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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 Addiewell area

Overview of the Breich area

Shaft, perhaps associated with Easter Breich coal mine. Easter Breich coal mine Easter Breich No.1 pit Easter Breich No.2 pit Mid Breich No.2 mine Mid Breich No.4 pit Air pit, probably associated with Mid Breich No.1 mine Shaft associated with Mid Breich No.3 pit Mid Breich No.3 pit Mid Breich No.1 mine Breich No.2 pit Breich No.1 pit

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Ownership of the Breich shale field was divided between three estates; Wester Breich, Mid Breich, and Easter Breich. Shale seems to have been first worked in Easter and Mid Breich c.1878. This date appears on a plan of workings at Easter (British Geological Survey) and corresponds with a reference in a letter from "An intending Hermand shareholder", published in Glasgow Herald on 31st June 1885

"These shales have been worked on a large scale for about eight years from Easter and Mid Breich, and a proportion of the shale sold in the raw state to Young's Company, who never objected to the quality, only the price."

The shale leases for Easter and Mid Breich, (and later also Wester Breich) were held by James and Thomas Thornton of Hermand, and shale production was presumably used at the Thornton's Hermand Works, as well as sold to other oil producers. The Thornton's oil interests were purchased by the Hermand Oil Company Ltd. The company prospectus, published in Glasgow Herald on 25th July 1885 states:

The price to be paid for the leases of Wester Breich, Mid Breich, and East Breich, and the pits on Mid and East Breich, with the Plant and Houses pertaining thereto, together with the railway formed to Hermand, is £11,000. The Leases of Mid and East Breich, and the Pits, Plant and Houses thereon, belongs to Mr James Thornton, and the representatives of his deceased brother, Mr. Thomas Thornton, and the half share of the latter was acquired by Mr. James Thornton at £4,500, being equivalent to £9,000 for the whole.

The Hermand Oil Company Ltd purchased Mid Breich Estate in 1889:

The directors had been able to arrange a bargain for the purchase of the Middle Breich property, extending for about 160 acres, on which their works were build. Meeting of the Hermand Oil Company Ltd, 24th January 1889

Oil production and shale mining was suspended for periods during the 1890's. When the Hermand Oil Company Ltdfailed, the interest were taken over by the New Hermand Oil Company Ltd. It appears that only No. 4 Pit was workable and that new mines were sunk at Wester Breich (presumably Mid Breich No. 2 Mine) and Mid Breich (perhaps Mid Breich No. 1):

It was pretty well understood that when the works of any company had stood idle for about eight years it could not be started right away without hitches here and there........ They had to rely upon No.4 pit for a full supply of shale. They were disappointed, and within the past few months they had made sure of new supplies of shale. They were now pretty well off in that respect, and within the next week they would be opening a new mine at West Breich, in addition to one on Mid Breich, on their own property. First annual general meeting of the New Hermand Oil Company Ltd, reported in Glasgow Herald, 24th July 1900

It appears that following failure of the New Hermand Oil Company Ltd in 1903, some mineral leases and other property were acquired by Pumpherston Oil Company Ltd, others perhaps by the Wester Breich Syndicate Ltd:

The Pumpherston Oil Company, one of the principal concerns in the country, having acquired the works of the New Hermand Company, West Calder, are at present sinking a new pit in proximity to the works at Breich and this promised to give an impetus to industry in the district. The Falkirk Herald, 19th September 1903

It is unclear whether this reference related to the Pumpherston Oil Company Ltd re-opening New Hermand Oil Company Ltd mines, or to the preliminary workings for Breich No. 1 and No. 2 Pits, thought to have opened in 1912.

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