolie Burn, are named “Burn Row” on later maps, but are referred to elsewhere simply as the Burnhouses. The 1851 census tells us they were home to William and Janet Lind and their four children, also David and Elizabeth Mackie and their three children, David Muir, a widower with two daughters, and Robert and Elizabeth Wood and their baby son. Most other members of this little mining community lived in a row of four cottages, a short distance away, close to the turnpike road. This place was known as Blinkbonny, presumably because its elevated position provided a lovely view eastwards towards Edinburgh.

Blinkbonny was perhaps a truck-stop of its time; a refuge on a lonely stretch of highway where emergency repairs might be carried out to horses, carts, and carriages, and where you might get something to eat and drink. In 1851 these operations were under the charge of William Wyper, described as a blacksmith, grocer and spirit merchant, and his wife Mary, who kept the shop. On the night of the 1851 census, this little cluster of buildings – described elsewhere as occupied “by miners and people of the labouring classes” - was home to 34 people. This including several coal and ironstone miners recorded as “visitors”; – presumable part of an itinerant workforce common in mining districts. Blinkbonny will have been a lively place.

Tragedy stuck both communities in 1859. William Thornton, a resident of the Burnhouses, was working alone digging a new shaft for a coal pit. When this hole in the ground reached a depth of 36 feet he encountered a pocket of foul air that rendered him unconscious. Thomas Girdwood, who lived in Blinkbonny, happened to be passing and climbed down to rescue William, but was also overcome. Both men suffocated. The 1861 census shows William’s widow Jane, and her four young children, were then still living at Burnhouses.

The little settlement of Blinkbonny was to grow substantially to house the workforce of new industrial-scale collieries at Woodmuir. After a long decline, the village of about 31 homes was finally cleared immediately prior to the second world war, and the site is now a convenient car park from where you can enjoy the beautiful view

The little row at Burnhouses was abandoned in about 1900, and allowed to slowly decay within a mossy landscape peppered by the humps and hollows created by the early miners.

This scene changed fundamentally at the end of last century when uplands for miles around were planted with coniferous trees to establish the Woodmuir Forest. The first crop from this commercial forestry was felled about a decade ago, but a new generation of conifers are already cloaking the lands around the Skolie burn. It is difficult to push your way through the intermeshing branches of this green wall of Christmas trees, and the deep furrows beneath your feet further hinder progress. It’s really easy to lose your way within this featureless maze, but with a little planning, determination, and luck, you can find your way to a little clearing in the forest that was once the site of the Burnhouses. It’s over 120 years since anyone called this place home, but many of the external walls still stand to waist height, and the internal walls that divided this space into four single-room homes at still evident. Standing slabs of stone make the hearths that would kept off the winter chills.

The life of an early coal miner would have been hard one, yet these little cottages, with a fine view south across the burn and surrounded by gardens, would have been a pleasant spot to live and raise a family.

Temporal Shifts in BreichA road once linked the A71 at Briech with the A705 Lanark road at Blinkbonny. It's marked on ro...

Temporal Shifts in Breich

A road once linked the A71 at Briech with the A705 Lanark road at Blinkbonny. It's marked on road maps of not-too-long-ago in the reassuring yellow of a B-road; a route of some significance.

Most of Briech's most important buildings – the hall, the kirk, and the police station – lay either side of the Woodmuir road, which then continued southward between green fields towards Woodmuir farm. After passing over a railway level crossing, the road climbed steadily upwards through open moorland, enjoying ever-finer vistas westward as you gained height. Finally the Lanark road was reached at Blinkbonny – a spot whose name means “beautiful view”.

