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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 Cobbinshaw area

Overview of the Cobbinshaw area

Unidentified shaft to Raeburn shale Cobbinshaw No.2 pit Cobbinshaw No. 1 pit Unidentified shaft Pit, 7 fathoms to Raeburn shale Air shaft for Cobbinshaw No.5 South Cobbinshaw No.3 mine and air shaft Cobbinshaw No.5 mine, previously Cobbinshaw No.28 mine Cobbinshaw South No.1 pit

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The West Calder Oil Company Ltd acquired the mineral rights of the Cobbinshaw shale-field during the late 1860's, and c.1870 sub-let rights of the north-east part of the field to the South Cobbinshaw Oil Company (a partnership of Jonathan Hyslop, Hugh Rose and James Falshaw) who mined shale to supply Cobbinshaw South Oil Works. A brickworks were also established and workers housing was constructed nearby in a new South Cobbinshaw village. Although the West Calder Oil Company Ltd prospectus of 1872 described their plans to develop mines at Cobbinshaw, these are not known to have been progressed. Following failure of the West Calder Oil Company Ltd in 1878, the Cobbinshaw mineral rights were purchased by Young's Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Company Ltd, who worked Fells Shale between 1883 and 1885 at Cobbinshaw South No. 28 mine. Young's presumably transported shale a significant distance by rail to their Addiewell Chemical Works.

Following a period of disuse, the Caledonian Mineral Oil Company Ltd re-opened Cobbinshaw South No. 28 mine, renaming it Cobbinshaw No. 5 mine. A narrow gauge tramway was constructed across Cobbinshaw moss to convey shale to their Tarbrax Oil Works. No. 5 mine closed following the collapse of the Caledonian Mineral Oil Company Ltd in 1903, but was reopened by the Tarbrax Oil Company Ltd in 1912.

The Tarbrax Oil Company Ltd had earlier sunk (c.1906), Cobbinshaw No. 1 & 2 pits on the site of exploratory workings previously abandoned by the Caledonian Mineral Oil Company Ltd, and lying close to the narrow gauge tramway linking No. 5 to Tarbrax Oil Works. A further new mine, Cobbinshaw South No. 3, was opened by the Tarbrax company in 1907 to exploit Fraser Shale. This mine was linked to Cobbinshaw No. 1 & 2 by a further narrow-gauge tramway.

Unidentified Shaft


Substantial foundations survive of a structure labelled as "old shaft" on the 1895 and 1906 OS maps, sited at the north end of Cobbinshaw moss at 55.802064, -3.549632. The shaft is not shown on any plans known to this research and is remote from any known area of shale working. It lies close to tramway embankments associated with Young's company's working of Cobbinshaw No. 28 in the 1880's, and presumably dates from that period.

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


The entire property of South Cobbinshaw extends to about 1000 acres....... The works will be connected by a branch from the Caledonian Railway, which passes through the property. The south-western division of the field, which extends to about 500 acres, has been sub-let, and has been proved by pits and shaft to contain 3,450,000 tons of "Raeburn's" and "Fell's" Shale. The sub-leasees are working vigourously, and the profit accruing to the proposed Company upon the sub-lease is threepence per ton on all shale raised, which would amount to £43,125 on the above-named quantity. The north-east division, containing about 500 acres, which this Company proposes to work, is also rich in the finest shale, a number of bores having been put down, proving the "Fell" seam, which is found to extend to at least 300 acres, and to be a thickness of 26 inches. This seam alone contains 1,200,000 tons, a large quantity of which can be got at comparatively little cost. Of the other seams, "Raeburn's" has been partially proved, showing it to be of a considerable extent and of a fine quality. It is proposed to put down one or two pits to the "Fell" seam which, from the proximity of the shale to the surface, and the moderate angle at which the strata lie, will not involve an outlay of more than £2,000, including all fittings and connections with the railway. West Calder Oil Company Ltd prospectus, printed in The Scotsman, 19th April 1872.

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