Scottish shale Scottish shale

Bathgate - old pits

Bathgate, Linlithgowshire
Local authority:
West Lothian
coal worked in the area since 17th century
last pit closed 1802?
Current status of site:

A group of early coal workings, now located within the town of Bathgate, in the lands of Balbardie.

Location of old pits in Bathgate, and the boundaries of the land of Balbardie


Meeting of the Trustees of the Bathgate and Airdrie Road.....At this meeting the Trustees are set by public roup the Upholding of that part of te road betwixt the Engine at Bathgate and Newliston bridge.

Caledonian Mercury, 4th July 1795


As there is still a good part of the ENGINE PIT to sink at Bathgate Colliery, a few experienced SINKERS will meet with good encouragement, applying at the Colliery. Not to be repeatable. BATHGATE COLLIERY Feb. 14 1799

Caledonian Mercury, 23rd February 1799


THE MATERIALS OF A STEAM ENGINE AND HORSE GIN, lying at Bathgate, and formerly belonging to the colliery there, either together or in lots. - The tenants will show the lands, and James Binny at Bathgate the steam engine, &c. and for particulars - apply to the proprietor at Balbardy, by Bathgate, or James Gray, writer, Buccleugh Place, Edinburgh, either of whom, upon satisfactory offers, will conclude a private bargain betwixt and the day of sale.

Caledonian Mercury 19th February 1801


The next in order is a bed of coal which was formerly wrought below the town of Bathgate. This coal is about 6 feet thick and dips north-west 1 fathom in 3. The old engine-pit was 30 fathoms deep and stood at the east end of Bathgate. The working pit was where the Bathgate post-office now stands. A number of houses are rent in consequence of the subsiding of these workings. There were 16 rooms below a street called the "Shuttlerow". There are said to be 6 seams in the Bathgate coal-field, and there are a great many faults, or hitches, or trouble in it.

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


The Houstoun coal in the Uphall district, favourably situated for the canal, is not yet fully ascertained to be an extensive coal field; and the Bathgate colliery being abandoned, there is no other good coal field within a moderate distance the Canal at Broxburn valley.

On the Tract of Canal proposed by Mr. Rennie, The Scots Magazine, 1st October 1814


Chats with old Bathgate Residenteers. No.1......... there were none (houses) in Engine Street until the "Engine-House" was reached, which stood near where James Finnie's wheel-wright shop stands. Mid Street was unbuilt and a great coal heap lay where Mr Anthony's shoe shop is; there was a coal-pit where the "Ark" still stands today. (Finnie's shop was at 75 Engine St., Anthony's shoe shop was at 33, Hopetoun St., The Ark was a two-storey tenement building on Mid St.)

Linlithgowshire Gazette, 21st December 1900


Chats with old Bathgate Residenteers........ Mr Waugh had much that is both interesting and instructive to say regarding the old industries of Bathgate. This is what he says this connection: Coal appears to have been wrought in Bathgate at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. The coal workings must have been very ebb, as we have been told that women carried up the coals out of the pit on their back. Father told me he recollected of pit being wrought with a gin the back of the Hopetoun Lane, and another pit was wrought with an engine at the Dotted Knowe. The late John Fairley years ago, when ploughing this field, went across the mouth of this pit, when the wooden cover fell in behind him with a crash. His life was only saved a hair-breadth. A number of sits took place indifferent places with those shallow workings.

Linlithgowshire Gazette, 11th January 1901



There are authentic records of at least three pits having been sunk in Bathgate town. The two oldest were on the sites in Mid Street now occupied by the property belonging to Mrs M'Kill and Mr Gray. Probably the oldest was the one the site now occupied by property in or near Helenslee Cottages, as less information is forthcoming as to its early workings. The other pit, on the site of which Mrs M'Kill has property, at the corner of Mid Street and Hopetoun Street, comes down evidently to a later time, and was known to have been worked some 200 years ago. Both pits mentioned would almost likely have the coals brought up in baskets as they were in existence prior to the days of steam power being used and although there is nothing known quite definitely about the matter the probability is that women took a hand in conveying the coal to the surface. The third pit. and the more recent of the three old pits, was that on which Engine Knowe Cottages now stand. Here was employed for the first time a haulage engine, and it is due to this circumstance that Engine Street came by its name. Mr Wardlaw, Mill Road, who has for thirty-six years been engineman with Balbardie was able to inform our representative that his grandfather was employed at this pit. He had never heard, however, of the employment of women below, but, as in more recent times, there were always a large number on the pit-head, indeed, as a rule, it was mostly women who were engaged on the pit-head running hutches until some twenty years ago.