This would once have been a busy road, providing a vital link between the mining village of Blinkbonny and the miners rows that lay either side of the road close to Woodmuir farm. Both settlements were built by the Woodmuir Coal Company during the 1870's or 80's to house the workforce of pits and works spread out across the high moors. The company's mineral railway zig-zagged up the hillside to reach this industry. The 36 or-so homes huddled together at Blinkbonny formed a self-sufficient little community, served by a company school, a store and a recreation hall

Coal beneath the high moorland of Woodmuir was exhausted by the mid 1890's, and the company then looked eastward to work the coal buried deep beneath the surface of Nether Longford Moss. The company's new Woodmuir No.5 & 6 pits began production in 1896 and continued to win coal until 1963. The new village of Breich was created alongside the Ayr road to serve the new pit, while Blinkbonny and the other old rows grew increasingly dilapidated and were condemned in the 1930's

Today, the Woodmuir road is neglected. After leaving the last of Briech's houses, the surface of the road becomes rough and eroded. Patches of tarmac remain, but in many places water has cut deep channels so that the route looks more like the bed of a burn than a public highway. A 4x4 now seems essential to reach the farm and other scattered cottages, yet the wee postie's van still finds its bumpy way along the full route, perhaps guided by instincts passed down from past generations of postal workers.

A conifer forest now forms a green canyon either side of the moorland road, which remains in constant shadow throughout the short days of January. Within this gloomy landscape there are remains of a mining past. At the roadside, and in clearings within the forest, there are traces of long abandoned shafts, appearing like giant mossy doughnuts. The footprint of miners houses can still be made out in fields close to Woodmuir farm while remarkably, rails remain embedded in the road surface at the level crossing. The coal company's little pug engine would have crossed the road here at the start of its arduous journey up the steep gradients of the zig-zag railway. Despite this historical interest, on a grey winters day, all impressions are of a dreich, lonely and miserable place.

Close to the level crossing, a winding path through the withered undergrowth leads to a tumbledown brick shed with a heavy concrete roof. It's a humble structure, that might once have housed a pump to serve colliery operations. A jagged hole in one of the walls offers a startling glimpse of brilliant fluorescent colour, which is in arresting contrast to the drab tones of the surrounding landscape. Climbing down into the chamber is rather like passing through a portal into an alternative reality. A moon painted on the ceiling illuminates all, while a fireplace and washing machine sketched out on the walls serves many practical needs. All other surfaces form a cacophony of brilliant colour and startling shapes that seem to describe places, creatures and sensations that are not of this world. Time spend in this wonderland amazes and astounds. When finally emerging from this immersion, you half expect that the world to have changed . It wouldn't be so much of a shock to find yourself in a Victorian land of steam and industry, or else propelled into an unimaginable jaw-dropping future

While such temporal shifts cannot be guaranteed, West Lothian can now be proud it own Sistine Chapel, which certainly ranks as one of the Seven Wonders of Briech.

As the grand finale to the Whitburn Gala Day in 1909, the Whitburn Public Band marched through streets lined with happy ...

As the grand finale to the Whitburn Gala Day in 1909, the Whitburn Public Band marched through streets lined with happy revellers, followed by a curious trail of costumed characters on bicycles. At 7pm on the 26th of June, this strange procession peddled off from the Public School, wobbling and weaving their way down the street while the crowds laughed and cheered. There was a tramp and a pirate, Robin Hood and Dick Turpin, Convict 99 and KCB, as well as a host of other strange characters. KCB, it was explained, stood for Knight Commander of the Bath, represented by one man clad head to foot in towels with a sponge on his head and a bath brush in his hand.

This was Whitburn’s first Cycle Parade. It was an idea that had been borrowed from other gala days but had naturally been much improved by Whitburn folk, who boasted that “nothing in Bathgate was anything like the Whitburn parade”. Fourteen riders took part, and while prizes were awarded, it was decided that everyone was a winner.

The Cycle Parade proved so popular that it was decided to do it all again, little more than a month later, in aid of the Boys Brigade. On 1st August 1909 an al-fresco music festival was held in Mr. Burn’s field, just off Manse Road, where the Public Band played, and the Whitburn Musical Association presented a programme of choral performances. Once the musical entertainment had come to an end, the fancy dress cycle parade began, pedalling up and then down Main St. behind the band. This time there were 35 competitors, including most of those who had entertained at the gala, along many more that had been inspired by it. Prizes were awarded to bikes and their riders under three categories; “beautiful”, “grotesque”, and “practical”

Second time around, the commercial opportunities of the event were not lost on local photographers who recorded the festivities and quickly produced souvenir postcards. Our example, probably produced by Livingston photographer Robert Braid, is postmarked just a few weeks after the event. Local papers gave full accounts of the proceedings along with the names of most participants. Once the judging was over, John Hamilton, (who had pedalled as the Merry Widow on the fair day), was awarded first prize in the “beautiful” section as the Belle of the Ball.

