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Scottish mines

Oil shale pits

Coal shale pits


A Recognised Collection of National Importance

Home > Companies & Works > Shale Mines > Overview of the Boghall area

Overview of the Boghall area

unidentified mine to Raeburn shale  Boghall No.3 pit Boghall No.2 pit Cousland No.1 mine unidentified shaft close to subsequent location of Cousland No.2 mine unidentified shaft to Broxburn shale unidentified shaft mine to Houstoun coal unidentified air shaft unidentified shaft to Fells shale Boghall No.1 pit

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Identified workings:

Unidentified workings:

The Bathgate Chemical Works were established and operated by the partnership of Edward Meldrum, James Young and Edward Binney. When the partnership was dissolved in 1864, James Young bought out his partner's interests in the oil business and began construction of the substantial shale oil works and refinery at Addiewell.

Edward Meldrum returned to the oil industry in 1865, setting up a business partnership with George Simpson, a coalmaster who subsequently become involved in many shale oil interests, (some involving an element of mischief). Although George Simpson was described as the managing partner, the group traded under the name of E Meldum & Company; one of the titles previously used by the partnership operating the Bathgate Chemical Works.

The partnership acquired mineral rights in the Boghall and Starlaw areas and began construction of Boghall Shale Oil Works, together with a number of shale and coal workings to supply it. Ownership passed to the Uphall Mineral Oil Company Ltd in c.1871, and to the Uphall Oil Company Ltd in c.1878. The Boghall Shale Oil Works closed c.1882; it seems likely that the mineral rights were transferred to Young's Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Company Ltd, who took over the Uphall Oil Company Ltd in 1884.

Meldrum's Boghall pits shared many characteristics with Young's site at Addiewell. Both lay relatively close to the Bathgate works, exploited the Fells Shale, and also mined Houston Coal to fuel the boilers and furnaces. The mines at both sites were to have a short working life.

Boghall mines were the site of the Starlaw disaster of 9th April 1870 in which eight lost their lives. A graphic account of horror and heroism was published in the Scotsman and soon reprinted in newspapers throughout Britain. Starlaw Pit had a single shaft divided in two by a wall of timber planks. A furnace lit at the foot of the upcast shaft drew air through the mine, the downcast mine was used for winding men, while both shafts were used to bring shale to the surface. When the furnace set fire to the lining of shaft, men were trapped underground by the flames, although heroic rescue attempts were made until the rope supporting the cage burned through. Public outcry over the disaster ensured that shale mines were included in Mines Regulation Bill that required mine workings to have a second route of escape. Starlaw pit was described as operating for about three years before the disaster and was about 38 fathoms deep. This coincides with known information about Boghall No. 1 Pit and it seem very likely that "Starlaw Pit" and "Boghall No. 1 Pit" were one and the same

Little further is known on the history of the Boghall mines, and many shafts remain unidentified. The List of Shale Mines 1851-1947 lists No. 1 and No. 2 Mines owned by Meldrum, McLagan and Simpson, and No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 Mines owned by the Uphall Mineral Oil Company Ltd, all to the Fells Shale. It also lists a No. 3 mine to the Upper Dunnet, Dunnet and Broxburn Shales (presumably Deans No.3), abandoned 1920.

The Pumpherston Oil Company Ltd took over the lease to Boghall minerals in 1894 (BP Archive 183749). Notes in a Pumpherston Oil Company agreement book (BP Archive 183749), dated December 1900 makes reference to Cousland No. 1 Mine, Cousland No. 2 Mine, and a Cousland Coal Pit - from which plant and machinery had been removed. A separate mention is made of Seafield Coal Mine.


TO BE SOLD BY PUBLIC ROUP. THE Valuable ESTATE of BOGHALL, IN THE Parish of Bathgate and County of Linlithgow........Coal and Limestone exist on two sides of the Estate, and a Quarry for Freestone in open on Tailend Farm, and Ball Ironstone is found in the Shale adjoining Deans Farm Steading, and as the Estate lies immediately to the eastward of Boghead, there is every probability that the famous Torbanehill Mineral will be found in it. In the immediately adjoining Estate of byres, a Seam of Coal, seven feet in thickness, is said to have been found. Glasgow Herald, 26th May 1862.

A second shaft is about to be added to the Starlaw shale workings which, it is hoped, will prevent such a melancholy calamity as that which occurred on the 9th April. The Falkirk Herald, 7th May 1870.

..the Uphall Mineral Oil Company...At Boghall they have two pits with both shale and coal workings in each of them. The Falkirk Herald 24th January 1874

We understand that the Uphall Oil Company has been fortunate in providing the existence on their estate of a very valuable seam of shale. The borers last week succeeded in striking the Straiton shale at a depth of 17 fathoms, and subsequent efforts have demonstrated that the seam is 7 feet 4 inches thick - an unusual thickness. The seam, owing to the short depth at which it has been reached, will be very easily worked, and it is regarded an additional advantage that it lies closely adjacent to the railway at Boghall. Glasgow Herald, 18th October 1883.

.....The discovery was made on Saturday at the Barracks Farm, near Livingstone Station. While engaged in excavating a seam of shale belonging to the Uphall Oil Company, the workmen came upon a live frog embedded in the blaze, at a depth of 10ft. The seam consisted of one foot of clay, two of shale, and seven of blaze, and it was at the bottom of this mass the frog was found. It was very lively, but very thin —in fact, skin and bone, and its eyes as red as blood. It appeared timid as it leapt about in this newly-found world. It was observed that at the foot of the blaze there were joints through which water percolate ; but beyond this there was no visible means of subsistence, and how it came there, and managed to exist for an indefinite time, is a mystery. The Scotsman, 19th November 1883


Coal Authority mine abandonment catalogue list the following shale workings:

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