Home

Back to History Index

 

Employment and Industries

A History

Updated 21 February 2010

   

View of furnaces

View of 'Hash', warming up

Working over molten steel

 

 

Atlas Foundry photos courtesy of

Lockhart Campbell

 

 

Jock Pirie inspecting steel

Drawing off slag

Furnaceman

Jock Hislop believed to be at the furnace

 

On this page

  • Assortment of Facts

  • Fireclay and Bricks

  • Hosiery

  • Oil

  • Armadale Gas Plant

  • Mines

  • Quarries

  • Foundries and Steel

See also

Development   Population   Shops and Public Houses  

  * Scran Photos

 

West Lothian Industrial Heritage

 

Fifty years of Armadale employment

  • 1914  Collieries: Armadale, South Broadrigg, Bathville; coalmine: one in burgh; brickworks: South Broadrigg, Etna, Atlas and Bathville; brick and fireclay works: Barbauchlaw and one very big steel works - Atlas (started 1913); quarries - 1 in burgh, several old quarries.

  • 1935  Brickworks * - 'several well-appointed brickworks' capacity 100,000 bricks/day, Atlas (firebricks), Bathville (sanitary pipes, chimney pots, fireclay goods; steel foundry; hosiery factory.

  • 1947  Colliery - Barbauchlaw (closed 1952)

  • 1958  Fireclay works; two large steel foundries; factory for colliery equipment; two small hosiery factories; brickworks - National Coal Board; coal briquette factory; sand pit.

  • 1964 New firebrick plant; steel foundries: Atlas, West Lothian. United Fireclay; Mayfield Hosiery (started 1938); Dickson & Mann (started 1961): made and installed conveying equipment; large sand pit.

Source: Studies of the Scottish shale oil areas, Vol 2: Mortality in the Scottish mining communities: Randall SC, Cowie HA, Hurley JF, Jacobsen M

  • By 1984, 24% of the insured population of Armadale and Bathgate were unemployed.

  • By 1990, 8.3% of Armadale's insured population was unemployed.

"In Armadale my father counted 44 [chimneys] and I remember 38 and they were a' belching reek black smoke."

Courtesy of HAA: Early Memories extract interviewee: Davie Kerr

 

Former Armadale Lint Mill*

Birkenshaw mill processed locally grown flax.

 

Armadale Community Centre, built on the site of Armadale Abattoir

 

FIRECLAY and BRICKS

The Bricks of Bathville and Armadale: the Atlas, the Muir of Armadale, the Barbauchlaw, the Boghead and the Etna

Armadale has been a successful centre for the production of bricks, pipes and tiles, as well as other fireclay products.  Local fireclays achieved an international reputation for their consistency as well as their high alumina content for heat resistance.  By the 1970s, the fireclay industry declined so much that most Armadale works closed.  However, the Etna works survived to be taken over by GISCOL Ltd (The Glasgow Iron and Steel Company) in 1983.  In 1997, Caradale Traditional Brick Company was formed.

 

MARK

ATLAS

ATLAS GB

ATLAS STIRLING

CRATER GB

ETNA

ETNA GB

BAR-LAW

MUIR

MUIR ARMADALE

BOGHEAD

BOGHEAD Glasgow

CRAIGRIGG

MAKER

Atlas Firebrick Works

Atlas Firebrick Works

Atlas Firebrick Works

Atlas / Etna Works

Etna Brickworks

Etna Brickworks

Barbachlaw Brickworks

Barbauchlaw Brickworks

Barbauchlaw Brickworks

Boghead Fireclay Works

Boghead Fireclay Works

Craigrigg Works Westfield

PRODUCTION PERIOD

1882 - 1973

1882 1973

1882 - 1973

1880/1890 - 1970s

c1890 - 1947

c1890 - 1960

1897 - 1947

1897 - 1947

1897 - 1947

c1889 - 1930

1889 - 1922

c1938 - 1950s

Photos from Armadale's Brickmaking past at Almond Valley Heritage Centre, Livingston

 

A description of the processes involved in brickmaking in Armadale

Brick clay: Geology and mineral planning factsheets for Scotland

(includes a photo of Armadale's gas-fired Hoffman kiln)

Caradale Bricks Ltd on the Etna Brickworks (2)* site, Lower Bathville

Snippets from the History of Bathville Brickmaking

1797: The area of lands and estate called Harestanes was part of the Hopetoun Estate until it was sold to William Davidson who changed the name to Bathville.

1859: Bathville's industry began with a background of coalmining. John Watson of Glasgow bought the Bathville site for about 10,500 and constructed a brickworks, which would use the fireclay that was being mined with the coal. 

1862: There were 6 Bathville cottages which were termed 'Etna Cottages'.

1868: By this year, there was a firebricks works, pits, clay mines and an oil works.

1871: James Wood, a coalmaster from Paisley, started operating in the Bathville area.

1874: Although Watson's company became one of Lanarkshire's largest coalmasters, financial problems forced it to sell the Bathville brickworks to James Wood.

1882: Watson's brickworks reopened as Robertson & Love's Pipeworks.

1893 - 1894: James and William Wood formed James Wood Ltd to take over the interests in Drumpellier, Meiklehill,  Neilston and Westrigg collieries together with Etna and Atlas Brickworks (Bathville Brickworks).

1895:  James and William Wood had financial problems which caused their estates to be sequestered.

1897: On recovery and armed with capital of 6,000, they joined with Daniel Robertson, a firebrick manufacturer at Bathgate, to incorporate Robertson, Love and Co Ltd.

1898: Nine collieries were amalgamated under United Collieries Ltd.  By the end of the century, Robertson & Love's Pipeworks had been joined by Bathville Brick & Fireclay Works, Barbauchlaw Brickworks and Etna Brickworks.

c1900: Robertson, Love and Co Ltd's sales catalogue (at the top of this page) has a picture showing the site with two large groups of buildings as well as four railway sidings.  The gases from a number of beehive kilns as well as the three continuous Hoffman kilns were drawn off by six large and four smaller chimneys.

1902 - 4: Twenty-three more collieries, including James Wood Ltd and Robertson, Love and Co Ltd brickworks subsidiary, were included under United Collieries Ltd producing a capital total of 2 million.

1916: Although Robertson, Love and Co Ltd was liquidated, its firebricks manufacture continued under the United Collieries Ltd banner.

1947:  When the coal industry was nationalised, the brickworks were reformed under the title of United Fireclay Products Ltd, thereby including: Armadale: Atlas and Etna Firebrick Works, Bathville Pipe Works, UNICOL Tile Works; Clelland, Lanarkshire: Brownhill building brickworks.

