Scottish shale Scottish shale

Balbardie No.1 pit

Alternative names:
Dovecot pit
Bathgate, Linlithgowshire
Local authority:
West Lothian
pre 1855
pre 1913
Current status of site:
Landscaped as public park - no surface features remain.
Regional overview:
Pits - pre 1855

The Dovecot pit was one of two pits in the Balbardie estate marked on the 1855 map, the other being Balbardie pit . A new shaft; Balbardie No.2 pit was sunk nearby in 1900, which then seems to have superceded the original No.1 pit.

The 1883 List of Mines records Balbardie No.1 pit as owned by Henry Walker, manager James McPhail, working the Balbardie Coal by the longwall method, employing 11 on the surface and 32 underground, with downcast shaft measuring 9' x 5.5' and an upcast measuring 12' x 5' and 168 ft deep. It was a non-fiery pit.

The 1884 List of Mines records Balbardie No.1 pit as owned by Henry Walker, manager James McPhail, working the Balbardie Coal 5.5' by the longwall method, employing 12 on the surface and 30 underground, with downcast shaft measuring 9' x 5.5' and an upcast measuring 12' x 5' and 168 ft deep. It was a non-fiery mine ventilated by furnace.

The 1885 List of Mines records Balbardie No.1 pit as owned by Henry Walker, manager James McPhail, working the Balbardie Coal 5.5' by the longwall method, employing 14 on the surface and 35 underground, with downcast shaft measuring 12' x 5' and an upcast measuring 12' x 5' and 168 ft deep. It was a non-fiery mine ventilated by furnace.

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    A Coal Pit a little S.E. of Ballencrieff Ho. It is 28 fathoms deep - Vein 3 ft 8. thick, composed of Common & Gas Coal and Iron Stone. it is worked by two engines one 12 and the other 18 horse power. Mr. J. Hosie, Balbardie House, is contractor

    OS Name Book OS1/34/8/19 c.1855


    Melancholy Pit Accident Two Young Women Killed.

    On Saturday night last a serious accident occurred at No. 1 Dovecot Pit, Balbardie Colliery, whereby, according to one account, one, and according to another, two young women were killed, and a man very severely injured. The pit is close to Bathgate, and situated on the estate Balbardie and Bathgate, near to the mansionhouse. It appears that on the night above mentioned two girls, named Baxter, aged eighteen years and Leitch, aged seventeen years, went to pit and told those in charge that they wanted down with supper to some of the workmen who employed at extending the “dook” or incline at the pit. After some remonstrance their request was complied with, and they were allowed to descend. Having been down for some time, a signal was sent from the bottom to let the carriage descend the dook, wich is an inclined plane, at an inclination of 1 in 3 and about 200 yards in length from the pit bottom.

    Previous to the signal being given the two girls, along with one workmen named Alexander Leitch (uncle to the girl Leitch), had placed themselves in the carriage to descend the dook, but from some cause unexplained, the carriage did not move until upwards of 30 feet of rope was wound off the drum which had not been observed till the carriage went away with such a velocity that the slack rope on being run out was broken with the weight and sudden impetus it had received, and the consequence was that the carriage and those upon it were precipitated 50 fathoms from the top of the dook. Dr Longmuir, surgeon of the works, was in immediate attendance, and in having descended the pit found that the girl Baxter had been brought up the dook, had been killed almost instantaneously, and the other two seriously injured. Alexander Leitch has four ribs broken and a severe cut on the right foot, as well bruised and cut on various parts of the body. The girl Leitch’s skull is fractured, and also the right collar bone. Two workmen, brothers of the girl Leitch—who did not get on the carriage are unhurt. We understand that the proprietor Mr. Stewart, Murdiston Castle, Carluke, has special rules hung up at the work prohibiting strangers from being allowed to go down the pits. It may here be mentioned that it is scarely nine months since the girl Leitch lost her right arm whilst engaged at brickwork.

