Scottish shale Scottish shale

Ballencrieff - early pits

Bathgate, Linlithgowshire
Local authority:
West Lothian
John Johnson
probably pre-1800
Current status of site:
Returned to agriculture, with surface remains at the pit sites.
Regional overview:
Pits - pre 1855

Coal was worked at Ballencrieff "from a very early period", and supplied a poor-quality coal used mainly as fuel for the nearby limekilns. One shaft is marked as "coal engine" (presumably with a steam winding engine) on Thomson's map of 1820, which was 47 fathoms deep. A second pit is described elsewhere as a "stair pit" (with access by ladder). A trackway linked the pits to the Ballencrieff lime kilns and onward to the limestone quarries of the Bathgate hills. It seems likely that the workings were abandoned early in the 1850's.

See - Mary and the Ballencrieff pits

  • Location map

    "Engine pit"

    "Stair pit"

    Ballencrieff Lime Kiln


    When visited c.1840 by R.F. Franks, reporting to the Childrens Employment Commission, Ballencrieff Colliery was operated by John Johnson of Bathgate. The overseer, Alexander Turner testified "We employ few colliers at this season (April), as the demand decreases and our hill is full. Lime coal and coal for land consumption are chiefly our trade, consequently we lessen our hands at seasons. Our colliers employ whom they please, males or females; and as our mine is entered by a bout gate, (a private way generally along the level of the water to the hill side), the people work as they please.


    This bed of coal is at present worked at Ballencrieff, where the coal has been workd from a very early period. The pit is 47 fathoms deep; there is also a stair pit, and several old pits. The seams, which are 6 feet thick, has some ribs of stone in it and dips north-west 1 fathom in 3, and is worked stoop-and-room. There are a number of faults in this field, the direction of which is generally in the line of dip and rise. There is a hitch, which is the height of the coal, about 7 fathoms to the north of the pit. There is a also a down hitch, more than the height of the coal, about 20 fathoms to the north of the pit, and there is a large fault to the south of the pit, in whcih a mine was run to a distance of 15 fathoms , but was not through it. There is also supposed to be a whin dyke, which is understood to run north-east to south-west near the road from Bathgate to Linlithgow, west from the pit.

    On the mines, minerals and geology of West Lothian - Charles Forsyth, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, III series, vol 2. 1846


    Obituary. Last week the grave closed over the remains of an old Bathgate resident in the person of James Brown, of Brown's Square, no doubt better known to the present day inhabitants of the town as "Pender." James Brown was born at Mounteerie, near the Knock on the 28th April, 1825, so that at the time of his death, he was close on 76 years of age. He removed at an early age to Bathgate, where he resided without a break until his death. From an early date Mr Brown was engaged as a miner, indeed it may be said that he was born a miner, having been carried in his early years by his mother, who was well known as Nannie Love, to the "east side o' the burn," or Ballencrieff Pit, where in the old days when women worked in the mines, she had her daily employment. Annie Love was a native of Bo'ness, where she used also to labour in the mines. The father of the deceased was named Thomas Brown, and was born and brought up on the old Linlithgow Road, near Cathlaw, which in the old days held the position of an inn, but has long since disappeared, although the foundations may yet be descried. Thos. Brown also followed the calling of a miner.

    West Lothian Courier, 19th April 1901