We’ve tried to cross-reference the newspaper accounts to the postcard in order to put names to faces. Most of the prize-winners, (standing at the front of the group), can be identified, but it is less clear who is who among the rest of the field. Some represent popular figures of the day that are largely forgotten; however within the crowd there’s a nurse, a clown, a gypsy boy, a Senegalese, a street artist and Dick Turpin. Somewhere Tam o’Shanter rubs shoulders with a suffragette. A group also dressed as miners, which probably didn’t require a lot of effort or imagination

The Cycle Parade became a Gala Day favourite, getting bigger and more bizarre every year. Then came the first world war, and everyone suddenly lost their appetite for this kind of fun.

The Wood and the Rosebud, the remains of Armadale's early coal pitsOn a bright winter's day, with the sun low in the sky...

The Wood and the Rosebud, the remains of Armadale's early coal pits

On a bright winter's day, with the sun low in the sky, deep shadows reveal every hump and hollow in the landscape. Journey along the footpath that follows the burn west from Barbauchlaw Mill (new the Mill garden centre), and you reach an area of irregular mounds and trackways formed by early industry. At about this point, the gentle valley of the burn narrows and steepens into the peaceful wooded Barbauchlaw glen. Beside the path that follows the southern lip of the glen, a grassy depression, a metre of so deep, marks the site of the Wood pit, the first substantial coal working in the Armadale area. Much of what we know about these early coal workings is thanks to the enigmatic R Hynd-Brown who, in 1906, wrote a series of articles entitled “Armadale – Past and Present”. Hynd-Brown (perhaps this was a nom-de-plume?) seems to have had an encyclopedic first-hand knowledge of all things Armadale, stretching back to the dawn of the industrial age, when the town was no more than “a few red-tiled and straw-thatched, white-washed agricultural labourers' cottages”. Hynd-Brown tells of how, in about 1819, three local men formed the Boarbauchlaw Coal Company, which then sunk the Wood pit. He referred to the accounts of the company and provided interesting details of income, expenditure and men and women employed by the “Boarbauchlaw Coalrie”. Wood pit seems to have fallen derelict long before the first Ordnance Survey map in 1855, but the “old shaft” is clearly marked, and a nearby circular feature labelled “gin”. Here a horse harnessed to a lever would trudge on a circular path around a vertical shaft to turn the drum around which the haulage rope was wrapped. The rope passed over a wheel on a simple headframe to haul baskets of coal up the shaft. Hynd-Brown doesn't tell us the name of the gin-horse but informs us that it was supplied by William Brock of Barbauchlaw Mains farm at a cost of 13 shillings a week, An area of flat ground, perched on the very edge of the valley, still marks the site of the gin. The OS map also shows a track linking the pithead to the turnpike road, and a small rectangular structure marked “kiln”. The purpose of this is a bit of a mystery. Small quantities of ironstone would have been worked along with the coal and it was usual practice to process this by burning it in piles at the pithead. However it would seem most usual to construct a kiln for this purpose. A raised bank and hints of wall lines survive buried beneath the grass in this area.

The 1850's map shows a further “old coal pit” and “boiler” down at the bottom of the valley on a little piece of haugh-land close to Barbauchlaw Burn. Hynd-Brown tells us that this is the site of the Rosebud pit, sunk in 1835, and the first in the area to use a steam engine. A little 10hp atmospheric engine was brought in to drain the shaft when the inflow of water became too much for hand pumps to cope with. The engine, which we are told was carted from Carluke, was also used to wind coal.