West Lothian Courier, 18th May 1906

  • References related to subsidence in Bathgate

      As a result, it is believed, of subsidences. due to a collapse of undarground workings, whole blocks of houses in Mid Street, Bathgate, have been greatly damaged. At Helenslee Cottages one house is partially wrecked, while in Helenslee Terrace, the Ark, and Lily Bank Cottage, in almost every house ceilings have fallen wholly or in part, while walls are cracked. The Ark block of houses have moved away almost an inch from the cement pavement. At Acredale several windows were cracked, and pavement raised, but no inside damage was reported inside the houses. Bathgate St John's U.F. Church has also suffered from this recent subsidence, and old fissures been widened in Jarvey Street, Gideon Street, and Mill Road. The properties during the last twelve months have all suffered from these subsidences, and Bathgate Parish Church and the Masonic Temple has been among the buildings affected.

      Edinburgh Evening News, 23rd February 1912



      The effects the underground workings on tho subsiding buildings in Mid Street have become more serious of late. Especially in the case the Working-Men’s Institute is this the case, and the building has had to propped up several of the windows having been framed round with wood in order to keep them from breaking. In the institute on the second flat is a large hall with five billiard tables, and a movement is at present on foot, the object of which is have some of tables shifted to the bottom flat in order to try and counteract tho sinking. … The gas pipes under the public road seem also to be affected, as on two or three occasions workmen have been in evidence excavating in front of the Institute, while the smell of was very prevalent.

      Linlithgowshire Gazette, 30th August 1912


      Warrant was asked to make certain alterations on building in Mid St., which adjoins Bathgate Institute, and was recently wrecked owing to partial subsidence of underground workings. Mr Reid reported that the plans showed a proposed reconstruction of the ground floor front with new and larger pillars to support the carrying beams and that the north gable also to be demolished and rebuilt. The plans were reported to be in order and warrant was granted as craved. .

      West Lothian Courier, 18th February 1916



      Damage to Property and Roadway. Many residents in the burgh of Bathgate had a rude awakening on Sunday morning, when an alarming subsidence, extending over an area of one hundred yards by 50 yards, occurred in the business part of the town. Considerable damage was done to property and the roadway, and big rents stretched across the streets. Pavements were uprooted in places, and the gas mains broken. Hopetoun Street, the main business thoroughfare of Bathgate, was the place which suffered the greatest amount of damage by the subsidence. The business premises of Provost James Walker, grocer, came in for a big share of the damage, the frontage the building being completely wrecked. On the opposite side of the street the window of a shop belonging to Hunter Bros., drapers, was smashed. The pavement in Hopetoun Street was uprooted, cracks were visible here and there, and gaping rents stretching almost across the entire roadway were be seen at intervals.


      A small dwelling-house near Mid Street was badly damaged internally, and the tenants were forced to remove their furniture to other quarters. The property of Mr James Carlaw, baker, also came for extensive damage. Mr Carlaw, who has his dwelling-house above the shop, was compelled to vacate the house was fortunate to secure an empty cottage, to which had his furniture removed in the course of the day. Hopetoun Lane, which runs parallel with Hopetoun Street, also fared badly. The entire property in the lane showing cracks and other damage. The gas mains in the streets were broken, and workmen had to hurriedly secured on Sunday to open up the roadways that the gas mains could plugged, and prevent the escape of the gas. The Bathgate branch of the Union Bank of Scotland suffered to some extent, while the roadway near the building showed many wide creeks. As has been mentioned, the subsidence extended for about 100 yards 50 yards, and within that area very few properties escaped. It is conjectured tbat underground workings are responsible for the upheaval, though the scene presented Sunday the appearance as if the district had been visited by an earthquake.


      Several residents stated on Sunday that it had been noticed for several days back that a sett had been going on. It was shortly after daylight on Sunday, however, before the first signs of the subsidence manifested themselves, and these took the form strange noises and rumblings. It was seven o’clock when the glass in Provost Walker's premises fell on to the street with a crash, and the noise attracted the attention residents from many quarters, and caused some alarm. Hopetoun Street has been closed for traffic. It was impossible give idea of the damage done, although is estimated the total will run into several thousand pounds.

