Scottish shale Scottish shale

Hilderston Hill pit

Alternative names:
East Main pit ?
Torphichen, Linlithgowshire
Local authority:
West Lothian
c.1860 to c.1876, reopened 1936

The pit was opened in about 1860, either by sinking a new shaft or the redeveloping of one of the early Hilderston pits. One reference indicates that the site was known as East Main pit, was owned by Mr. Johnson, a banker. It seems to have enjoyed a short working life as lease of the pit was advertised for sale in 1869, the owner in 1869 was recorded as James Inglis. The colliery plant was sold off in 1876. Some unofficial mining of the old workings took place during the 1926 general strike; with fatal consequences. The pit was reopened in about 1936 by the Hilderston Hill Coal Co, but operated for little more than three years

Hilderston Hills pit is listed in the 1938 Colliery Year Book as employing 9 underground and 3 on the surface, working Main and Parrot coals.



On Sunday evening, a distressing accident happened at Hilderston pit, near Bathgate, whereby James Black, aged twelve years, a son of the manager of the pit, lost his life. Mr Black, in company with two of his sons, one of whom is younger than the above-mentioned had gone down the pit for the purpose of mending the pump-rope that had been broken the day previously. After reaching about half way down the incline, the damage was repaired, and Mr Black proceeded further down, leaving his two boys in the hutch. He then signalled to the engineman to let the hutches descend further; but as they were going at too rapid a rate, he signalled to stop, but seemingly too late, for the youngest boy was thrown out and the other was run into the water, which had collected to the depth of about eight feet at the bottom of the incline. Hearing his eldest son crying for assistance, he caught hold of the rope andwent to the water to try and save him, thinking he had caught hold of some of the pit supports. The lamp which they had taken with them was by that time extinguished, and all was darkness. It supposed the rope the drowning boy had laid hold of was the bell-rope which gives the signal to the enginernan to draw up the waggons, and hearing the hutches ascend, Mr Black ran to save his youngest son, and was succeesful. Thinking from the previous cry of the eldest boy that he was still clinging to the supports Mr Black, in the darkness proceeded down the incline to the water edge, and, called repeatedly, but received no answer. He ascended the pit, relit the lamp, and descended again, but could find no trace of his missing son. Assistance was procured, the pumps were set going, and it was only after a good deal of the water had been pumped out that the lifeless body of the young lad was recovered.

North Briton, 7th September 1867



The Lease is a favourable one, and 17 years to run. There are several valuable Seams of Gas, Smith. and House Coal Shale. of a good quality, has been found on the Ground and adjoining Propertises. Ironstone, of a first quality is supposed to be on the Estate, and is proved to be on the adjoining Property, belonging to the same Landlord. Unlet, and could be wrought by the present Workings. To a Party with capital such an opening is seldom on the market. The present tenant it willing to leave part of the Price to be paid on a Lordship on the Minerals, as the .present Lordship is low For particulars, apply to William Renison, Writer, 20 Buchanan Street; or James Inglis, 21 Wilson Street, Glasgow.

Glasgow Herald, 20th December 1869



To be sold by Public Roup, on MONDAY, the 8th MAY next, the whole Colliery Plant, at Hilderston Colliery, near Bathgate, consisting of: One Horizontal Engine, 16 inch Cylinder, 3 feet Stroke, in good order, with large Winding Drum and Chain. One Beam Engine, with mountings; Crab Winch, Hutch Weighing Machine, Bellows, Anvil, Furnace Irons, Pump Rods, Two Close Carts, Chains, Char Shovels, Scrap Iron, Pit Props, Hutches, Tubs, Bricks &c. TERMS-CASH. Sale at 1 o'clock, P.M. Mungo Chapman, Auctioneer.

West Lothian Courier, 29th April 1876



The MINERALS in the LANDS of CATHLAW and HILDERSTON in the parish of TORPHICHEN about a mile northwest of the Town of Bathgate, will be let on lease if suitable terms are arranged. The Bathgate Main and Jewel Coals , which are extensively aud profitably worked in the neighbourhood , exist over a considerable area of the Property , and were worked at the outcrop on Cairnpapple may years ago . There ars also considerable deposits of Limestone and seams of Fireclay, and it is believed that the Balbardie Seam of Gas Coal and Ironstone extends into the Property. The Estate extends to about 1500 (fifteen hundred) Acres . Further information will he given by Mr R .T MOORE. M.E. 156 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, or by Messrs GLEN and HENDERSON. W. S., Linlithgow, to the latter of whom offers can be addressed.

The Scotsman, 25th October 1899


None of these pits, however, have been worked within living memory except that owned by Mr Johnston, banker, known as East Main pit. Some thirty years ago, it, too, had to be abandoned, the facilities for disposing of the coal being quite inadequate to cope with the better facilities offered by pits nearer railway lines.

West Lothian Courier, 18th May 1906 See full record



This week an old coal mine, situated at Hilderston, near Gormyre Farm, on the Bathgate-Linlithgow road, being re-opened after lying unworked for some 60 years. In the old days, coal was taken from the mine and used by local farmers, but was winnowed principally for the purpose of use at kilns for burning the limestone quarried at various centres in the neighbourhood. With the clearing out of the limestone, the mine ceased to be worked. During the general strike a few Bathgate miners entered the old workings and brought to the surface coal which was sold in Bathgate. A worker was killed at this time and further entrance to the mine was forbidden. The chief man behind the present project is Mr Robert Barnard, a native of Bathgate. Mr Robert Barnard, M.I.M.E., F.G.S. has prospected, directed, and worked various mines in various countries, including Asia-Minor, Russia, Burma and India. In the last-named country he owned several coal mines which he disposed of about a year ago in order to return home.

He joined Mr William Hamilton about eight months at Brownrigg Colliery, Longriggend, which is doing very well. He has high hopes that Hilderston mine will also do well. 36 years' lease of mineral rights has been secured, and he hopes to have everything going well within three months. Mr Barnard has made a careful survey, and finds that in the area secured there are seams of household and steam coal. The seams vary from 20 inches to five feet thick. The seams, four in number, run diagonally, and the mine will be driven right through these, thus permitting the seams to be worked to right and left. A colliery engine is being placed in position, and rails, hutches, props, etc.. have been delivered, so that the work will proceed without delay. When in working order, it is calculated that quite a large number of men will be employed.

West Lothian Courier, 24th July 1936



About Thirty Men to be Employed when it is Reopened

The old coal mine at Hilderston, on the Bathgate-Linlithgow road two miles from Bathgate, has been reopened after having been closed down for oyer sixty years, A 15 years lease of the old mine and the minerals the area has been secured Robert Barnard, mining engineer, native of Bathgate, and by several local business men. The coal the mine household and steam, and will be got by the pick. No coal-cutting machinery will be used. In about three months' time it is expected that some thirty men will be employed; it is not anticipated that the number will ever reach a large figure. The estate in which the mine is situated was at one time owned by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who had their headquarters at Torphichen. When the Order was dissolved the land was transferred to Lord Torphichen. A Lord Torphichen, about the end of the seventeenth century, transferred Hilderston estate to his sister. The mine at one time supplied coal to Cathlaw House and to farmers nearby, but was chiefly the source of supply to limestone kilns in the area. When the limestone gave out towards the close of the nineteenth century, the mine was closed. During the General Strike of 1926 a few miners entered the mine without permission and secured coal, which they sold to householders in Bathgate. One of the workers was killed, and the authorities forbade anyone to use the mine.

Linlithgowshire Gazette, 31st July 1936