Chief refractory brands, all based on local fireclays: Atlas (38% alumina); Atlas A (42% alumina); Etna (33% alumina).  Although Stoneyburn's Bents Mine produced a good fireclay (42% alumina), it was worked out and closed by 1929, afterwards being replaced by the Drum Mine at East Whitburn. Northrigg No7 pit supplied coal and fireclay for pipes, but was replaced by Pottishaw Mine in 1963, while the Tippethill Mine (38% alumina, 2.5% iron) replaced the Drum Mine in 1960.


1934 - 1970: No 1 and No 2 Pipeworks*: made glazed sewerage pipes, traps and connections; chimney cans; firebricks; assorted fireclay products incl. British Standard pipes + fittings. They also tested pipes.
No1: Pipes all sizes 3" long or otherwise reduced; diameter 2" - 18"; traps all sizes. eg of items: pickling dishes, pig troughs, cattle troughs, perforated brick, wall coping stones.
No2: Similar pipeware as that of No1 works; chimney cans 15 " - 72", all shapes eg octagonal and square cans; slabs; ridge tiles; hand-made bricks, etc.
Process: Clay was obtained from the works' own mine, transported by own transport and tested in own laboratory for aluminia, silica , content and shrinkage ( possible 1.25 inches to the foot). Breakages etc returned to the dry hill to be reground, then mixed as 'grog' with new clay and re-used.
Workers: Women carried pipes from machine to be finished and glass-lined before drying. Otherwise, they loaded kilns or lorries with pipes weighing 32lbs - 1cwt. Men filled and emptied the kilns. The ring man brought rings to the kiln setter and laid them on the floor for the setter to place pipes on.
Moulder; engineers; electricians; fire brick workers. Moulders were highly skilled making patterns and castings. Plaster of Paris moulds had to be accurate by considering the amount of shrinkage likely in the firing process. Engineers oversaw the machinery and panmills. Fire brickies oversaw the maintenance of the kilns. The perforated floor blocks were referred to as 'Holey Buoys' and they conducted the fumes into the flues and in turn up the chimney which was controlled by dampers. Kiln temperatures were carefully monitored using temperature cones on the kiln doors. Eventually coal was replaced by oil burners to heat the kilns.

1957: United Fireclay Products was bought by Woodall-Duckham so that the firm had a reliable source of fireclay shapes for the gas retorts it required.


1960:  West Works brickworks was built with a 400 foot long tunnel kiln.  United Fireclay Products, Bathville, had about 460 employees in the mid 1960s and produced refractory bricks and glazed sanitary pipes from fireclay as well as composition building bricks from pit waste products.

1965: 48% of UK fireclay (much of the highest quality) was worked from the Millstone Grit series in the Scotland's Central Basin, and much of it was exported to Europe.  Although refractory materials were shipped to Britain and western Europe, Canada and the Philippines, the building bricks and pipes were only supplied to Scotland.  From the mid 1960s, the Bathville common brick changed in quality from firebrick standard to a much softer brick.

1970: Bathville Pipe Works closed as demand fell with the rising competition from plastic pipes.  The Etna Works was developed to produce Etna-stamped bricks.

1971: United Fireclay Products was bought by Gibbons Dudley Ltd for 715,000.

1973: The Atlas Brick Works closed.

1981:  As demand for refractory bricks declined, United Fireclay Products was purchased by Steetley Brick Ltd, which turned West Works into a facing-brick brickworks.

1983: Etna and Brownhill Works were bought by GISCOL Ltd (The Glasgow Iron and Steel Company).

1985: Gordon Thomson directed a 9 minute colour 16 mm film about Etna Brickworks.  The film, shot by Jim Harold and commentated by John Hume, showed the manufacture of common building bricks from the stage of crushing to the final stage of firing.  There were shots of 28 chamber kiln,  used for firing, and demolished soon after the film was made.  Two Hoffman continuous kilns were also shown.  The film was sponsored by the History Department of Strathclyde University and produced by the University's Audio-Visual Services.  Further details can be obtained at the Scottish Screen Archive.


1997: Caradale Traditional Brick Company was formed.

*Information from article by John Collins in HAA's Your Magazine No 2: Industry in Armadale

Other brickworks in the area, owned by Robert Muir and Co

Bricks produced by Muir-owned brickworks

1880s: Robert Muir owned Barbauchlaw fireclay works.

1889: Boghead fireclay works, Bathville, initially owned and operated by Gillies Brothers until the Muir takeover in 1915 from when it operated until 1928.

1896: Robert Muir announced his intention to submit plans for new brickworks in East Main Street, Armadale.

c1897 - c1947: Barbauchlaw, a fireclay and common brickworks, operated in East Main Street, Armadale.  The clay was supplied by the neighbouring mine.  By the end of post-war period, building bricks were being manufactured there.

1900: Robert Muir of Bathgate represented Armadale Burgh on the parish council.  He indicated plans to erect an office in South Street, the site of his other brickworks (top of the brae at Blackmoss). 

In 1900, Marchbanks Cottage was built with Muir bricks for the Manager of the Muir brickworks in East Main Street.  The cottage was conveniently situated as a track led from the back of the building to the brickworks site.  The photo below shows the Kerr family at the back of the cottage around 1900.  Originally a ploughman, Robert Kerr became the Manager of the Muir brickworks and, although he retired at 70, he was called back to work for Etna Bricks.

The Kerr Family of Armadale

Robert (middle row left)
Davie (middle row second from left)
Abraham (middle of back row)
James (back row right)
Other members of the family: wife, Agnes; other sons: Thomas, John, William and George; daughters: Jane, Agnes, Isabella,
Davie was born c1856 in Duddingston, Midlothian, the son of Robert Kerr, bc1815 Dalmeny, a ploughman, and Jane, bc1813 Kirkliston
When Davie was young, the family (with other sons: James, John, Robert; and daughters: Janet, Ann and Jean) stayed at North Mains, Inverleith.
 

 

HOSIERY

Armadale Hosiery, Brown Street (100 female employees) founded 1919: Manager: Mr Ross of Bathgate; Under-Manager: Mr Wilding  Teacher of knitting machine use, with 7 / 8 / 10 needle: Mary Duffy.  Workers: After training, 6 shillings per week, followed by piecework.  8 hour days, day on Saturdays when machines had to be cleaned.  Some worked at Mayfield Hosiery for some  years before returning to the former factory.  During WWII, the factory was used for munitions and they worked at Bathgate Hosiery.