Rosebud pit was always at risk of flooding when the Barbauchlaw Burn ran high, and even in later years posed a threat to working pits that linked to the old workings. Hidden and forgotten in the quiet glen, two mounds still clearly mark the site of the engine-house and adjoining boiler. There are various mounds and cuttings on the steep valley side between the Rosebud pit and the Wood pit. Here, and further to the east, there is evidence of later excavations, perhaps unofficial workings during the miners strikes of the 1920's? Despite this later disruption, aerial radar images hint at a steep incline running up from the valley bottom to the top; perhaps the route by which coal was hauled , by a patient gin-horse.

Given the huge transformation that Armadale has witnessed over the last two centuries, it is remarkable that these remains of early industry has survived, and it is tantalising to imagine what over evidence might survive beneath the soil.

Robert Burns and the Bogie CrossingRobert Burns was a coalmaster. By 1890 he and his family of eight children were proud...

Robert Burns and the Bogie Crossing

Robert Burns was a coalmaster. By 1890 he and his family of eight children were proud residents of No.10 Balmoral Terrace, one of Glasgow's finest mansion-tenements. From elegant bay windows they enjoyed fine views across fashionable Queen's Park. Through the course of his career Robert had progressed from coal merchant to colliery agent until, in his late forties, he finally became proprietor of his own colliery – a coalmaster.

As owner of the Gartsherrie Coal Company he seems to have made a fair living, although the company seem to have become embroiled in more than its share of legal disputes. For whatever reason, from 1888, he ceased to be referred to in the post office directory as “of the Gartsherrie Coal Co” and was instead listed as “of the Lanrigg Coal Co”. At about the same time, the family moved to their fine new home beside Queen's Park.

The Lanrigg Coal Co (it's unclear where the name comes from) was established to work coal in the lands of Bridgehouse, in the parish of Torphichen. A little coal had been worked there during the 1840's but the area had been largely ignored by mineral prospectors since then. The company sunk Bridgehouse pit in around 1889, seemingly without huge confidence that major deposits of coal would be found. Everything seem to have been done on a shoestring. Due to the pit's remoteness from settlement, miners houses (the Bridge-house rows) had to be built, These were constructed in the cheapest possible manner, at a cost of £25 each, with flat roofs caulked up with tar from the local gas works and very little in the way of sanitary facilities. The authorities had to intervene and force the company to provide basic amenities.

The Bridgehouse pit lay over three quarters of a mile from the nearest railway line, but the Lanrigg Coal Company confidently expected that as soon as production started, the railway company would happily construct a branch line to serve the colliery. In the interim, the company chose, as a cheap and temporary measure, to construct a cable-hauled tramway in an arrow-straight course between the pit and Westfield station. This mile-long route cut across farmland, following the rise and fall of the land with the minimal of earthworks, cutting first across the little track to Muckraw and then across the public road between Bridgecastle and Westfield, at a site close to where Westfield school was later constructed. The coal company seems to have charged ahead with this work with little reference to the road authorities who, quite rightly didn't like the idea of an exposed moving cable being stretched aross the public highway. A series of meetings followed in with Robert Burns travelled through from Glasgow to meet the Bathgate County Roads Board to forcefully state his case and explain the workings of the crossing. Although offering to post a man at road crossings when each train of little hutches rattled across hauled by a moving cable, the roads board would accept nothing less than construction of a bridge to allow hutches to pass beneath the road. The coal company's coffers didn't stretch to this, so it seems that, with the Road Board's approval, huches were hauled along the tramway using horses rather than moving cable. The coal company still failed to install the required crossing gates, and the board were forced to threaten “that unless the crossings are put into proper repair to the satisfaction of the Road Surveyor by 27th inst, (27th January 1891) the same will be lifted without further notice.” A further application to work the tramway by continuous rope was turned down later that year.

Things seem not to have gone well for the Lanrigg coal company and in June 1892 the colliery was put up for sale as a going concern. Having found no buyers, all equipment was sold off and the pithead cleared in the following year. The 1901 census shows Christina Burns and her family were still living in Balmoral Terrace but records her as a widow.

A Hundred Holes in Cairnpapple HillThe banks, ditches and mounds on the summit of Cairnpapple Hill mark out a focus for ...

