Scottish shale Scottish shale

Barbauchlaw - early pits

Alternative names:
Wood pit, Rosebud pit
Bathgate, Linlithgowshire
Local authority:
West Lothian
Boarbauchlaw Coal Co. - John Wilson, William Roberts, and John Harvie.
Current status of site:
Traces of earthworks and tips survive
Regional overview:
Pits - pre 1855

At least three shafts or mines existed close to where coal outcropped in the valley of the Barbauchlaw burn.

  • Wood Pit - sunk in 1820, 16½ fathoms deep to the Armadale Main coal, and worked by a horse gin.
  • Rosebud pit - sunk in 1835, 9 fathoms deep to the Armadale Main coal, using a small 10hp atmospheric engine to wind coal and pump water from the workings
  • Unnamed shaft; described in 1843 as "an old working south-west from the present working pits".

The site of Wood Pit shaft is marked by a significant depression in the ground, and an area of level ground remains on the site of the horse gin. A little distance to the south of the shaft there are faint traces of walls or rectangular features beneath the soil defining a raised area on which the structure marked as "old kiln" on the 1855 OS map would have been located.

  • Location map

    Rosebud Pit

    Gin Pit and Kiln

    Quarry area


    There was an old working south-west from the present working pits, where there were a number of faults. There are two seams of coal within these faults, the lower one of which is all worked out by a day level, the upper seam, which is unwrought, is 2 ft thick, above which there is a seam of ironstone 4 inches thick, which is capable of being worked along with the coal. The present working pits are outside these dykes, they consist of an engine-pit, 9 fathoms deep, from which the water is pumped by an atmospheric engine of 10-horse power, and a working pit, 16 ½ fathoms deep, where there is a gin for winding, which is worked by one horse.

    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




    by R. HYND-BROWN. Published 1906

    CHAPTER III Early Mining in the District (excerpts)

    The Colinburn seam of rough coal having been found of easy access along the side of Barbauchlaw Burn, many private individuals were privileged to sink shafts or drive mines, with a view to securing fire-coal to save the wood on the estate.  But it was not until the year 1819 that a coal company was really formed to work the coal for public supply, when Mr. John Harvie, who had privately operated a small pit on the estate about a mile west of Armadale, joined with Mr. John Wilson and Mr. William Roberts, and procured a ten years' lease to work the coal on the estate, at an annual rental of £86.

    The company entered upon their lease of Barbauchlaw on the 12th November, 1819, and this is a copy of the agreement between the partners:-"That John Wilson, William Roberts, and John Harvie, in company about the lease of the Boarbauchlaw Coal that each have jointly subscribed, agree to the following articles:-  Article 1. - That John Harvie shall have the charge of keeping all books connected with the works, so long as it may be agreeable to the proprietor, and for so doing shall submit his fee to the discretion of the other partners.  Article 2. - That a neutral man shall be engaged as a salesman, who shall make at least a weekly report of the output, with sales and cash drawn, to John Harvie.  Article 3. - That none of the partners shall employ any hands for the work, nor make any contracts for any department of the work, without the consent of parties.  Article 4. - That what articles shall be purchased for the prosecution of the work shall be purchased jointly, and be considered as a joint stock till the end of the lease.  Article 5. - That what cash any partner may lay out more than another shall be allowed 5 per cent. interest for the same till repaid to him.  Article 6. - That John Wilson shall direct the workings below ground, and to receive for so doing the sum of —— per day, the other partners to have the liberty to bring any man they can trust to inspect the workings for their own satisfaction, and who shall be paid jointly by whole."

    The first pit to be worked was at the side of Barbauchlaw Burn, north of Woodhead houses, about a mile west from the Cross, and was known as the "Wood Pit."  Immediately on getting this pit into working order, the company set to work preparing to develop the colliery, and as the coal was not far below the surface at this part of the estate, little difficulty was attached to sinking a small pit.  At the "Wood," John Wilson and Co. are entered as having sunk a pit to the main coal seam, for which they were paid £5 17s 6d on the 22nd July, 1820.  Boring near Whitockbrae, at the site of the present sewage purification works, at Colinburn, proved coal near the surface, with the result that many holes were made at this part, but the seam was soon exhausted.  The "Mill" Pit and the Boutgate, generally known as the "Level," were perhaps the most substantial mines, and although the most expensive to begin with, were the most profitable when they were got into working order.  But the company did not hold long together beyond the Martinmas term of 1825, when an arrangement was come to, and the colliery reverted to Mr. John Harvie.  John Wilson, sen.'s, name after this disappears from the books, but at the Martinmas term of 1829 John Wilson, jun., took charge of the workings and the sale of the coal in the interest of Mr. Harvie.

    The only workmen's houses on the estate at this period were at Barbauchlaw Row, a mile to the west, a number of houses which were built to accommodate the men employed at one time in the quarry; and "Castle Poorie," a two-storey building built by Lord Armadale, a short distance north of the Cross, to accommodate his foresters.  These houses were leased, along with the colliery, to house the miners and their families, the rent charged being 8d a week for a single-room house.

    The methods of getting coal in these days were of the most primitive description.  In some cases women carried the coal to the mouth of the mine in creels, and where pits were sunk a ladder was built for the workpeople going up and down at will, and the coal was raised by means of a gin.  A frame erected over the mouth of the shaft, with a flanged wheel for a rope which was attached to an upright shaft in a frame in the centre of a ring a few paces off, was all that was required to meet the wants of the time; a lever projecting from the upright shaft, as employed for a gin-mill, served to hitch the horse to, and by driving the horse round this ring in one direction a bucket of coal was raised to the top.  The gin-horse was supplied by Wm. Brock, farmer, Barbauchlaw Main, at 13s per week.

    In the month of March in 1835 the first steam-engine was introduced to the district, when the new pit, afterwards known as the “Rosebud", was sunk for Mr. Harvie by James-Smillie, close by the side of the burn in the glen, directly north of Woodhead houses.  This shaft was sunk for the purpose of dealing with the water that had become so troublesome that the hand-pumps then in use were unable to cope with it.  The engine was procured from Carluke, and was brought from there to the pit by Willie Rodger, one of the best known carriers of the time, who carted salt from Bo'ness to Carluke, making two journeys every week, and Mr. Harvie's inn, at Armadale Cross, was his principal resting-place.  His genial nature and picturesque form, dressed in velvet with knee breeches, shining brass buttons, and broad-brimmed Kilmarnock bonnet, made him a great favourite with those on his route, and he was trusted with many little messages, for which he was often compensated with a dram or a copper; but the carrying of the engine on his return journey, when his cart would otherwise have been empty, was the largest parcel he was entrusted with, and not the worst paid.  The engine was not a very powerful one compared with those in use now, but it was sufficient for the wants of the time, and served the double purpose of pumping the water and raising the coal.

    John Wilson, sen., again comes into the work in the capacity of manager, whilst John Wilson, jun., took charge of the engine and sale of the coal, and every difficulty seemed to be overcome and the increasing demand for coal provided for, when lo! the burn broke into and flooded the workings, and a hurried exit had to be made, tools and everything being left behind.


    Many miners were thrown idle on Monday through the pit workings being flooded. The Barbauchlaw Burn was exceptionally high, overflowing its banks to such an extent as to allow the water to get down an old shaft, known tho Rosebud, and causing parts the workings in No. 18 Pit, Barbauchlaw, to be flooded.

    Linlithgowshire Gazette, 13th February 1903