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Breich No. 1 & 2 pits

Location 55.866995, -3.590490, show in map
Shale-field Breich shale-field
Dates opened and closed Opened c.1912, closed 1927, reopened 1930's, abandoned 1961
Owner Pumpherston Oil Co.
Type of working Vertical shafts; 21 fathoms to Broxburn, 63 fathoms to Upper Dunnet, 72 fathoms to Dunnet shale
Seams worked Broxburn shale, Dunnet shale
Oil works served Seafield crude oil works, and subsequently Westwood crude oil works
Current status of site Engine house, substation and other buildings survive as sculpture studio


The mineral rights of the area, held by the New Hermand Oil Company until its liquidation in 1903, were eventually purchased by the Pumpherston Oil Company who developed Breich No.1 and No.2 pits to supply shale to their Seafield oil works, about a mile to the north. The Dunnet shale was worked at a considerable depth, and the pits were notable as being amongst the earliest to employ electricity for winding and ventilation, power being supplied from a generating station at Deans oil works. Shale was transported to Seafield by an overground haulage.

The pits appear to have ceased production on closure of Seafield works in 1926. Immediately prior to World War Two, the pits were fully reconstructed and a range of innovations introduced including mechanised shale cutters and shaking conveyors. A new haulage was constructed to transport shale to the new Westwood crude oil works, about a mile to the south. The pits, also referred to as Mid Briech, remained in production almost until the closure of the industry.


Ordnance Survey maps reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland.

Underground Workings

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Operations are also proceeding on the Breich properties of the Company, where two shafts are being sunk to the Broxburn and Dunnet seams which are known to underlie the estate and in this way the company is able to obtain an ample supply of high-class shales for their Seafield works. The Breich field has been thoroughly tested by bores, and it is only a question of a few month's time before the bottom or Dunnet shale is reached. Already one of the shafts have pierced the Broxburn seam lying 4 ft thick. The Glasgow Herald 18th September 1911

The sinking of the...two pits to the the Dunnet shale on the company's freehold property at Mid Breich was now completed and the surface plant was well advanced......Powerful generating plant had been installed at Deans Works, and from there the current was to be carried to the new mines at Deans and the new pits on Mid Breich, in addition to supplying power for Deans and Seafield Works. Pumpherston Oil Co. AGM reported in the Scotsman, 29th May 1912

At Mid-Breich pit certain of the workings have become very steep and are therefore difficult to carry on, but otherwise are proceeding normally (February 1924). It has been necessary to drive an upset for ventilation (June 1925). From Scottish Oils Ltd, Managing Director's Monthly Report to the Board. (BP Archive No. 215662)

Accident Records