A Hundred Holes in Cairnpapple Hill

The banks, ditches and mounds on the summit of Cairnpapple Hill mark out a focus for ritual and belief that extends back for more than five thousand years. On the western slopes of Cairnpapple, in the area known as the Hilderston Hills, there are a further group of earthworks, but of a much more recent origin, and representing a far more mundane purpose.

There seems little remarkable about this area of rushes and gorse bushes when viewed from the high road that runs from Ballencrieff Toll towards Linlithgow. However it is worthy of closer inspection. You might pull into the Gordon's View car park, pausing to wonder at the county laid out beneath you, before rambling up the winding track that leads towards the Silvermines quarry. Climbing over the first convenient gate you enter an open expanse of rough pasture that extends from the public road up to the summit of the hill. Walking to the rougher patches of ground that lie close to the road, you find yourself amongst a moonscape of small pits and banks. Each little pit is two metres or so deep, often with a soft rim of moss and bilberry, and a clump of rushes at their centre. There is also one greater crater, six or so metres deep. When viewed from ground level, this landscape appears a random jumble of humps and hollows. However when viewed from above, using the wonders of lidar technology, the pits are seen to line up into three long fingers, marking out where each seam of coal outcropped at the surface.

Coal was probably being worked in the Hilderston Hills by early in the 17th century, when tradition says that a collier named Sandy Maud discovered silver ore beside the little burn south of Cairnpapple. The famous silver mines that developed there had a fairly short working life, but some time later the nearby seams of limestone began to be worked. These quarries at Silvermine became part of a string of limestone workings stretching across the Bathgate hills, which during the 18th and early 19th century produced the huge quantity of lime needed to fertilize and improve newly enclosed lands. The kilns in which the lime was burned consumed great amounts of fuel, and it was fortunate that a good supply of coal lay close at hand in the lands of Hilderston. The narrow track that skirted the hill will once have been a busy highway, with carts and pack horses carrying coal to the kilns and perhaps returning with the finished lime.

Coal will have first been worked where it outcropped at the surface, and from a series of shallow bell pits that extended out a small distance from each shaft. Once the most accessible reserves were exhausted, deeper pits would have been sunk from where in a network of underground workings extended. In an age before practical steam engines, coal was brought to the surface by windlass, or carried on the back of men and women as they climbed to the surface. One of the Hilderston pits is recorded to have been fitted with a spiral wooden staircase. A row of single-room dwellings were built in the shadow of the hill at Hilderston that will have been home to generations of men, women, and children who spend much of their hard lives labouring underground.

The only brief descriptions of Hilderston come from the 1840's and 50's by which time most workings lay derelict and the Hilderston row was largely unoccupied

The surveyors who compiled the first Ordnance Survey maps in about 1855 noted that: “there are a number of old shallow coal pits or diggings scattered about, from 15 to 20 feet deep when coal was obtained in former times, but only superficially, they are all of funnel shape, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. This description sounds very much like the lines of little pits that survive in the field beside the road, It seems odd however that these were not marked on the very detailed maps that were produced, or have appeared on any subsequent editions of OS map. This raises the thought that the pits might be relatively recent features created by the collapse of workings that lie beneath. However, with perhaps the exception of the big crater, every indication suggested that humps, hollows and the traces of almost a hundred small pits, are the remains of the surface working of coal almost three hundred years ago, at the very dawn of the industrial revolution.

Bathgate beneath your feet.Bathgate town centre is generously served by car parks, and its streets are enriched by numer...

Bathgate beneath your feet.

Bathgate town centre is generously served by car parks, and its streets are enriched by numerous green spaces where you can sit among the shrubbery and watch the world go by. It seems an inspired piece of town planning, but has been made necessary by the efforts of forgotten miners more than two centuries ago. Some streets that were once lined with solid commercial Victorian buildings now seem like a smile with missing teeth; the gaps filled with greenery or more recent and flimsier buildings.

At least four seams of coal outcrop somewhere beneath the land to the south of Hopetoun Street; the most significant being the six-foot seam of the Bathgate Main coal. The coal layer plunges into the ground in a north-westerly direction at a gradient of 1 in 4.