    Edinburgh Evening Courant, 15th May 1866


    COLLIERY Plant for Sale, consisting of Two Horizontal Engines, 13-inch and 14-inch Cylinders respectively, and 3 feet stroke 100 fathoms 16-inch Pipes, with Working Barrels, Suctions, and Clack Seats, a quantity of 18. inch Pipes, Bell Cranks, Pit Pulleys, all in good working order.—Apply, Henry Walker, Balbardie Bathgate.

    Lanarkshire Upper Ward Examiner, 5th January 1884



    Between eight and nine o'clock on Tuesday morning, a terrible explosion, and one the like of which had, so far as known, never before occurred in the neighbourhood, took place at the Balbardie Collieries, belonging to Messrs Walker & Cameron, Bathgate. The colliery is situated about half a mile from the centre of the town, and the report of the explosion was heard all over the district. It happened at what is known as the old " Dovecot" Pit, where considerable number of men have always been employed. It is situated on the well-known Balbardie estate associated with the name of Marjoribanks, and hence the name of the collieries.

    Large crowds of men and women thronged to the scene of the accident, rumour had spread that several men had been killed. It was soon discovered that a fireman named Richard Beswick, and Robert Strickland, labourer, were the only men missing, and although hopes their safety could not be entertained, as soon it was possible to approach the place, a party commenced a search for the bodies of the unfortunate men. Strickland was discovered standing upright against a post and was still breathing, but hedied almost immediately. The body was fearfully burned, and the head was injured to such an extent that identification was almost impossible. Greater difficulty was experienced in discovering the body of Beswick, it was buried beneath huge pile of bricks. When was recovered a sickening spectacle was presented, the flesh being literally roasted. The bodies were removed to the mortuary, Bathgate. The cause of the explosion is not known, and the men responsible state that the floats on the boilers were in good working order. There were six boilers at the pithead, and it is supposed that the two centre ones had burst, displacing the other four. The tremendous force of the explosion may be gathered from the fact that one part of a boiler was blown a distance of about four hundred yards, and part of another boiler was carried a distance fully a hundred yards in opposite direction. The smithy and joiners' shop suffered considerably the flying bricks crashing through the roofs and windows.

    There were two high chimney stalks in connection with the boilers, and one of them was completely levelled to the ground, while the other, curiously enough, was untouched. The escape of the "runners" and other workmen engaged about the pithead was a miracle Had the boilers been blown in north and south direction instead of east and west, greater loss of liie must have been the result, and the engine-house would, have been tota'ly wrecked. The dimensions of the boilers were about 30 feet by 5 feet, and they were capable of working up to pressure of 45 pounds. The men in the pit could not be taken to the surface in the usual way, but they were brought up by the shaft of the mine adjoining. Owing to the water having to be pumped from the pit to feed the boilers at the pithead, the work is at complete standstill. Close on 300 men are thrown out of employment. The damage is estimated at about £2000.

    The following statement was made by Robert Begbie, pitheadman, who was working at the pithead at the time of the explosion :I was on the pithead: along with neighbour, John Harkins, when the accident happened I felt a shock and 'ducked,' and neighbour was thrown down beside me behind the hu;ch. I cried to Harkins to run below the waggon, and we sat there for second or two. The steam was roaring terribly, and we got from underneath the waggon, and made lor the held

    Owing to the direction in which the fragments were driven, both of us escaped injury. The runners had the good fortune to be out the dirt bing at the time, that they also escaped." Beswick, who resided in Whitburn Road, Bathgate, was married, and leaves a widow and two children. Strickland, a labourer, was unmarried. A third man, Hugh Borthwick, fireman, was seriously burned and cut. This man had most miraculous escape He had just left his neighbour Beswick a few seconds before the explosion took place, and had only turned the corner of the boiler seat, clear the direction in which the wreckage was blown. In the afternoon the scone of the explosion was visited by Mr Young, Scottish boiler insurance manager, and Mr Brown, inspector of the same company, who made a minute inspection. One result the inspection was to make certain the fact than the explosion was not caused by scarcity of water the boilers.

    Falkirk Herald 23rd February 1895