Mayfield Hosiery (40 female employees) founded 1938: located in an area of the old Atlas Steel Works.  Originally it was a Manchester-based firm owned by J.D. Wilding Co Ltd. Manager at Armadale: G. Wilding, Deputy Manager: Andrew Lamont.  Early 1930s, Wilding closed down and Andrew Lamont took over and named it Mayfield Hosiery.  Closed during WWII.  After the war, the firm moved to the Stonerigg site and a new factory building was constructed using the bricks from demolished air raid shelters.  Machinery: 4 power knitting machines + hand-operated machines + sewing plants.  Eventually secondhand machines became available followed by new machines.  Materials: initially mainly wool, which caused problems when the market price of wool dropped in 1952, thereby leading to an expectation of lower garment prices even though manufacturers still had stocks of more expensive yarns.

 

OIL

Photo taken at Almond Valley Heritage Centre, Livingston

In David C. Kerr's Introduction to his excellent authoritative Shale Oil: Scotland, The World's Pioneering Oil Industry, he observes:

One of the world's earliest commercial mineral oil refineries was opened at Bathgate in Scotland by James Young and his partners in 1851 to distil oil from cannel coal.  The oil refining processes developed there provided the foundations for the Petroleum Age which was to come.  From this works developed the Scottish shale oil industry, which grew to employ 10,000 men and changed the landscape of the Lothians.

Although the death-knell of the industry was already sounding as early as 1859 with the discovery of free flowing oil (Drakes Well) in America, the shale oil industry in Scotland survived for another 100 years through technical innovation and improved efficiency.....

The Industrial Revolution increased the demand for lubricants.  In 1781, the ninth Earl of Dundonald patented a simple process for distilling oil from coal (an English patent having foreseen such possibilities in 1684). In 1847, James Young, a Glaswegian chemist had established works in Alfreton, Derbyshire to exploit the free-flowing oil seeping from the coal seams.  After two years, the seams no longer produced the quantities needed to make the enterprise financially viable, and so Young sought an alternative source.

In 1848, John Andrew and Thomas Marshall sank a shaft to work the coal at Whiteside Farm.  To make a sump to contain troublesome water,  the men decided to increase the depth of the pit.  They discovered  a brown-black seam of a close-grained mineral, which divided easily into thin flakes, and which burned easily when lit.  Armadale miners had known of this coal for a long time and had used it to light their homes.

The 'discovery' of the Torbane Hill mineral, Torbanite, composed of colonies of freshwater algae, aka cannel (candle) coal aka parrot coal (because of the chattering noise it makes when it burns) enabled Dr. James Young to extract the first mineral oil in commercial quantities, thereby founding a significant industry. 

In 1850 Young patented his dry distillation of coal process and began construction of his Boghead works.  In 1851 production began in the vast 25 acre complex.  By 1854 8,000 gallons of oil were produced every week at the works.  Controversy and a court case followed based on whether Young had acted legally under the terms of his lease to extract coal.  He became known as James 'Paraffin' Young ('paraffin' as it had no affinity with any other known substance).  By 1861, oil workers formed the largest occupation group in Linlithgowshire's census. Although Torbanite deposits had become depleted by the time his patent ran out in 1864, his success and the results of Sir Archibald Geikie's Geological Survey in the late 1850s encouraged others (such as Robert Bell's oil shale works at Stewartfield).  In 1865, Young founded Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company and built the Addiewell works, which opened in 1865.  By 1919, James Young's company was one of the surviving six oil companies, which combined to form Scottish Oils Ltd.

Ironically, by the late 1960s, although the shale industry had gone, the remaining bings provided an opportunity to remove them for civil engineering uses.

For an interesting and detailed account, which includes James Young see HERE

For a brief account with useful links see HERE

 

ARMADALE GAS PLANT

1946: The works was built.

1962: The works was closed down and used as a holder station for gas storage.  Gas was supplied from Westfield Fife; Granton, Edinburgh; Provan, Glasgow.

With the start of a North sea gas supply, locally produced coal gas was no longer required and the gas works closed.

 

MINES

More information in Past and Present Chap II; Chap III ; Chap VI; Chap VII; Chap VIII; Chap XII

Armadale NUM Banner*

Photo taken at Almond Valley Heritage Centre, Livingston

 

Coalmines in the Armadale area: Overview

Although coal had been mined for centuries in the area now known as West Lothian, its importance was only truly recognised with the rise of the iron and steel industry.  The first Statistical Account of Scotland in the 1790s showed that coal mining had been established a long time in the parishes of Bathgate, Uphall and Livingston.  From the 1760s, the Carron Company developed mines on the Barbauchlaw and South Couston estates, and, eventually, the Company imported English miners, who were regarded as more reliable and hard-working, as well as pauper children (as apprentices) to continue and enlarge their profits.

Initial excavation techniques were primitive.  However, as demand increased, the industry became more organised.

1819: John Harvie, William Roberts and John Wilson formed a company and took out a 10 year lease to mine Boarbauchlaw coal near Woodhead.  This was the first significant attempt by a company to mine for coal for public supply in the area.

1840s: Memories of working in Armadale-area collieries

Extracts are from the report by R. H. Franks to the Children's Employment Commission on the East of Scotland District, which was published in 1842.

At the time of the report, in West Lothian collieries and pits: 338 male adults; 98 males under 18; 61 males under 13; c68 female adults; 52 females under 18; 37 female under 13.

Colinshiel Colliery: Messrs. MOORE & Co.: 16 male adults; 7 males under 18; 1 male under 13; 9 female adults; 3 females under 18; 2 females under 13.

Ann Harris, a 15 year old putter at Colinshiel Colliery 'works 10 to 12 hours daily, has done so about four months, never was at coal-work before and heartily hates it, but could get no other work or would not have gone down. It is no woman's work, nor is it good for anybody'.

Hard Hill Colliery: Messrs. WARK and WYLIE, proprietor: 30 male adults; 11 males under 18; 2 males under 13; 4 female adults; 1 female under 18; 1 female under 13.

Alexander Wark said they employed 'about 50 persons at present below ground; the number varies with demand; the collieries in this district are not very extensive, as the consumption is chiefly local, and for lime-works...................  The colliers about this district change their places of labour frequently, which has a bad effect upon their children, as it entirely prevents any settled mode of instruction being given....'  He added that few women or young children worked in pits in that part of West Lothian. 

One of his workers, Thomas Brown, aged 10, was a putter who reported that he had worked below ground with his father and two brothers, for the last 4 years, at Bo'ness Mines, and, more recently at Hard Hill. 'I go down at three in the morning, and come up at four, and sometimes six at night, and work 9 and 10 days in the fortnight; work very hard, as father is no strong the now, and mother is dead. 