It seems probable that from the 17th century, coal was worked close to where it outcropped at the surface, using little more than ladders and baskets. Where the coal lay deeper buried, close to Hopetoun Street, shafts were later sunk to access one or more seams. This coal was probably worked as “stoops and rooms”, leaving pillars of coal to support the ground above. One account speaks of rooms being cut “beneath a street called the “Shuttlerow” (was this an early name for Gideon St?)

Very little documentary record of these early pits has survived, and we can only guess at their location from later descriptions. One useful source is “Chats with old Bathgate Residenteers”; a series of articles published around 1900 in which Bathgate’s most venerable citizens shared their early memories. Some recalled the traces of early mining that survived when they were children, relating their locations to the shops and houses that existed in 1900. While not all accounts are consistent, the site of three pits can be determined with a fair degree of certainty. One pit with a steam winding engine lay close to Mid Street, at top of the “Dotted Knowe” or “Engine Knowe”, somewhere close to the present Farmer Autocare Centre on Mid Street. A second engine house, for winding or pumping, seems to have been sited close to the present-day Steelyard, somewhere near Greggs the bakers; whilst a gin pit, using horse power to wind the shaft, was sited near Hopetoun Street at the back of the present Ballencrieff pub.

In the early days, this mining activity lay in countryside a good distance from the old town of Bathgate, that was centred around the High Street. As Bathgate grew eastwards during the mid 18th century, the mining areas became surrounded by streets and buildings. The last major piece of this new road layout was the construction of the Bathgate and Airdrie turnpike road (now the A89) opened in about 1792. The engine-house of one of the Bathgate coal-pits seems to have been a prominent landmark on the new road – a notice from 1792 speaks about a section of the road “betwixt the Engine at Bathgate and Newliston Bridge” A new road between Hopetoun St and the turnpike road (now known as George St.), and a section of the turnpike itself (now King St.) was for a long time named Engine Street and the line of working buildings behind it was known as Engine Lane.

A newspaper advert of 1799 refers to the development of the Engine pit at Bathgate colliery, however a further advert just two years later, offering a “steam engine and horse gin” for sale, suggests that the enterprise had not been a success. By 1815 the Bathgate colliery was described as “abandoned”.

The remains of mining activity seem to have been covered over and forgotten for a while as the thriving town of Bathgate developed. A gentle settlement of some property was quietly tolerated, however in 1912 an outbreak of serious subsidence along Mid Street caused walls to crack, ceilings to collapse, and one block of houses to move an inch from the pavement. It was also reported that “old fissures had widened in Jarvey St., Gideon St. and Mill Road.” Settlement of many streets required constant attention, and in many places the cast granolitic surface of pavements had to be replaced by concrete slabs that could more easily be dug up and reset when repairing gas pipes and sewers.

In June 1923, those working and living near Hopetoun Street became aware of strange noises and rumblings, and a feeling that something odd was happening. After a few days of uncertainty there was a sudden subsidence extending a hundred yards along Hopetoun St, causing windows to break, walls to crack, and gas mains to rupture. Many were forced from their home and roads had to be dug-up to plug the gas mains. However once the dust had settled, the scene attracted curious crowds, and it was reported that some Broxburn took a bus trip simply to survey the devastation. The damage to “Bathgate’s Princes St” remained evident for many years afterwards.

In 1943, Mid St was again the focus of subsidence when the police station was seriously damaged (and subsequently demolished), requiring the station sergeant and his family to re-housed at short notice. By 1968, property at the north end of Marjoriebanks St had begun to “move” and many houses in Gideon St and the top end of Hopetoun St were showing serious damage from subsidence. There was concern for the council’s flagship block of flats on Marjoriebanks St., (a proud product of the 1960’s) which lay at the centre of the affected area. The clever construction, supported in part on concrete pillars, showed no signs of subsidence, but exploratory boring discovered underground voids that had not been detected at the time of construction. These were promptly filled-up with grout. Most of the properties affected by subsidence on the south side of High Hopetoun St, and a good part of Gideon St., were compulsorily purchased in 1977 and then demolished. Many of these sites now remain as car parks or landscaped green spaces. In other sites subject to subsidence, gaps have usually been filled with lightweight low-rise buildings constructed on a concrete raft.