      Falkirk Herald, 20th June 1923


      BATHGATE SUBSIDENCE. A DISQUIETENING INCIDENT. A house in Cherry Bank Place, situated at the foot of Hopetoun Lane, Bathgate, part of the ceiling fell last night while Mr. Wait and his family were at tea. As cracks in the walls also appeared to be widening, the family with their goods removed from the house. In other parts of fhe affected area there has been further serious earth movement since Sunday.

      Edinburgh Evening News, 21st June 1923



      Evidences of subsidence, due to an outcrop of minerals, has become manifest at Rosemount area, Mid Street, Bathgate. Towards the end of the year, small cracks appeared in some of the structures and these became more apparent a few days ago It may be recalled that a considerable number of years ago, similar effects were noted in an area extending from St. John's Church to the Institute in Mid Street. The movement now is in the other direction, and is on the line of well known “fault." Information obtained on the former was to the effect that the outcrop was really near the surface and therefore any damage resulting from that subsidence was located to a relatively narrow area. At that period no evidence of subsidence whatever appeared in the roadway, nor were water pipes or gas pipes in any way damaged In connection with the burgh surveyor, Bathgate Co-operative Society., who are owners of property at Rosemount, have taken precautions to avoid risks of accident.

      West Lothian Courier, 4th January 1935


      Subsidence.- Towards the end of the month, subsidence occurred at Rosemount on the line of an old outcrop, and while considerable damage has been caused to Rosemount property, the area affected is clearly defined so far, and no effect is being observed either in the carnage way, footpath., or the main water and sewer service,, in Mid Street.

      West Lothian Courier, 18th January 1935



      .....Mr Spalding further reported that week ago, an underground movement, affecting the stability of buildings, commenced in Mid Street. The buildings chiefly affected were the police station and the tenement of dwelling houses, known as Kew Gardens. The movement was observed in one of the dwelling houses attached to the police station when portions of the plaster ceilings fell to the floor. On Tuesday , 5th January, the conditions in this particular house became dangerous and advised the occupier, Sgt. Cuthill, to vacate the house. Sgt. Cuthill was rehoused the same day in a home belonging to the local authority which. fortunately. was vacant at the time. Two houses in Kew Gardens became dangerous to the occupiers later in the week. One of the occupiers had obtained temporary sleeping accommodaton elsewhere. The other tenant. had. so far, not obtained alternative accommodation. He (Mr Spalding) met representatives of the proprietors of the police station buildings on the site and in virtue of the powers coferred upon him by the Burgh Polices (Scotland) Act be requested them, in the public interest to carry out the following steps—(l) remove the front parapet wall and gate pillars; (2) shore up the north gable of the Police statiion: (3) take down the heavy chimney head on the north gable; (4) temporarily support beams and lintels at various places where stability was affected. These safety measures were now being carried out under his supervision. As part of the public footway adjoining the property was considered unsafe he had caused it to be roped off and lit at night. Since Saturday last only a very slight movement in the buildings had been observed. Finally It might be interesting to note a probable cause of the disturbance that the buildings affected were situated in an area where seams coal crop to the surface.

      West Lothian Courier, 15th January 1943


      DOCTOR'S HOUSE IS "CRACKING UP" Every Room Damaged

      A FAMOUS 44 YEAR-OLD HOUSE in Marioribanks Street. Bathgate is literally cracking up. Over the the past the weeks, the house has “moved" several times, and cracks which at first appeared as mere hairlines are now n places 1/4-inch wide. The building, although not yet regarded as dangerous is daily moving further out of alignment. The downstairs area of the building owned by Dr, H. Douglas Thompson, whose surgery adjoins the house. Mrs D. Rossie, widow of a past Bathgate doctor owns the upper section. Both sections are badly affected. Large cracks run down the front of the house in diagonal lines from the top right-hand corner. Few windows in the building will open, as the stone round the window frames is no longer at the same angle as the frames.

      West Lothian Courier, 19th July 1968


      A plea for emergency demolition powers was being considered by West Lothian District Council's policy and resources committee as the 'Courier' went to press yesterday (Thursday). The request was included in a detailed report on the High Hopetoun Street subsidence. compiled by building control officer Bill Millar. In the report Mr Millar also urged the District Council to draw up a )contingency plan to find alternative accommodation for shopkeepers and families. Mr Millar confirmed in the report that High Hopetoun Street moved nearly one inch a week. He said: "The most hopeful prognosis is that the settlement will cease without further serious damage to the buildings and that the National Coal Board will assume responsibility for the damage caused. "It is highly possible, however, that if movement continues at its present rate. some major works will shortly be required to stabilise the buildings.

      West Lothian Courier, 23th January 1976