I hurry the hurlies [draw the carts] in harness; it is the practice here; we used only to push them at Bo'ness; never been hurt much, but often overworked.

I could read before going down; have forgotten all.'

One of Wark's female workers, Margaret Harper, a 13 year old putter, had been reduced to mine work because of her father's poor health and the needs of their large family. 'I work in Hard-hill Mine with sister Agnes, who is 11 years of age; we work 10 to 12 hours in the day; we get porridge before we gang, or it is sent down by mother.

We hurry the carts on the railroads by pushing behind; I frequently draw with ropes and chains, as the horses do; it is dirty slavish work, and the water quite covers our ankles.

I have never been much hurt; I knock my head against the roofs, as they are not so high as I am, and they cause me to stoop, which makes my back ache.

Father gets 1s. a day for our work, 6d. each; he would not have sent us down but is sore bad in his breath.'

Barbauchlaw Pit: Mrs M. HERVIE: 4 male adults; 1 male under 18; 5 males under 13; 0 female adults; 0 female under 18; 0 female under 13.

Mrs Margaret Hervie, innkeeper, commented, 'I keep the Armadale Inn adjoining the colliery, both of which I rent from Mr. Alexander Dennistoun, of Glasgow; at the moment I employ few colliers, as the trade is off.'  She said that females and very young boys had not worked at the pit for at least seven years (length of time since husband's death) because of the men's opposition.  'At present only five boys below; all read and write, and live just near at hand.'

Peter Williamson, a 12 year old putter at the Pit impressed the interviewer with his literacy and knowledge when talking about the Pit that was '16 fathoms deep'.  'I have worked below with father near two years; was born in the village; work about 12 and 14 hours, and longer when needed; not much work just now.

The seams are 40 inches high, and the main-roads no higher; the coals are drawn on rails at parts; the flooring is flat, no dip and rise; the carts hold about 3 cwt. of coal; the work is no guid; cannot get better.

After work always goes to Mr. Wilson's night-school at Armadale, with brother; most of the collier-boys go.'

In 1842, Lord Ashley's Mines Act ended the practice of employing women and children below ground.  However, women and children could still be employed doing surface work.

In the New Statistical Account of Scotland - Linlithgow, 1845, it was once again emphasised that coal had been mined in the Bathgate parish for many years.  Of the ones open at the time of writing the Account, there were:

1.  Barbauchlaw: "The earth is here about 24 feet deep, succeeded by common freestone, a black blaes, (bituminous shale,) faikes, (thin beds of friable sandstone, intermingled with shale and clay), twenty inches of red sandstone, grey blaes, (common shale), very coarse ironstone, 18 inches of coal, fire-clay, grey blaes, 6 to 8  feet of freestone, fire-clay of variable thickness, averaging 3 feet, but sometimes wanting altogether, and then at a depth of 16 fathoms the main coal, 4 feet thick."

2.  Hardhill: "the first workable seam is found at a depth of 16 fathoms.  There is nothing between it and the surface earth but faikes.  The coal seam presents first 3 feet 2 inches of coal, then 3 inches of clay, and then 10 inches more of coal.  the next seam of coal presents 2 feet 10 inches  of coal, 4 inches of blaes, and 9 inches of coal.  It lies 4 fathoms deeper than the first seam, and between them lies some excellent and very white sandstone.  from 4 to 6 fathoms deeper lies a parrot coal, which is not yet wrought.  the coal here dips to the north-west, at the rate of about 1 in 14."

3.  Colinshiel: "after 6 fathoms of earth, freestone appears, succeeded by a seam of coal 2 feet thick; freestone very hard and white, lies between this and the coal now wrought, which is 3 feet 10 inches thick, and situated 12 fathoms from the surface.  11 fathoms deeper it has been ascertained that another seam occurs, 2 feet 4 inches thick."

Even up to the second half of the nineteenth century, however, some practices continued, such as the truck system whereby an employee was paid in goods, usually from employer's shops.

In 1850, the first Mines Act was passed, which introduced the appointment of Mines Inspectors, who lacked few powers initially.

In 1851, miners' weekly wages were usually under two shillings six pence a day, but with the development of coalfields elsewhere, such as lanarkshire, there was an increased demand for miners.  By 1854/5, the average weekly wage was as much as twenty shillings.

In 1854, The Mining Association of Great Britain was formed.

In 1855, coal owners cut wages by about one shilling.  Miners went on strike, but, unlike the coal owners, the miners' actions were not coordinated, and so ineffective.  However, a United Coal and Iron Miners Association was formed and membership spread quickly.

In March 1856, miners heard that a twenty per cent pay cut was imminent, bringing their wages down to about thirteen shillings six pence.  Miners went on strike in West Lothian and Stirlingshire.  By the end of April, 30,000 miners were on strike across the Central Belt. Irishmen and Highlanders were brought in to break the strikes and, by June, miners returned to work. 

By May 1857, wages were reduced to under three shillings a day.

In 1859, fireclay mining was first established around Armadale (Etna and Atlas) and stone quarrying also became an important industry in the area.

Early 1860s: c500 coal miners and c200 ironstone miners in Armadale.  In 1861, 483 Armadale miners were members of the local Miners' Association.

Scott, the owner of an ironmongery shop, and Duncan Livingston, an affluent miner, built up an oil works east from the South Street railway level crossing. In 1865, they sank a pit to a seam of shale, and erected a plant for extracting the oil. However, they were not successful, unlike Young, and the ensuing poor quality led to its abandonment, leaving a small bing of burnt blaes and the office and weigh-house.

By the 1870s, the Mines Inspectors were given more power to enforce their rulings about individual mine safety.

In 1879, an Accident Fund Society was created in Armadale for all James Wood's employees in his collieries.  The workers paid a penny a week.  If injured, the worker received 10 shillings per week, but if the worker died, his widow would receive the sum of 10.  James Wood also added to the Society's funds by contributing a sum equivalent to one third of its income.  The Accident Fund was more than many workers elsewhere were entitled to as their employers were not legally bound to support them when injured, or compensate their widows in the event of their death.  Until c1914, there were around 1,000 deaths in British mines.  Money was collected in such cases, but life was hard for families after the collected money had been spent.  It was note until after World War II that widows and their families were provided for by the welfare state.

By the early 1890s, a third of all local families were dependent on the coal or shale industries.  About one third of West Lothian's coal was used by the area's oil works.

By the 1891 census, the industrial nature of Linlithgowshire had been firmly established with 71% of the employed population working for industrial companies.

