The story of Scotland's shale oil industry
The Scottish shale oil industry has a remarkable and important history.
Bathgate Chemical Works, established in 1851, was perhaps the first site in the world where mineral oils were processed on an industrial scale. From this blossomed an extensive oil industry that competed successfully against cheaper imported petroleum for many years, and continued in operation until 1962. Such fierce competition bred innovation, progress, and a body of Scots know-how that contributed greatly towards the development of the oil industry throughout the world.
This website is being developed to celebrate, exchange knowledge, and encourage research into this special heritage. We hope that the resource will be of particular value to those researching family histories.
Research resources for family historians
A database of surviving company documents.
Descriptions of working life in the industry.
Inventors, entrepreneurs, and worthies.
Records of sites associated with the shale oil industry
Covering all parts of Scotland.
In Scottish oil-shale districts.
In Scottish oil-shale districts.
Scottish influence throughout the world
Original papers offering an introduction to the industry
Its history, technology and geology.
Information files on each oil company.
Contributions from independent authors.
Catalogue of objects and archives held here and elsewhere.
The Scottish shale oil industry collection.
Company records now held by our museum.
Copy images and documents.
Other museum collections, surveyed 2009.
Research resources available on-line
Archive publications as digital books.
Transcripts of interviews conducted 1983-90.
Extracts from newspapers and magazines.
Learning and sharing
Resources for schools and research noticeboard
Become a Shale Oil Explorer.
Presentations on the shale oil story.
Share your research enquiries and interests.
Almond Valley is a family-friendly museum established in 1990 to preserve and interpret the history and environment of West Lothian. It also continues the work of an oil museum research project which, since 1983, had collected objects and archives associated with the shale industry.
Much of the collection is now displayed in The Scottish Shale Oil Museum; one of a range of educational and leisure facilities at Almond Valley, close to Livingston, West Lothian.
For further information on a great day out at Almond Valley visit our main web site.
We are a member of Industrial Museums Scotland and Oil Museums in Europe.
Latest additions to the website
- The website is undergoing a bit of a face-lift, with new navigation that ought to make the site easier to use on tablet devices. There are still quite a few loose ends to tie up, so apologies for any inconsistences you may find around the site !
- A large number of digitised resources from the BP archive have recently been uploaded and can be accessed via the BP archive search function or browsed in a new list of resources. This new material includes a wealth of letter books on estate issues dating from the 1940's, such as this example.
- Research into the history of the north Wales coal oil industry, nears completion, and information is now being added on the coal oil industry in north Staffordshire
Some work in progress...
During the 1980's we borrowed and photocopied papers from Pumpherston works that recorded deductions from wages for tool sharpening and rent. Joe and other volunteers have been transcribing details from these records into the employment records database, adding to the information on the work and job titles of many hundreds of oil company staff.
Having concluded this massive task, Joe is now studying early account books of the Pumpherston Oil Co. for further information on staff wages.