Bathgate Working Men’s Club and Institute on Mid Street was built in 1875 as a haven where the working man might play billiards, draughts, bagatelle or carpet bowls, or else read books, enjoy a smoke, or take a bath. The solid and much-extended sandstone building lies at the heart of the subsidence area, but continues to stand firm despite all neighbouring property having been damaged and demolished. It’s been repaired and propped up for over a century; with windows re-framed to prevent glass from breaking and billiard tables brought down from the first floor when it proved impossible to keep them level. Today you can clearly make out the cracks and battle-scars of its long history, and the front wall leans endearingly into Mid Street, yet it still stands defiantly as a testament to its builders and as a memorial to an industrial past.




Be the first to know and let us send you an email when West Lothian Heritage posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Contact The Museum

Send a message to West Lothian Heritage:





Hello, does anyone have photos of the old railway at Standhill, Bathgate they could share? I think the line went up to Bents. Thanks
Wonderful image of Patrick Sonny D"Alton from Winchburgh. One of West Lothian's last shale miners.
West Calder is a grand gateway to the Shale Trail.
The forthcoming Kid's Shale Trail.
My late Mother,Elizabeth Douglas McGonigal, was from the Raws,Seafield.She worked as a nurse at Bangour.Here is her wedding.
Hello folks, I am trying to find information on the Braeheads Brickworks and the Eastfield Brickworks at Fauldhouse and in particular to track down any bricks that were manufactured there. The attached photo of a broken brick stamped Turner is likely stamped 'Turner's' and may be a product of these works. Can anyone point me in the direction of any whole bricks! https://www.scottishbrickhistory.co.uk/braehead-brickworks-fauldhouse-west-lothian/
Good morning folks. I am looking at compiling some areas to search for bricks in the near future, for a Scottish brick collection. scottishbrickhistory.co.uk Can anyone tell me the name of the farm just behind Park View, Fauldhouse and a possible name or contact for the owner. Looking at the maps There does not appear to be much left at Eastfield Brickworks but the nearby Crofthead Colliery looks like there may be still debris and bricks lying about there. Does anyone know that particular area. Many thanks in advance.

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/ =17&lat=55.83541&lon=-3.70432&layers=6&right=BingHyb
Three broken but very interesting firebricks were found on the edge of the Etna Brickworks site at Armadale, West Lothian.

Two of them are BRITANNIA brand which are claimed on quite good evidence to have been made at Rawyards Brickworks in Airdrie, Lanarkshire. However, this is second Britannia brick to have been found at or near to the Armadale brickworks and this one doesn't have any of the screw/rivet marks on the rear that the Rawyards made bricks had. So, there remains a possibility that Britannia firebricks were made (possibly for export) at more than one Scottish brickworks.
One of them has the partial stamp SBESTOS which you've got to assume was ASBESTOS. A good trade name for a brick i'd say and one that hasn't been recorded before. I'm going to suggest that this could be a product of the Asbestic Sand Brick Company of Bathgate which was in production from c.1904 to c.1910 although it might be added that the 1914 OS map appears to show the brickworks still in use. Anyway, Asbestic bricks were made from "a mixture of crushed chrysotile-bearing serpentine rock, heretofore a waste product in asbestos mining, and a small proportion of lime, with a sufficient quantity of water" and the process was patented by Feodor Boas in 1896. An almost forgotten bit of West Lothian history there.
Walking up Greendykes bing today and spent sometime uncovering this. The other wheel is about six feet up so looks like the whole cart could still be under the shale.
Historical Notes on the Knights Hospitaller and Torphichen Preceptory
I would like to appeal to any would be historians of folk interested in genealogy in the area. I am looking for some information on a house called "Powder Magazine Cottage" in Calder area. Has anyone heard of it? It is listed as the birthplace of twins James and Ann McNab in 1876. Any info would be appreciated or any contact from McNabs that may be connected. thanks.
A distant relative in Australia has discovered some information about a football team called Standburn Rangers anyone have any info please? Thanks