By 1893, the following local businesses were some of those included in the Linlithgowshire Business Directory: brick and tile manufacturers in Armadale; Coltness Iron Company at Woodend; Monkland Iron and Coal Company at Armadale; James Wood of Armadale.

By 1900, seven mines were operating in the Armadale area, all of which were owned by United Collieries.  Mine workers were still reluctant to use the Davy safety lamps, (especially in shale mines where explosions were less frequent) because they only gave off ⅛ of the power of a candle. 

By 1907, there were 8,061 mine workers employed below and above ground in Linlithgowshire mines.  300 were boys between the ages of 13 - 16.  153 were women.

Early in the twentieth century, the introduction of electricity into mines enabled coal-cutting machinery and improved lighting to be used, but, although old dangers were reduced, new dangers were also introduced.

WWI affected the local coal mining industry, not only because of the loss of markets, but also the high percentage of the population's men who were called upon to fight.

After WWI, strikes for better wages to improve poor living standards, short-term working, and unemployment were familiar features of local lives, often shortened by the rise in accidents. 

In 1921, the government returned mines to their owners who responded to a slump in markets and coal prices by cutting wages.  Coal owners' wage cuts prompted the 1921 'big strike', followed later by the General Strike of 1926.  Inevitably, many decided to escape and it is estimated that about 6,000 West Lothian people emigrated between 1920 - 1930.

In 1947, coal mines were nationalised.  The National Coal Board's formation led to the introduction of various safety standards, but the industry was already in decline.

From 1952, there was major reorganisation in all aspects of the industry.

By the late 1950s only 11 collieries and mines, employing 7,000 men, were operating in West Lothian, including Woodend with 595 miners. 

In the early 1960s, there were 3 main collieries in the Bathgate area: Easton with surface location in Bathgate and underground workings in Torphichen; Woodend with surface location in Torphichen and underground workings in Torphichen and Stirlingshire, although many of its workers lived in Armadale; Riddochhill located in Livingston but underground in Bathgate. 284 miners lived in Armadale, 124 of whom were employed at Woodend, 30 at Whitrigg; 63 at Polkemmet; 10 at Riddochhill; 54 at Easton; 31 in other NCB employment.

By 1965, Woodend had also closed.  In its latter years, 280 men had been employed, with production figures of 1,870 tons pw, 89,800 pa, unlike Easton colliery, established in the1880s and eventually with main workings1,224 feet deep, 4,000 yards long and 2,000 yards wide with 741 miners, producing 4,170 tons pw, 200,000 pa.  Woodend Pit was opened c1870 and closed in the late 1960s. Before nationalisation it was owned by the Coltness Iron Company. 1947: it employed 269 workers and its output was 65,000 tons. 1957: it employed 535 workers.  At Woodend Pit coal was hauled from the pit bottom to the surface by using water to pump coal, but the method was not a success.  Preparation plant, Woodend Colliery*; Woodend Open Cast siteFor more details about Woodend and its pit, see WOODEND.

By the end of the 1960s, the West Lothian County Survey found that the significant industrial concerns outside coal and oil in Armadale were:

  • Atlas Steel Foundry and Engineering Company Ltd founded 1913:

  • United Fireclay Products (400 employees), Bathville, Armadale

  • Armadale Hosiery, Brown Street (100 female employees) founded 1919

  • Mayfield Hosiery (40 female employees) founded 1938

  • Griffburn Fuels (briquettes)

  • Dickson and Mann, coal industry plant manufacturers

  • Westfield Paper Mill

1985: Polkemmet Pit, the last pit in the area, opened in 1915 and had a 1,500 work force.  However, it suffered from flooding, and so did not reopen after the Miners' Strike.

Tom Duncan bc1883, was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1947 for working 64 years in the pits. Born in Armadale, he started in Bathville Pit as a 11 year old and later had short spells in Fife and East Lothian. When awarded his B.E.M. he had been working over 20 years in Polkemmet Pit and stayed in Whitburn for over 50 years. He was President of the Whitburn Gala Committee from 1928 till 1935 and had been secretary of the Burgh Band for many years. Mr.Duncan's grandson, also named Tom, was architect for Whitburn Town council and designed Brucefield Church.

 

Colquhoun Postcard

The Miners' Welfare Institute in East Main Street was built in 1923.  In 1929 a hall extension for functions and dances, with facilities underneath for billiards, was added by the Institute Committee.  After the disbandment of the committee, the building was sold many time, until, in 1996, it was acquired for housing development, and so the hall was demolished.

For Miners' Accommodation 1850 - 1860 onwards, see DEVELOPMENT
Table of notes - work in progress
Lothians Mine Workers' Ambulance League, Armadale 1920 - 1923, NAS ref no IRS21/1538 Open Armadale and District Miners' Welfare Society 1924 - 1970, NAS ref no IRS/21/1699, not open until 1 Jan 2021

Barr and Higgins reopened Nos. 7 and 11 Pits on Barbauchlaw Estate, and were developing the main coal seam when they sold to James Wood, a coal merchant at Paisley

Russell and son

Lease location: Boghead, Hopetoun, Torbane, Torbanehill

Boghead and Bathville Oil Works

Mill coal and Cocksroad coal seams Carron Iron Company; Clay pit on Colinshiel Farm
Coal Mining History Resource Centre

very detailed site including local maps showing coal mines

Search the following for Armadale area mine deaths:

1863 ; 1877 ; 1882 ; 1884 ; 1908

Linlithgowshire / West Lothian mines

1869; 1880 ; 1908 ; 1918 ; 1938 ; 1945

Scottish Mining Villages

Names Index

Hilderston and silver mining

(includes wonderful children's drawings related to the project!)

Linlithgow Mines 1896

United Collieries Ltd: established in March 1898. 

Shotts Iron Company; Lease location: Colinshiel; part of Polkemmet Estate.  When Shotts Company ended lease of Polkemmet minerals, James Wood took over coal field, as well as several old pits on the north-east side of Barbauchlaw including Colinshiel.  In 1900 (1902?) he sold Bathville Estate to United Collieries Co.  After the take-over, a depression followed.

By 1903 United Collieries had taken over all Nimmo and Wood interests in the area.  Closed:1956

United Colliery c1914*

The United Collieries Limited
Roll of Employees On Active Service, 1914 1919

John Watson and Sons found ironstone, steam coal, shale. The seams of gas-coal and shale lay so near to the surface that they created an oil works to convert the raw material into a finished product.  By 1864, Armadale had many chimneys for the black smoke emitted during  the manufacturing process.

