A Bridgend Street Scene
Bathgate's industrial west end.
F17045, first published 8th December 2017
This postcard from our collection shows a wonderfully grimy industrial view of the Bridgend area of Bathgate, postmarked 1911, looking eastwards along Glasgow Road towards the parting of North and South Bridge streets. On the left, a bicycle has been left outside the offices of George Wolfe & Sons, spade and shovel manufacturers, while close to the gas lamp, a carter stands by a precarious load of what might be someone’s household furniture. Beyond is the corrugated iron-clad bulk of the Bathgate foundry, and in the distance across the road, the arched windows of the signal box guarding the level crossing can be discerned. A steam roller seems to be at work, filling in holes outside the cemetry gates. The pavement then narrows where the Bathgate Water passes beneath, and to the right, buried in the shadows, is the single storey brick building with a louvred roof vent that was the original West Lothian shovel works. Remarkably, this building still survives, in use now as a tyre depot
George Park and George Wolfe built the West Lothian shovel works in about 1875 on an oddly shaped scrap of land at Bridgend, between a burn and the Glasgow road. The partnership was soon dissolved, Wolfe setting up on his own account in a works in North Bridge street, and Park continuing production at Bridgend. Small household shovels were made in modest quantities using fairly rudimetary machinery. A sales notice lists a bar-cutting machine, a boring machine, a punching machine, a patent emery grinding machine and a set of rollers. When Park’s business failed, George Wolfe bought and modernised the premises, and with continued success, bought land at Bridgend north of the Glasgow road to construct a much larger factory manufacturing an extended range of spades and shovels. In 1896, Wolfe opened rolling mills to supply sheet steel for the spade works, much of the steel produced from heating and reforming old railway rails. Bathgate spades soon gained a reputation for excellence and were exported throughout the world.
The original shovel works continued in the ownership of George Wolfe & Sons into the 1930’s, laterly used as as store. At the end of World War Two, the site at 13, Glasgow Road became the garage and workshop of West Lothian Motors Ltd.