Lease location: Bathville Estate

Bathville Coal Pit estab by 1855 on south side of Lower Bathville.  At pithead, weighing machine, engine house, blacksmith and refuse bing.

Monkland Iron Company aka Buttries Company, which manufactured bricks

c1850: owned Buttries Pit, lease location: Barbauchlaw Estate

1854: built an office and store on South Street. Later the site became a bowling green for Armadale Bowling Club.

The current Armadale Academy is built on the site of Buttress Pit.  the Pit closed after production ceased in 1928.

Boarbauchlaw Coalry

Wood Pit

The 'Mill' Pit and Boutgate (the 'Level')

1855: Barbauchlaw Pit No 2 (coal and ironstone) with shaft and tram road at Mount Pleasant

1855: Armadale Pit No 3 (coal and ironstone), Moss End, North St (near where Watson Park is now) with 2 shafts and tram road

1855: mile north  from Mossend: Colinshiel Pits no 1, 2, 3 and 4 (coal and ironstone), brickworks, tramroad and associated buildings including houses.

1855: Woodend: 2 pits (coal and ironstone, east and south of Woodend Farm)

1855: Bathville Coal Pit + 2 old quarries on south side of Hardhill Road, east of the Cross.

East of the Cross, north side of Hardhill Road was Hardhill Pit no1 and quarry near Wester Hardhill Farm

1860: Ironstone Pits at  Armadale were abandoned.

Barbauchlaw Collliery operated from 1900 - 1973

Northrigg Colliery*

Northrigg ironstone pits abandoned in 1860.

Westrigg Coke Company Ltd (1885)

Westrigg Coal Company: closed 1903 (part of James Wood Ltd founded March 1893)

Blackrigg No 1 and 2, aka Standhill / Stanehill, were originally known as South Broadrigg No 1 and 2.  1955: closed (with manpower of c240 and annual output: 80.000 tons.

Blackrigg No 3 (the 'New' pit): abandoned c1926 after a brief life of 10 - 12 years.

Broadrigg Pits (Standhill Colliery) owned by John Nimmo and Son Ltd.  1890: The Company built The Terraces in Blackridge for mine workers and their families.

"I left school on the Friday and I went doon Woodend Pit on the Monday. Ye were doon the pit when ye were 14 then."

Courtesy of HAA: School interview extract interviewee: Jim Sykes

 

Please NOTE that the mines described in the table below are only some of the Abandoned Local Mines.  If you are interested to read about others, see the source of data for this table:

Catalogue of Plans of Abandoned Mines, Vol 6, Linlithgowshire (West Lothian))

A pug from Polkemmet Colliery in Polkemmet Country Park

Name of Mine

No in bracket=mine dept registration no

Names of parish where mine workings were situated

*=mine entrance location only

minerals/names of seams Ordnance Survey Maps References (Date of map)
Armadale Bathgate; Torphichen COAL; Upper Cannel; Gas. IRONSTONE (1865) N6SE (1922), G12; H10, 11, 12. N7SW  (1922), G1, 2, 3, 4;H1, 2, 3, 4
Armadale No 15, 16, 17 (9080), Bathgate COAL; Colinburn (abandoned 4 Nov 1927) N10NE (1921), A12; b12.  N11NW (1922), A1; B1
Armadale No 16 (2894) Bathgate COAL; Ball; Main (abandoned 17 Dec 1892) N10NE (1921), A12; B12.  N11NW (1921), B1
Barbauchlaw (5129) Bathgate FIRECLAY; No 1 (abandoned 5 Sept 1907) N7SW (1922), G4
Barbauchlaw (6845) Bathgate COAL; Ball (abandoned August 1913); main (abandoned 28 May 1917) FIRECLAY (abandoned 14 Aug 1918) N7SW (1922), G4, 5; H5
Barbauchlaw (8621) Bathgate COAL; Glen (abandoned 6 May 1925) N7SW (1922), F3, 4; G3, 4
Barbauchlaw  No 2, 8, 9 (2071) Bathgate COAL; Mill; Main (abandoned August 1887) N7SW (1922), H1, 2.  N11NW (1922), A1, 2, 3; B2
Barbauchlaw  No 2, 8, 9 , 10, 11 Bathgate COAL; Ball (1866); Coxrod; Upper Gas (1874); Main (1878). IRONSTONE N7SW (1922), G4; H1, 2, 4.  N11NW (1922), A1, 2
Barbauchlaw  No 9 (908) Bathgate COAL; Main (abandoned 5 Oct 1878) N7SW (1922), H2.  N11NW (1922) A2, 3
Barbauchlaw  No 12, 13 Bathgate COAL; Ball; Main; Gas (1865 - 1880) N7SW (1922), G2, 3, 4; H2, 3, 4.  N11NW (1922), A2, 3, 4
Barbauchlaw and Armadale Bathgate; Shotts IRONSTONE N6SE (1922), H12.  N7SW (1922), G1, 2; H1, 2.  N10NE (1921), A10, 11, 12; B11, 12; C11, 12; D11, 12.  N11NW (1922), A1, 2; B1, 2; C1, 2; D1, 2
Barbauchlaw and Armadale Bathgate COAL; Gas, Mill.  IRONSTONE; Blackband (1885) N6SE (1922), H10,11,12. N7SW (1922, G1, 2, 3, 4; H1, 2, 3, 4. N10NE (1921), A10, 11, 12; B11, 12; C11, 12. N11NW (1922), A1, 2, 3; B1, 2
Bathville No 1, 3, 4, 5; Hopetoun Bathgate COAL; Upper Cannel; Colinburn; Main; Gas; Colinshields. IRONSTONE; Blackband; Black Shale (1888) N7SW (1922), H3, 4, 5, 6. N11NW (1922), A2, 3, 4, 5, 6; B2, 3, 4, 5, 6; C2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Bathville No 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Bathgate COAL; Colinburn (1869); ball (1870); Mill; Gas; Upper Cannel (1874); Main. IRONSTONE; Black Shale (1869)  
Bathville  No 1, 3, 5 (3473) Bathgate COAL; Main; Ball; Mill (abandoned 4 July 1896) N11NW (1922), A2, 3, 4, 5; B2, 3, 4, 5; C3, 4, 5
Bathville ;Cowdenhead; Polkemmet no 5; Shotts No 3 (5981) Bathgate; Shotts COAL; Armadale Ball (abandoned 29 Feb 1912); Colinburn (abandoned 19 Aug 1912); Armadale Main (abandoned 31 Dec 1912) N10NE (1921), C11, 12; D11, 12.  N11NW (1922, B1, 2, 3; C1, 2, 3; D1, 2, 3
Bathville; Hartrigg/Harthill No4, 5; Cappers/Polkemmet No 2; 6, 8, 9 (5911) Bathgate; Shotts COAL; Armadale Main (abandoned 9 March 1908); Armadale Ball; Colinburn (abandoned 22 May 1909) N10NE (1921), D11, 12; E11, 12; F12. N11NW (1922), D1, 2, 3, 4, 5; E1, 2, 3, 4; F2
Bathville and Polkemmet No 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Bathgate COAL; Parrot; Colinburn. IRONSTONE (1867) N11NW (1922), A2, 3; B1, 2, 3, 4, 5; C1, 2, 3, 4, 5; D1, 2, 3, 4, 5; E1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Birkenshaw Torphichen; Bathgate COAL; Mill; Colinburn N7SW (1922), F1, 2
Hardhill No 2 Bathgate * COAL N11NW (1922), A3
Northrigg and Armadale No 3 Bathgate; Shotts COAL: Main; Ball. IRONSTONE; Blackband (1860) N10NE (1921), C11, 12; D11, 12
Polkemmet and Bathville Bathgate; Shotts COAL; Gas (1891); Colinburn; Main; Ball IRONSTONE; Slatyband; Blackband N10NE (1921), C11, 12; D11, 12; E12. N11NW (1922), B1, 2, 3, 4, 5; C1, 2, 3, 4, 5; D1, 2, 3, 4, 5; E1, 2, 3, 4, 5; F1, 2, 3, 4
Torbane and Torbanehill No 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 29; Garden

 

Bathgate COAL; Gas; Main (1859 - 1872) N11NW (1922), C5, 6; D5, 6, 7, 8, 9, ; E5, 6, 7, 8, 9; F5, 6, 7, 8, 9; G7, 8
Torbanehill

 

Bathgate COAL; Colinburn; Torbanehill Gas. IRONSTONE; Slatyband (1870 - 1888) N11NW (1922), D4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; E5, 6, 7, 8, 9; F5, 6, 7, 8, 9; G7, 8
Torbanehill No 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29; Crop no 24; March Crop West; Torbane No 2

 

Bathgate COAL; Gas (1888) N11NW (1922), D6, 7, 8, 9; E5, 6, 7, 8, 9; F5, 6, 7, 8, 9; G7, 8
Torbanehill No 3, 4, 5

 

Bathgate COAL; Gas (1888) N11NW (1922), D6, 7, 8, 9; E5, 6, 7, 8, 9; F6, 7, 8, 9; G7, 8
Trees No 1, 2, 3, 4 Bathgate COAL; Mill (1873); Main (1889); Colinburn; Torbanehill Gas N11NW (1922); B4, 5, 6; C4, 5, 6
Trees No 1, 2, 7 Bathgate COAL; Main; Ball (abandoned 6 August 1896) N11NW (1922); B5, 6; C5, 6
Trees No 2 Bathgate COAL; Mill (1873) N11NW (1922); C5, 6
Trees and Snab No 1, 2, 3; Cappers No 2; Goukston Bathgate COAL; Colinburn; Main; Mill; Ball; Parrot or Gas (1859 - 1886). IRONSTONE (1862) N11NW (1922); B5; C4, 5, 6; D3, 4, 5, 6
Woodend Torphichen COAL; Ball; Armadale Main (1877) N6SE (1922), E10, 11, 12; F10, 11, 12; G10, 11, 12; H10, 11
Woodend No 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Torphichen; Bathgate COAL; Ball (1885); Main (1908); IRONSTONE (1885) N6SE (1922), E10, 11, 12; G9, 10, 11, 12; H10, 11. N10NE (1921) A10, 11
Woodend No 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Craigrigg Torphichen COAL; Ball; Mill; IRONSTONE (1978) N6SE (1922), E10, 11, 12; F9,10, 11, 12; G9, 10, 11, 12; H10,11
Woodend No 2, 4, 5 Torphichen COAL; Main; IRONSTONE N6SE (1922), E10, 11; F9, 10, 11, 12; G9, 10, 11; H10, 11
       

 

QUARRIES

Local whinstone quarries were significant employers.  They provided material for essential infrastructure such as sill stones for dams and kerb stones for roads.

Stone for the Spean Bridge memorial was cut at Blackridge's Blairhill Quarry.  The stone cutting by Tommy Calder involved several attempts in order to produce the requested size.  The difficulty of the task is well captured by quarry manager's Gibson's  instructions that the lorry driver, Joe Tennant: If you damage this I don't want to see you again."!

Ogleface Quarry

Bob OWENS who left his Scottish home in 1974, and now stays in Melbourne, Australia, wrote to the website:

"I was just browsing, and I thought I would look up Ogleface Quarry, this was started by my father Evan and his two brothers Bob and Richard, the latter married a local girl, Bella Foulton of Blackridge. I believe the quarry failed owing to the depression 1926. 

My dad, Evan, is third from the left, arms folded, uncle Bob is the one enjoying the cup of tea, with his collar and tie no less. I think the elderly gentleman standing second left is Cha Denholm from Woodend, and the group may contain one Sandy Swarbeck.
Dad told the story of coming home with two shillings and sixpence for the week's wages; mum told him to keep it.
They were married New Year's Day 1919, and took up house at Quarry Buildings, Blackridge, long gone, the corner of Bedlormie Drive and Main Street.  

 

FOUNDRIES and STEEL

Bathville became the industrial district of Armadale and was conspicuous because of its many chimneys.

The front boundary wall of Atlas Foundry Main Office (demolished 1990s) is still to be seen on the Bathville Road

The Van de Graaff high energy X-ray generator at NBSG's Armadale Steel Works (Atlas Steel Foundry)

 

The North British Steel Group c.1972

Photos supplied by Billy Sloan

 

Ironstone was the principal mineral mined in the Armadale area.

1876: New wagon works (owned by James Wood but tenanted by Dickson & Mann)

1880s: Locomotive shed built.

Later steel bridge building and machine-construction shops (extended 1892) were established.

Stevenson founded the Bathville Steel Works near to the railway level crossing on the Bathville and Bathgate Road.  From the 1880s, the Works turned out small steel castings.

Later an iron foundry was established by Dickson & Mann, managed by Harry Chalmers, and crucible steel castings became their speciality.

1892: Dickson & Mann (which introduced the steel industry to West Lothian) was founded.  It supplied the surface conveying and coal-handling equipment to the coalmines in the Armadale area, as well as other areas of Britain.  Dickson & Mann settled down on the site of the old oil works as carriage and wagon builders. [Records of Dickson & Mann Ltd, Colliery & Structural Engineers, Bathville Steel Works (tenants 1888 at Bathville Foundry, owned by Mrs Mann), 1888 - 1969: NAS cat ref: GD1/728]

Before 1912: The only steel castings manufacturer in Armadale was Dickson and Mann Ltd. The company produced material for the local collieries. Theirs was the first works chimney to be knocked down in Armadale.

1893: Bathville Steelworks electrified.

1902: Armadale Iron Company was established at Bathville.

1903: First castings produced at Armadale Iron Company

1907-8: 12 new furnaces were installed.

1909: Dickson and Mann secured a patent for the Bothwell Underground Conveyor.

May 1912: Inaugural meeting attended by James Wood of Wallhouse, James M. Watt of Woodlands House, R.C. Rodger, director of Messrs Cockburns Ltd of Cardonald and Provost Donald of Troon. They decided to begin steel making in Armadale, producing top-quality castings. (Up until then, Denny, Falkirk and Polmont had been the centres for such production.) It took over the premises of the former Armadale Iron Company and began to produce steel castings.
Rosebank Cottages (6 houses) and later Woodlands Cottages (6 houses) were bought to house qualified workers coming into Armadale. Rents were kept at a minimum.

By 1913: Atlas Steel Foundry and Engineering Company Ltd was incorporated as a trading company.

After having passed the quality testing of the Admiralty, Lloyd's Register of Shipping and Bureau Veritas, the company was listed as a supplier of quality castings.  The Atlas Works made armoured plating for British Dreadnought battleships, and, later produced specialist equipment for British Rail.

1914 -1918: Women employees were taken on initially to replace those on war service, but they were soon needed as extra workers because of the war-induced demand for ships' castings. A new foundry and a Open Hearth furnace were installed to increase the company melting capacity.

1921 onwards: More houses were provided for workers: 6 more cottages were added to Woodlands Cottages + 3 x 4 blocks of houses were built at Church Place + 18 houses in Watt Avenue
The works was large with several departments: moulding, dressing, pattern-making and engineering, all connected by a small engine that ran on tracks between them, and a large locomotive, which pulled all the wagons to the main line.
The work day was signalled by a horn, the most distinct of the hooters and whistles that sounded daily in Armadale. Working hours: 6.45 - 9.00am, 9.30am - 12.30pm; 1.15pm - 4.30pm, with day on Saturdays.
Once the new company had met the inspection requirements of bodies such as the Admiralty, they were able to work on prestigious contracts such as the provision of Atlas turbine casings and lighting units on the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, which were being constructed on the River Clyde. Their furnace could hold 20 tons of molten steel, and when repairs had to be undertaken, which often took a fortnight, 2 days were needed to cool the furnace to a temperature where bricklayers could enter, albeit uncomfortably. Andrew MacDonald worked at the company for 34 years, testing bomb casings during the war years.
 

1930s: Moulding: there was a great demand for moulders during the 1930s.  The moulding shop was large, cold in winter and bright and hot in summer.  First year apprentices earned 8 shillings for a 47 hour week. Second to fifth year apprentices were on piecework, earning about 30 shillings per week.  After completing the five year apprenticeship, moulders earned about 65 shillings per week. 

Patternmaking: a patternmaker worked with a draughtsman's blueprint (possibly 3 ' x 4' ) to make a pattern as large as the object required, whether a small casting or steam turbine casings.  Since the skill involved the inside as well as the outside of the object, he also had to construct core-boxes, which could be filled with clay-bonded sand for placement in a mould before casting, thereby showing the need for an understanding of moulding and casting as well as patternmaking.

1939-1945: By the time of the Second World War, the company's reputation had grown re its manufacture of turbine castings, steam chests and valves for the power stations, which supplied communities with electricity.  Atlas turbine casings were also used in large ships of the time such as the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.
 

1948: Electric melting furnaces were introduced, thereby simplifying the manufacture of alloy castings and stainless steel casings.

1953: Electricity was used for all processes.

1955 - 1960: Dickson & Mann extended its business premises when electricity replaced steam power.

Armadale Works drawing office c1956*

1958: 170 laid off at Atlas Steel Works

1960: Dickson and Mann's premises were extended, more specialist work was carried out and, by the mid 1960s, they were employing 339 men.

 In 1965 the firm employed 115 men.  Armadale Works c1965*; (2)*


1968: The Atlas Steel Works merged with The North British Steel Foundry Ltd of Bathgate to produce the Armadale Works of the North British Steel Group  Ltd. Castings manufacture continued added to other engineering work such as the production of earth moving equipment.  The prospects seemed promising because of the development of advanced moulding methods, but, by 1990 two of the three foundries in the Bathgate/Armadale area had closed.

1972: Atlas Works closed. 

An aerial view of Armadale's industrial past (c1972) showing Armadale Works of The North British Steel Group.

 Photo supplied by Billy Sloan.

 

Armadale Works: The North British Steel Group Ltd

Mons Meg was tested in Armadale in 1980

Photo courtesy of Ron Dingwall

 __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The West Lothian Steel Foundry aka The Wee Foundry: built after WWI: The business was small, and so were the items they produced there initially.  They had several departments or 'shops': dressing; blacksmith; engineering; pattern.

A mixture including pig iron and steel puncheon was melted in crucible pots (in square holes in the floor). The mixture had to be lowered carefully and workmen often protected their legs with wet cloth, because of the heat of the fires. Under the holes were fires made with small coke pieces that had been broken up on site.  Once the pots were situated over the holes, the tops were covered over with a frame that was lined with firebricks.  A metal arm was used to position the frame.   Once melted, the metal was taken to the moulders who poured it into the castings.  The smelting holes were connected to flues, which were connected to the chimney.  Small stoves for annealing steel were also connected to it.  As demand increased for their products, a furnace likened to a large blowlamp was installed and the holes were no longer needed.

Local people remember that when a cupola was introduced for melting of steel, a very noticeable orange smoke was emitted into the local environment as a result.

A small railway line led to the foundry.

Later improvements included the use of pneumatic guns instead of the former peg rammers and processes which no longer required skilled workers.

According to Andrew MacDonald (cited in the HAA's Your Magazine No 2: Industry in Armadale) there was a problem with the change-over 'from the old steam Pug to the new diesel loco....It seems that the carefully timed change-over, (to avoid disruption to the flow of materials and castings,) gaed badly agley when the new engine failed to arrive at the appointed time. After a few frantic phone calls the whereabouts of the missing pug was finally traced to the ferry just about to dock at the pier at Armadale on the Island of Skye.'

 

 

Home